I’ve never voted for the NDP before, but I will in this election. That might turn some of you off, but bear with me for a minute.
I said in my last post* that I wasn’t feeling brave enough to write about the Alberta election scheduled for April 16. Maybe you’re wondering: what’s to be brave about? Well, I don’t like conflict – and despite having previously credited my family for being kind during tough discussions, there have been a couple recent incidents that suggest we may need more practice.
Still, in the spirit with which I started this blog, I’m trying to understand other perspectives. (Note I did not say I’m always succeeding!) Try as I might, however, there are three things I find very confusing about this election:
- Why are people assuming that Jason Kenney/UCP equates to pipelines and economic successes?
I spent about a decade doing corporate communications for three different oil and gas companies. During that time, I was involved in lots of work that called on the (Conservative) provincial government to recognize the vastness of our oil sands resources, and the need to get them to market. Many of today’s UCP candidates and party members were on the receiving end of those messages…but they didn’t get any pipelines built. We also sent the same messages to Ottawa, where Jason Kenney was a federal cabinet minister at the time. But he didn’t get any pipelines built either. Meanwhile, the NDP in Alberta listened to Albertans and began fighting for pipelines hard enough that they’re battling another jurisdiction of NDP-ers.
Beyond pipelines (because WOW, am I getting sick of talking about pipelines), there’s the wider economy. If we put aside Albertans’ aversion to sales tax (and we shouldn’t put that aside, because it means we’re ignoring the fact we’re beholden to oil prices set by global markets, not the Alberta government), people seem most concerned with debt.
Personally, I’m not as worried about the last four years of provincial spending, because I believe certain types of spending can keep an economy going during tough times, and I also believe that spending on infrastructure today can save a lot of headaches later. But I also took high school social studies, so I understand that just as my beliefs are well-subscribed, so is an opposing view about austerity. That debate was established a long time ago.
But even if you believe differently than me: have you seen this image from a UofC economist that compares our debt levels to every other province? Based on this graph and the NDP’s plan to balance the budget by 2023, how is it that I’m supposed to believe the sky is falling? Whose message is that?
- Who do we elect if it’s not the person already doing a good job?
I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve heard someone say, “Rachel Notley was handed a pretty awful situation to work with, and she’s done a really good job – but I can’t vote NDP.” Ummm…isn’t the whole point to elect the person you think is working hard and doing a good job? Are we so tied to the identity of certain political parties that we vote for them unthinkingly? To my mom’s credit, she recently shared a thoughtful article about the problems that can come with political parties. And you don’t have to look much further than south of the border to see what happens when people put party identity before values.
Fortunately, I’m also proud to know other people who – despite being long-standing Conservative voters, members, and donors – have stepped forward and said they’re not going to vote the way they usually do. When I ask why, they talk about not trusting Jason Kenney and not agreeing with his values. Interestingly, some of these Conservatives actually know Mr. Kenney on a personal level. But I digress, so let me back up and be more concise: I’m proud to know people who are putting their values ahead of party colours.
- When did it become okay for leaders to be accused of breaking the law?
This question goes beyond Alberta, but that doesn’t make it any less important. And when it comes to the Alberta election, I find things especially bewildering. I thought the accepted narrative from 2015 was that we voted out a 44-year government full of people who were acting too entitled. So, now it’s been 4 years and that same party’s members are okay with their “leader” winning his position by (allegedly) playing dirty enough that the RCMP have been called in to investigate? I really don’t understand how or when that became tolerable.
As centre-right journalist Jen Gerson wrote, “The 2015 election should have served as a tonic for the right in this province — an opportunity for reflection, reform and generational change. Is that what we wound up with? Is that what this United Conservative Party represents?”
So where does that leave us?
Questions aside, we need to decide who to vote for. And as far as I can tell, the choice of UCP is only crystal-clear if your top priority is that governments hold anti-abortion and/or anti-LGBTQ sentiments. But I actually don’t think there are very many people in that category, so casting a ballot may require some more thought.
For me, there’s one thing about the election I don’t find confusing at all – and that’s the need to consider people who stand to lose a lot more than I do.
So, like I said, I’m voting NDP. Not only do I think Rachel Notley has done a great job in a tough situation (tough because of economic factors from outside Alberta, and also tough because of what she inherited from the Conservatives), but I’m also okay with voting for different parties — based on issues and values that will be important long after we get another pipeline.
*My last post was about a family who needed support, and there have been some updates there. Sadly, the mother passed away. In better news, the people working with the family met their fundraising goal. Thanks to everyone who gave consideration or funds to this cause.