SAINT JOHN, N.B. – The principal unforced error that most likely cost the Alberta NDP the May 29 election was the foolish decision to blab about a 3-per-cent tax increase for the largest corporations.
When Rachel Notley said that, with an explanation that corporations would be asked to pay just a little bit more, that once-effective line turned out to be just so 2015.
The gig was pretty well up at that moment in Calgary, and the Battleground on the Bow (with apologies to the late Johnny Hopkins) was where the whole thing stood or fell.
True to form, the United Conservative Party lied about this – inflating the 3 per cent to ridiculous 38 per cent. But that hardly matters and was probably not even necessary.
The UCP War Room, hard pressed by the NDP on Premier Danielle Smith’s repeated blunders, fell on this spectacular own goal as if it were Manna from heaven. And who can blame them?
It’s the zeitgeist. Honesty about taxes and the impact of not raising them on services will cost you every time, and not just in Alberta. The best course of action would have been simply to stay silent about this plan.
Of course, had the tax been implemented after, the UCP (in opposition) would have cried that it was never part of the election campaign. But who cares about that? All parties do this, and all parties make the same complaint when anything like it is done against their wishes.
If you think your party should be more “honest” on the tax file, then for all intents and purposes you also think your party ought to always lose.
Voters demand to be lied to about taxes. That is to say, in Alberta they refuse to elect any party or politician that tells the truth about the relationship between cutting taxes and cutting public services.
As stated in this space on election night, despite all the money it raised, the NDP also failed to come up with a focused communications plan that hammered the UCP on three or four economic policy issues – pensions, rebates that are really forced loans, and the corrupt R-Star scam to relieve petroleum companies of responsibility for the pollution they create, for three examples – and explained clearly how the NDP would do things differently.
Ms. Notley’s lacklustre, over-thought performance in the leaders’ debate didn’t help either, but on its own it would hardly have been fatal. Nor was the NDP’s decision to “ignore its base,” as some have complained, if that meant advocating policies that would have sent Calgary voters screaming for the exits. And, unfortunately, that’s a pretty low bar.
In the event, the NDP lost in Calgary by a tiny percentage in several close ridings. I’m pretty sure that if Ms. Notley had never mentioned her unnecessary tax idea that would have been enough to tip several ridings into the NDP column and make the race much closer in several others.
If Ms. Notley’s error cost the NDP the election, the question must now be asked: What will it cost Alberta?
Will Danielle Smith moderate her most outrageous policy plans? Don’t count on it
Will Premier Smith be chastened enough by her party’s election day shrinkage to modify her policy plans, or will she double down on her worst ideas?
Well, we can argue all night about whether the election result was a big whopping mandate Ms. Smith claims it is, or a squeaker in which only about 3,000 votes separated both parties. Paradoxically, there’s an argument to be made for both propositions.
My money is on the UCP persisting with its schemes to seize our pensions to risk them on the oil and gas industry, privatize public health care, create a pliable provincial police force, implement the scandalous R-Star scam to allow oil companies to renege on the polluter pay principle, and permit foreign coal companies to decapitate a Rocky Mountain or three.
When these things come to pass, don’t complain that the UCP didn’t campaign on those issues. It did, in a back-handed way, when Ms. Smith said, nope, she’d wait to talk about that stuff after the election.
If you’re a southern Alberta rancher downstream from an Australian coal mine, don’t expect much sympathy when you cry about the state of your water supply. You know how you voted.
Will Ms. Smith’s government also move to restrict the right to safe abortion? Only if Take Back Alberta Leader David Parker tells her she has to. How likely is that to happen? I’ll leave it to you, dear readers, to speculate.
Finally, how long will it take Ms. Smith to welcome the repellent poop-cookie lady, Lacombe-Ponoka MLA elect Jennifer Johnson, back into the bosom of the UCP Caucus? Probably longer than it would have taken had the seat count been tighter, but not that long just the same.
NOTE: Saint John, N.B., the putative terminus of the doomed Energy East Pipeline, may seem like a strange place to contemplate how the NDP squandered its chance to plant a grown-up government in Alberta, but what else is an Albertan supposed to think about so soon after such an unfortunate election result? One thing is for sure, Energy East never would have been built regardless of what Justin Trudeau thought or did. You see, the Irving Family didn’t really want it badly enough to care. I think I’ll go for a walk now and look at the pretty lights of Irvings’ refinery.