It should come as no surprise that the Alberta Progressive Conservatives are on the verge of being kicked out of office. Much like the federal Liberals by 2006, the Alberta Tories are suffering from the arrogance that comes from too much time in office. We know that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Albertans will cast their ballots on Tuesday and, according to a consensus of polls, they will not be voting PC. It is possible that now, after more than 43 years in power, the PC dynasty in Alberta may finally, finally come to an end.
The PCs do not deserve to win. They are a party so deeply entitled, so terribly dishonest, and so incredibly arrogant, it is more surprising that they continue to win than the possibility they might lose.
While we’ve learned our lesson of relying too heavily on polls in Alberta elections – poll after poll showed the Wildrose forming government during the 2012 election – one thing is clear: Albertans want change. The days of a one party system in Alberta are numbered.
Albertans have been ready for change for some time now. The PCs were in a near identical position just three years ago. Today, their main challenger is a sharp and likeable Rachel Notley, the newly elected leader of the New Democrats. Three years ago, it was the bright and articulate Danielle Smith, leader of the upstart Wildrose Party.
In April 2012, every poll conducted in the days leading up to Election Day showed Smith’s Wildrose Party in the lead, some giving her a sizable majority. At the time, I was on the front lines working as a communications aide to Danielle Smith on the Wildrose campaign tour. I saw it all unfold.
Instead of electing a Wildrose government, something very odd happened. In the final hours of the campaign, scores of Albertans who typically vote Liberal or NDP decided to switch their vote. Support for the Wildrose didn’t collapse; it did for the NDP and Liberals.
During the final week of the campaign, the Alberta PC party launched an incredibly negative campaign to strike fear in the hearts of progressive voters. The PCs told left-leaning Albertans that Alison Redford’s PCs were the only option for those opposing Alberta’s version of the Tea Party.
They emphasized the party’s left-wing credentials and tried to give the PCs a makeover, with a campaign called “Alberta by Design” and an ad saying this was “not your father’s PC Party.” A mysterious campaign emerged urging young Albertans to vote strategically in order to prevent the Wildrose Party from winning seats.
The efforts paid off, as many left-leaning Albertans felt comfortable enough with a Redford government, and the PCs walked away with a majority.
While they were successful in preventing the conservative Wildrose Party from forming government, progressive voters in Alberta also accommodated three more years of PC insider deals, arrogance and waste.
That’s the problem with holding your nose and voting strategically. You get what you vote for, often a party that doesn’t represent your values and ideals.
This time around, the threat to the PC establishment is coming from the other side of the political spectrum. Rachel Notley is leading a party more ideologically extreme than Danielle Smith’s Wildrose was in 2012. And the PCs are back at their old tricks of fearmongering to win office. This time, the message is directed towards those considering a vote for the only party promising not to raise taxes in Alberta, the Wildrose.
The PCs are trying to scare conservative voters by implying a vote against Jim Prentice’s PCs is a vote for the socialist NDP. Jim Prentice is telling Albertans the NDP will tax Alberta back to the Stone Age and all but halt development in the already struggling oilsands.
Wildrose voters should be weary of these tactics, as should anyone being urged to lend their vote to another party during an election. In Alberta, any vote against the PCs is a vote for good governance. The dynasty deserves to fall. Regardless of whether Alberta swings left or right, the province will be in better hands.
The Alberta PCs stand for nothing. They shamelessly slide from left to right, depending on who is challenging them and with what ammunition. A party that lacks core principles and common values can easily become a cesspool for special interest groups and corruption. The PCs exemplify this.
It’s time for change in Alberta. It’s time to throw the bums out.
This column first appeared in Sun Media papers across Canada on Saturday, May 2, 2015