As a resident of Alberta, I wanted to vote in this upcoming election. However, I had two problems: I was going to be out of the country and I did not know who I was supposed to vote for.
While I am a proud Federal Liberal, I almost had a “Political Psychological Break Down”. Admittedly, while my language was a bit rich, the problem was real. Provincially, I live in a riding called Calgary Currie. It is singular in its uniqueness in the Province. For, it was taken by the Liberals in the last election: one of nine seats, in a province with more than eighty ridings, which went Liberal.
However, the unique part is that it is the only seat held now by the Alberta Party. Or put differently, Dave Taylor, the present MLA but soon former MLA for Calgary Currie, crossed the floor. Unlike, Lethbridge-East MLA Bridget Pastoor who left to join the Progressive Conservatives, Dave Taylor left to join a new centrist or “left of centre” Party. This means that I have four “non-conservative” parties to choose from. Those four parties, ironically, are fighting over less than 30% of the vote.
This simple observation might lead to one question: should something change? In my opinion, something must change. For, I would like to support a provincial party that has some effect on the Political Landscape. It does not need to form government; I just want to vote for a relevant party.
Relevance may be hard to achieve because 70% to 80% of the Electorate supports either the Progressive Conservative or the Wildrose Party. Or put differently, Alberta is unique. For here, we have two very different types of conservatives. There are some Conservatives which are “Noblesse Oblige” in Philosophy. They are traditional Progressive Conservatives in the model of Joe Clark, Sir John A . MacDonald or Diefenbaker. Then there is the Wildrose Party. They are harder to describe. Simply put, Wildrose is a mix of social conservatives and neo-conservative market driven policy wonks. Their argument is simple: Government should do less. With 70%+ of the population being conservative in nature, one can understand the frustration of those who may not believe that the market is always perfect. Therefore, this is why I am calling for a change.
Now, I am not having a Nathan Cullan Moment. Federally, and in all provinces, there is a need for a 2+ party system. In most places in the country, this leads to three political streams: a right of centre party, a centrist party and a left of centre party. However, Alberta is a bit unique. For, Alberta needs two, “right of centre” parties provincially. Each can describe their world view to Albertans and each could form a majority government.
With this being said, one question is left: what does this reality mean for the rest of us? I think in this province, it might mean that the Alberta NDP, Alberta Liberal Party, the Alberta Party and the Alberta Greens should merge. It sounds crazy and it will likely never happen but it is necessary. With the latest polling data, this new Party of the Centre and Left would still be behind the Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose Alliance. But at least people like me would not have to “thread the needle” of political choice.
Just look at my political thinking. In my particular point of view, I am not ideological. So the Wildrose Alliance scares me. If you think about their political rhetoric, it reminds me of Ralph Klein. Under his leadership, the province had a deficit in Health Care Infrastructure, Education Infrastructure, Roads, Sewage and the list goes on. The only thing Ralph could do was destroy. Stelmach, while a communications disaster, tried to reverse the trend. Given that Alberta does not have a PST and the energy industry does not want to see an increase in the Government’s Royalty Rates, that action was doomed from the start.
Additionally, Alberta’s electorate loves the idea of paying, unsustainably low taxes. The electorate is proud that we do not have a PST. Albertans, as a whole, are proud of having the Lowest Income Tax Rates in the country. Furthermore, we are proud of having provincial tax credits which match all of the federal tax credits. But, as a province, the citizens of Alberta also expect that the government should provide services like roads, health care and universities at a level that most European Governments would envy. The only difference is that most European Governments charge some form of Retail Goods and Services tax.
Norway is always used as an example in this province. They got it right, we are told. They have saved $573 billion dollars using a savings model developed by Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed. In fact, Norway’s funds could be as high as $3.337 trillion dollars by 2030. Now compare this to Alberta’s fund. Based on a Press Release dated February 9, 2012, the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund is about $15.4 billion as of December 31, 2011, a 4.6 per cent increase over second quarter. One of the biggest differences between Norway and Alberta is not the size of industry or the size of the deposit but the level of taxation.
Norway, like most provincial and Federal Governments in Canada, funds a lot of its services through a “Good and Services”-style Consumption Tax. Alberta does not have one. Norway has higher levels of income tax than Alberta. Where Alberta has one of the lowest tax systems in the Western World, Norway has one of the highest. Or put differently, Norway Government collects more than 40% of the dollars in the economy. Compare this to the 25% to 30% that Alberta citizens, on a federal and provincial basis, suffers through. With this being said, Albertans need to have a real choice and be told the truth. With “Progressive” four parties, fighting over less than 30% of the vote the message is lost.
Now many Green and NDP members are going to complain that their party structure is a mixture of feds and provincial party members. Fair enough. It is going to be difficult to explain and co-ordinate. Constitutions are going to have to be changed and relationships are going to have to be established. All of the information of this new Party may have to be shared with federal Cousins like the Liberals, the Greens and the NDPs. But would that not be better than having the false dichotomy that we now have in Alberta?