PHOTOS: Premier Jim Prentice at work behind the blue curtain. Below: It’s going to take heart, brains and courage for us Ozbertans to do something about the current situation. Below that: Some of Premier Prentice’s key political advisors. Actual Alberta politicians and their advisors may not appear exactly as illustrated.
OK, we’re all appalled. But what are we going to do about it?
Not much, I’d wager, even if we get the chance in 2015, as I expect we will.
What was really interesting and possibly unique about the final political act of 2014 here in Ozberta was that it didn’t take Dorothy, Toto and their three metaphorical friends to pull back the green curtain to reveal the Wizard at work.
That is, when Premier Jim Prentice wooed, cajoled, threatened or whatever it was he did – we’ll likely never find out about that part – to get 11 of the 16 members of the Wildrose Opposition to cross the floor and join his governing Progressive Conservative caucus, nine of them including their leader in a single day, he ripped back the curtain on the operation of what passes for democracy in this province.
Revealed were the same lack of integrity, the same lack of vision, the same feckless and cynical political advisors lurking in the same shadows, and the same old one-party state that we’ve come to expect from generations of PC governments around this place.
Talk about a stunning example of realpolitik – that is, politics based on undiluted power and not such impractical notions as morality, ethical behaviour or even the long-term good of the place and its citizens.
It’s nice to know that this open acknowledgement we don’t really have a functioning democracy here in Ozberta did in fact outrage a lot of ordinary people who imagined they still lived in Alberta. Yup, they’re mad as hell and they say they’re not going to take it any more. Forgive me if I don’t hold my breath.
The well-entrenched political establishment in this province is banking on the belief a huge advertising budget combined with insufficient attention among the populace, a “price trough” to put the fear of God and Oil into us, and a judicious dose of voter suppression techniques can take care of that in time for an early election call in 2015. Lacking enough opposition MLAs to blame for the need to call an election, they’ll probably point to the manufactured and temporary oil price crisis as an excuse.
Mr. Prentice and former Opposition leader Danielle Smith have decided on their story, and they’re stickin’ to it, but the outrage sparked by the procedural and practical betrayal of democracy evident in the Wildrose caucus’s craven defection was intense enough it must have rattled Alberta’s establishment just the same.
Preston Manning – titular head of the Manning Centre for Building Demagogy or whatever it’s called and the godfather of neoliberalism in Canada – was trotted out to fess up to playing a role in the defections, although I doubt we got the whole story about that, either. He pulled a leaf from the Book of Ralph Klein, presumably in hopes that would make the brouhaha go away, and said he was very, very sorry.
I don’t know if Alberta voters believed his explanation or not. Perhaps he got some calls from angry Manning Centre bankrollers who thought the Wildrose Party still had work to do. But even if electors accepted his apology, I doubt many saw Mr. Manning as a central player the way the premier was, and is, in this particular gambit.
But it may not matter if angry Albertans of all political stripes just throw up their hands and either stay home on election day or slouch back into the polling booth and vote Tory anyway because, “What else could we do?”
This, of course is exactly what Mr. Prentice and his advisors are counting on, and they have plenty of evidence it will work. With no party to the right of them to cry for even more austerity, they have concluded they’ll have an easy time of it and won’t need the progressive voters who saved their bacon last time, electing the Alison Redford Edition of the party as an alternative to the scarier Wildrose.
Alas, nowadays there are no crusading newspaper publishers like the late J. P. O’Callaghan of both the Edmonton Journal and later the Calgary Herald, who declared in 1982 that if the people of Alberta wouldn’t elect an opposition, the Journal would do the job itself. Well, those days are long gone.
As for unions doing the same thing, as a friend of mine who has nothing to do with the labour movement hopefully suggested over the holiday, I wouldn’t count on that either. They’ve been too thoroughly demonized by the Canadian neoliberal outrage industry and its elected auxiliary to be very effective in that role, and they are too restricted by the legal requirements of our adversarial system of labour relations to do much other than represent their own members.
There are political parties out there that have the potential to be an effective legislative opposition if elected in sufficient numbers – far more effective than the Wildrose Party ever was, prevailing mythmaking notwithstanding – but they too will probably do their best to split and dilute their vote.
The only bright spot: This contretemps may remind voters elsewhere in Canada what happens to democracy when you let a bunch of secretive Ozberta Conservatives run things for too long.
No, it’s going to take heart, brains and courage by Albertans themselves to do something about this situation. Alas, this is not a movie, and there’s no balloon waiting at the end to carry us all back to Alberta.
Happy New Year!
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.