The benefit of the doubt

Alberta’s long siege of political chronic wasting disease, 30 years of bad Progressive Conservative government that conserved nothing after Peter the Great abdicated in 1985, ended spectacularly on May 5. I’ve often said that Albertans don’t know the difference between scratching their arse and tearing it to shreds; this time a majority NDP government is the result.

“Spring time in Alberta

“Chills me to the bone”

— Ian Tyson

Alberta’s long siege of political chronic wasting disease, 30 years of bad Progressive Conservative government that conserved nothing after Peter the Great abdicated in 1985, ended spectacularly on May 5.

I’ve often said that Albertans don’t know the difference between scratching their arse and tearing it to shreds; this time a majority NDP government is the result.

But, even more amazing, we also uncharacteristically decided for democracy, by electing a numerically strong, largely right-wing opposition, with many more members experienced and qualified for their important job, than the rookie NDP caucus can claim for theirs.

The campaign moment that still haunts me from the instant I heard it was Premier Jim Prentice telling us we should look in the mirror to see the cause of the mess Alberta’s in.

A talented clinical psychologist once told me that a sure symptom of depression is not recognizing yourself in the mirror.

Suddenly, depressed Albertans were seeing PCs past, maybe even Prentice in their mirrors, and instantly recognized this: we do keep electing these clowns, and we have to stop.

Even though, as in every Alberta election of my life, I lost my vote because I tend to select the most credible candidate in terms of education, experience and accomplishments, I am delighted with change at last in my lifetime, and respect the decision of the 58.25 per cent of Alberta’s eligible voters who cast ballots, the highest since the 60.2 per cent in 1993, when the Liberals won 32 seats.

“Rachel,” favoured one of biblical patriarch Jacob’s two wives, described as “beautiful in form and countenance,” means “ewe.” Talk with them and listen, yes, but our Rachel of Edmonton Strathcona should eschew any more of the ewe-like behaviour evidenced by her early courting and soothing of the energy sector.

Our NDP leader should never forget that she did not defeat the real government of Alberta during the last three dismal decades: the head rams of Houston, of big oil and gas.

They will court her, and she must make it clear that the elected representatives of the people of Alberta are back in the business of running the place on behalf of the resource owners, yes, the people of Alberta, again.

The NDP’s environment platform is more ramshackle and rickety even than those of the other parties, which also display total ignorance of the real, immediate, on-the-ground problems: total destruction of fish and wildlife habitats, also the environment of us all, by energy and forestry having been given carte blanche to do any damn thing they please to get our resources up or down and out of here ASAP.

Whatever else this government does with energy and forestry, it must end the devastation of the last three decades and get started on repairing it.

They even think so in deepest, greenest Wild Rose Country, according to one reader out there: “… lots of people are willing to give the NDP and Rachel Notley the benefit of the doubt and see what she can do. It will probably be a good thing if she makes those oil companies spend some of their billions on cleaning up their environmental messes and keeping logging companies away from stream edges. …”

Never in my memory has the urban-rural political divide been so wide in Alberta.

That, coupled with the extreme youth, inexperience, and utter urbanity of so many of Rachel’s astonished-to-be-elected hem hangers, is going to make building a credible cabinet a challenging chore.

In particular, it is going to be difficult to find a person with the experience, knowledge and interest needed by the minister of Environment -Sustainable Resource Development, the best of whom, historically, have come from rural Alberta.

Another comment from Wild Rose Country: “So, yup, with all the crazy socialist, non-working candidates who are her MLAs, this has got all of us country folk pretty worried! … I was thinking those ‘Welfare Cowboys’ as you call them, out in Special Areas are probably a little worried about losing those lease surface disturbance payments now.”

Yes, how could I forget?

The NDP should take a long, hard look at the Welfare Cowboys out there in Wild Rose Country who so proudly believe in socialism for already rich ranchers, and free enterprise for the undeserving rest of us.

A priority for the new ESRD minister must be rebuilding a department that has cynically been gutted to make it easier for big energy to do as it pleases with Alberta public land.

One of Premier Alison Redford’s more egregious moves was to wipe out the century-old Fish and Wildlife Division.

The new ESRD minister should have a chat with Allan Warrack, youngest and also the best minister of Lands and Forests (as ESRD once was) we’ve ever had, in Lougheed’s new 1971 cabinet, then set about rebuilding the F and W Division with a mandate to stop the near extinctions of so much of our native fish, fauna, and flora.

Bob Scammell is an award-winning columnist who lives in Red Deer. He can be reached at

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