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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

a year after alberta's 2008 election, it's easy to remain cynical.

On March 3, 2008, less than 40% of Albertans ventured into the March cold to exercise their democratic responsibility, and a full year later the debate around that election still rages.

There are likely many reasons why the large majority of Albertans failed to cast their ballot on that day, but one that continually arises in conversations is cynicism. It's hard to argue that any of our political parties gave Albertans a compelling reason to race to the polls in droves a year ago, and I don't believe that much has changed a year later.

Entering the second year of Ed Stelmach's first term as Premier, our province is facing many challenges. No longer rolling in the billion dollar surpluses that we had been told were thanks to the now dead Alberta Advantage, Finance Minister Iris Evans now tells us that this year's $1.4 billion deficit is 'market induced' (and not the fault of a political party which has been happy to take credit for Alberta's fiscal prosperity over the past decade).

Should Albertans blame the Stelmach PCs for the economic downturn? Of course not, because it's not their fault, but nor should Albertans praise them for the (also market induced) boom.

In their March 2009 edition, National Geographic shined a powerful international spotlight on Alberta's oilsands, dealing an unintentional blow to the yet to be launched replacement for the Alberta Advantage. The $25 million taxpayer-funded public relations campaign is set to brand Albertans with a new identity by combating international criticism of the oilsands. Do Albertans really need government-hired public relations consultants to determine our identity? Albertans are more than just a brand, and our identity will be determined by our actions, not by government-hired public relations consultants.

The death of the Alberta Advantage has led the Progressive Conservatives to once again return to the realm of budget deficits, and as the government cuts important programs like the $2 billion GreenTRIP funding for public transit in our cities, they are continuing to funnel $2 billion into a Carbon Capture and Storage project.

It wasn't that long ago that the governing PCs would claim and shame the opposition parties for wanting to spend Alberta back into a deficit. Now faced with a billion dollar deficit, the same PCs are willing to push aside 15 years of fiscal dogma to continue spending billions of dollars on an unproven technology, that if developed would put Alberta at the forefront of collecting yesterday's dirty pollution, while the rest of the world focuses on tomorrow's new and renewable energy.

Maybe Albertans are right to be cynical?


Anonymous said...

While I aggree with your slant to a certain point, I am of the mindset that we do spend to much in Alberta. Chop, Chop needs to happen.
While it is easy to say we spend more per capita on health care as compared to other provinces is there any data on service? Are they the same or vastly different?

I do remember the crys for more provincial support for infrastructure when times were supposedly good yet I do not see any communities saying "Here is the money back".

I wish we had toll roads into the big cities so the users can pay for them.If we want green then make it the reluctant support their own infrastructure.

Laurence Miall said...

Cynical? You better believe it. Only in Alberta can you squander billion-dollar surpluses and get away with it. Admit you have no plan for the future. Still drag your feet on real climate change action even after your largest trading partner has strongly indicated a move in this direction. Alberta is going to be like a massive keg party the morning after, full of the detritus of celebration. Everyone looking for meaningful employment and politics will be elsewhere. I've seen this coming for years. Albertans have nothing but their sneering contempt for the rest of the country (esp. the east) to blame. When I visited Edmonton over Xmas, it felt -- as always -- like its pulse had stopped. By contrast, many of us are still enjoying life in optimistic, forwards-looking cities, such as Montreal, where the crowds are still out on the streets, even in the dead of February. Too bad it's ending this way for Alberta. Hopefully the place proves me wrong. There was so much opportunity in that place, esp. with Edmonton's vibrant arts and festival scene.

Gauntlet said...

In reality, even with every available dollar put into new and renewable energy generation, we're going to need some form of energy to power our society in the meantime.

I think there's a place for transition technologies that do for oil addicts what safe injection sites do for drug addicts - harm reduction.

I don't think Carbon Capture is an excuse to do nothing else, but I don't think you can attack it as a giant waste of time and resources, either.

KP said...

Great post. Agree 100%.

Anonymous said...

It really is the lack of a concerted plan that defines the state of governance in Alberta today. No plan?

Anonymous said...

Since everyone seems to say the Alberta government has NO plan, pray tell which governemt plan can you say... look at these folks now they know how to govern.

Anonymous said...

As the Nobel laureate and playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, "The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it."

Albertans may be cynical, but this cynicism is informed by observing decade after decade of PC rule and electoral victory, even when it is abundantly clear that Alberta is going down the tubes...

It's unlikely that the majority of Albertans will re-engage politically until they have reason to - and looking at the current slate of parties and politicos it doesn't appear that reason has arrived yet.

Thomass said...

Are Albertans outside of the Garneau Pub, Dog and Empress cynical?

Have the Libs and NDPs started to examine a way to capture all those voters sitting at home who couldn't be bothered to vote?

Anonymous said...

Would it matter?

In my riding, for instance, every person who voted for anything other than the conservatives would have to get together and agree on a single candidate. If they did that, they'd manage to get half as many votes as the conservative candidate.

The problem isn't the voters who don't turn out. It's the voters who continue to sleep-walk to the polls. "We're Albertan and we vote PC" may not have been a politically correct thing to say, but it's essentially true regardless.

I can only hope the coming shake-up to Alberta's economy serves to wake them up so that people at least get engaged and we can return to some semblance of debate.