We know that Alberta’s election campaign is a battle royal between two right-of-centre parties — the governing Progressive Conservatives and the rising Wildrose.
The others — Liberals, NDP and Alberta Party — will get whatever spoils are left on the table when the greatest Alberta political contest in recent memory ends after the polls close next Monday.
In the past, Albertans could have voted five minutes before the polls close, and been sound asleep in bed an hour later, snug and secure in the knowledge that the PCs had won another majority. Forty-one years, in fact, of majorities.
This time around, final election results on Monday are likely to drag out a little longer. Albertans are seriously thinking about a switch — from right to further right.
It’s wrong that in Alberta politics all we get is more of the same. What would be best for Alberta would be a balanced government.
But voters haven’t demanded representation by popular vote, or proportional representation as it’s known. This would mean that if the Conservatives or Wildrose, for example, got 50 per cent of the popular vote, and say the Liberals or NDP got 30 per cent, the Tories/Wildrose would end up with about 50 per cent of the seats, and the Liberals or NDP 30 per cent and so on.
In the last election, where only 40 per cent of voters cast ballots, the PCs took 72 of 83 seats under our winner-take-all system. It means hundreds of thousands of votes essentially counted for nothing. If you want to see strong voter turnout, go to a system where every vote counts — proportional representation.
In 2008, under proportional representation, the PCs, who had 52 per cent of total votes, would have won 43 seats; Liberals got 26 per cent, and would have had 21 seats instead of nine; NDP had 8.5 per cent and would have had seven seats instead of two.
Meanwhile, in Alberta, if you want to form the government today, you must be a right-of-centre party. Wildrose got that and is in the process of getting ready to taste blood. How much is impossible to determine, despite what the polls say.
When people like former respected statesman and premier Peter Lougheed step forward to endorse PC Leader Alison Redford, you know the Tories are in the fight of a lifetime. They won’t go easily.
Even so, polls are only an indication of a certain point in time. This volatile campaign has been a bit like Alberta’s weather — if you don’t like it, wait five minutes and it’ll change.
It almost seems that quick with either the PCs or Wildrose stepping into the boiling pot with their missteps along the campaign trail. The Wildrose surge, though, seems to have slowed, and voters are now catching their collective breath long enough to ask: What do these untried, untested and unknown candidates represent?
I can say this about one of the many varied election issues — it took the Progressive Conservatives of Alberta years to become more “progressive” about certain moral and social issues. Wildrose, on the other hand, wants to bring in a law to protect “conscience rights.” At the same time, Danielle Smith and her Wildrose say they would not legislate on social issues. Yet the further right the party, the more contentious and divisive certain social issues are bound to be if that party tries to impose its will on citizens.
For example, Wildrose wants to allow marriage commissioners to discriminate, and not perform marriage ceremonies that are not in line with they personal religious beliefs. Such a law would drag Alberta backwards, to being less tolerant, and away from the modern progressive society we are becoming.
On the other hand, voters are fed up with the Conservatives, who have about used up all of their nine lives, with everything from do-nothing committees to intolerable golden handshakes to bullying health-care professionals, and much more.
It’s a hell of a choice Albertans are about to make.
Mary-Ann Barr is the Advocate’s assistant city editor. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 403-314-4332 and on Twitter @maryannbarr1