Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead: Thoughts on Alberta’s election

Today was election day in the province of Alberta (Canada) where I live. It was supposed to be a historic election in which the Progressive Conservatives (PC), who have formed the government of Alberta for the past forty years would be defeated by the Wildrose Party (more conservative).

This did not happen and this is probably because of some extremely bad Wildrose PR during the last week of the campaign. A campaign that was originally tight and on message became a campaign that alienated PC voters and turned throngs of left-wing and moderate voters towards strategic voting. One candidate said that gays will burn in hell and another said that being white would give him an electoral advantage — an especially bad move in the city that elected Naheed Nenshi with no discussion of his ethnic background or religion. The Wildrose Party went from possible alternative to making the PCs look moderate. Strategic voting became the name of the game for many. A Shit Harper Did style video called “I Never Thought I’d Vote Conservative” circulated Facebook. There is nothing like being branded homophobes and racists to sabotage a formerly viable change centered campaign. Hint to future politicians: make sure your candidates stay on message during the home stretch. If at all possible avoid being associated with causes that alienated moderates and saying things that will only result in massive backfire.

While this did not mark a historic shift it feels as though it did in some ways. Perhaps this is just the optimistic in me but voter turnout was high and for a change people went from seeing Alberta politics as Thing 1 (PCs) and Thing 2 (Wildrose). Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. The PCs and Wildrose could not be more different in the eyes of many voters. The PCs are now a center right party of sorts. Allison Redford is the equivalent of a republican in a democratic state, whereas Wildrose leader Danielle Smith is more of the Tea Party flavour of conservatism.Allison Redford may be from the same party that has lead the province for thirty years but she does have some new ideas and a new take. Danielle Smith on the other hand proposed giving Albertans money back, which could not show less vision and leadership — besides Albertans already got their Ralph bucks, do we really need to go back there.

Alberta now has a new opposition party in the Wildrose, who got around 20 seats to the PCs 60. This will keep the PCs in check and it’s not a bad thing to have some kind of opposition party in your legislature — previously the NDP and Liberal parties combined for few enough seats to be little more than background noise.

This also raises the question of the future of Alberta’s left. For some reason there are two left wing parties (the Liberals and NDP) despite the fact that together they might be able to combine to be a real political force. Apart the Liberals and NDP each got about nine or ten per cent of the vote, which would be around twenty per cent together — this despite the strategic voting that was going on. Vote splitting costs the left seats, and frankly there are that many votes to split to begin with. Calgarians elected a left-wing mayor, and were repulsed by racism and homophobia. There is the potential for new policies and a new mentality to come out of this and not the same old, same old.

Change doesn’t always have to be dramatic and a forty-year dynasty doesn’t have to fall for history to be made. Change can be as simple as people caring about politics and taking the time to go to the polls, or leaving the potential to open new doors come four years from now.

On another note Allison Redford is now Alberta’s first elected female Premier and the leader of the official opposition is female. Girl power.

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