Thursday, 7 May 2015

Random thoughts on the Alberta election

First off, I'm absolutely thrilled that the NDP has toppled the PC regime.  44 years of one-party rule is far too much, even if it had been a party I liked!  

I've seen the doom and gloom and apocalyptic predictions from PC and WR supporters.  I;m certain those are exaggerated.  We're talking Prairie NDP, not Ontario, so Notley's crew should be more like Roy Romanow's Saskatchewan or Gary Doer's Manitoba NDP governments.  As has been noted by more observant commentators than I, the Alberta NDP are proposing policies similar to Peter Lougheed's.  The chances of Edmonton going completely bolshie are between slim and none.

I'm hopeful that Notley will be able to implement the sensible policies from her party's platform, including a review of the royalty regime, increasing minimum wage and adjusting the corporate tax rate.  None of these are particularly revolutionary.  

Royalties:  She doesn't want to kill the energy industry in Alberta, rather she wants to see that Alberta gets a fair share.  Giving away the resource in exchange for the extraction jobs is not good value - I hope she can avoid being held hostage by the energy industry.

Increasing minimum wage will help the lowest income Albertans, a novel idea as the preferred Tory approach of cutting taxes to the richest hasn't provided benefit to society as a whole.  I've read predictions that giving more money to low income earners will help the economy as the extra money will be immediately spent locally, boosting the earnings for local retailers and other businesses.  Giving money to the richest doesn't have the same value, as those who are already somewhat comfortable will be inclined to lock the money away into savings or spend it outside the local area (vacations & investments).  I'm looking forward to see if this theory is correct.

Increasing the corporate tax rate from the lowest in the country to, well, still the lowest in the country doesn't strike me as harmful to the economy either.  Naturally, anyone whose taxes are increased will complain.  I would, too.  However, business leaders will need to think hard about whether they'll relocate their businesses and where they'll go.  Again, thinking positively here, the NDP should keep the corporate tax increases small enough that they don't drive businesses away.  The spoiler in all this is, of course, that the economy is already punishing many Alberta businesses.  How will we know if a business is failing anyway (i.e, under the current tax regime) and then decides to blame the NDP for the situation they inherited.  we'll have to watch critically.

I'm hopeful that Bob B will get his wish and the NDP will provide agricultural workers the same protections that WCB provides to workers in other industries.

Looking at the vote distributions, it's easy to see where Jim Prentice misjudged calling this election.  The combined WR and PC votes come to 52%.  As the WR support comes mostly from disaffected tories, it's easy to see that he could have waited to integrate the floor crossers into the PC fold, and shown rural voters that he was rebuilding the PCs that they know and love.  His cynical attempt to jump into a campaign when the Liberals and WR were disorganized, and the NDP had a new leader, completely backfired on him.  WR was able to capitalize by rallying rural support against the WR floor crossers.  Meanwhile, the Alberta Liberals, who've not been much of a force since Lawrence Decore's time, were pretty much invisible.  The result was splitting the conservative vote and allowing the progressive vote to coalesce around the NDP.  

Jim Prentice screwed up, Brian Jean didn't (and kept the most outrageous of the WR candidates from torpedoing themselves), and Rachel Notley ran a flawless campaign.  And now Jim P has walked away.

Although I'm pleased with the NDP victory, the results from this election once again show the flaws with the first-past-the-post system.  The tories won more votes than the WR, but elected fewer candidates.  If Alberta had a PR system, then there'd be more PC MLAs than WR, but even with fewer overall votes, WR gets twice the number of MLAs.  However, I thinks it's unlikely that the NDP will seriously look at PR as they would never benefit from it in Alberta.

I've heard/read pundits proclaiming the end of the PC party.  Don't count them out yet.  They won more votes than WR.  The PC brass will be studying this election, and my guess is they'll try to rebuild, most likely by talking seriously with WR (and not poaching MLAs like Prentice) to find common ground for combining, as was done with Reform and the federal PCs a dozen years ago.  I figure the Alberta Liberals are done, though.  

1 comment:

  1. Good observations, Will ! Those early Poli Sci classes paid off ! Stephanie