The rise and fall of the Wildrose Party marks a watershed in the political situation in Alberta. For the ruling Conservatives, it denotes the end of an economically stable period that enabled them to govern with relative ease.
The move to the Conservatives by some of the Wildrose career politicians has left its mark on the electorate who are less than impressed with what they have observed. The reaction to these events has been more than just a feeling of disappointment, there is a questioning that did not exist before.
The approach of austerity measures herald a new reality in Alberta as the government endeavours to balance the provincial budget in the face of the collapse in world oil prices. This comes at a time when the provincial infrastructure is in serious need of upgrading and when the opportunity to obtain a greater return from abundant oil revenue has disappeared.
There is an increasing feeling of insecurity in our society that is palpable. It is becoming apparent that Alberta is not a separate entity, not an oasis in a volatile world but is in reality an integral part of a larger world economy that is firmly gripped by ever-increasing and unprecedented crises. People are voicing the fear that the current oil industry downturn will be nothing like those of the past.
The present administration faces a huge shortfall in the revenue required to run the province. It will have to choose between increasing the burden on working people and obtaining the shortfall from those at the top who have the ability to pay. The actions of the provincial government will come under much greater scrutiny than at anytime over the last four to five decades.
It is, however, not simply a question of increasing the taxes on those who are able to finance the provincial shortfall. The present situation is not just the result of Conservative ideology or bad management. It is the result of the contradictions inherent in the present economic system that lead to periodic crises. Alberta is organically linked to the malady that pervades the present economic system on a world scale.
We are now witnessing unprecedented, increasing, economic and political change in a world where economies have never been so linked together or so interdependent. Falling demand in the world market has led to increased competition between countries; this has resulted in disguised import controls and a creeping undeclared trade war.
Wages and living standards are falling as austerity measures are applied that serve only to exacerbate the problem by further cutting demand.
There is chronic overproduction around the world, which means that there is no reason for capital investment in manufacturing and we witness instead a growing speculation in things like property.
Despite the 2008-9 credit crash and the subsequent bank bailout, the Canadian economy functions increasingly on credit. Our debt to income ratio is already at an historical high.
The next provincial election will probably result in an increase of support for opposition parties and the return of the Conservatives to government. The coming federal election is hard to forecast but all those who are elected to govern will face enormous pressure from the needs of working people on one hand and big business on the other.
Attempts to alleviate economic pressures and raise profits by measures of austerity will lead to increased political pressures. Any attempt to placate the situation by increasing wages and public spending will decrease profits and result in increased economic pressure.
The ordinary people will, through the process of electing different political parties, attempt to find a way out of the present economic impasse and if this is not forthcoming their displeasure will increase. What is required is a fundamental change from the present economic system to a democratic socialist planned economy.
There is a fresh wind blowing in Alberta that seems at present little more than a whispering breeze; it is a Chinook of change.
Keith Norman Wyatt