May 13th, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 19
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Fifty shades of black
Some analysts are claiming last week’s stunning electoral landslide that propelled the New Democrats to power is the result of the province’s changing demographics.
But at least one political scientist is saying Albertans were never as conservative as they were made out to be.
Barry Cooper, a prominent author and a professor of political science at the University of Calgary, says one-dimensional media coverage painted Albertans as more conservative than other Canadians.
“Part of the reputation Alberta got for being conservative was simply a result of the ignorance of the central Canadian media who are by and large liberals,” said Cooper. “They didn’t understand this province; they’ve never really cared much about it except we’ve got way too much money and way too much oil.”
On the other hand, Cooper said Premier Rachel Notley will have to prove than she’s more centrist than the average New Democrat by taking care of the economy. She’ll also need to impose discipline on her MLAs, many of whom are in their 20s and 30s with little to no political experience.
“They’re certainly not like the Looney Tunes in B.C. or as ideological as they are in Manitoba,” he says. “But if [Notley] takes advice from those provinces, it’ll be a one-term government and we’ll never see them again.”
Susan McDaniel, a demographer at the University of Lethbridge, said the perception that Albertans are more conservative than other Canadians may be true but she doesn’t blame the media.
“The reason is quite simple; there’s been a dynasty here for 44 years,” she said.
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McDaniel said decades of the same government have acclimatized Albertans to PC rule and created voter apathy in a populace that figured there would never be change. But this time around voters were annoyed enough to elect a new government.
“People liked Rachel Notley and they like what the NDP stood for but they also voted against the dynasty because they thought it was time for change,” said McDaniel. “But it’s not the revolutionary sort of change that people seem to think it is.”
Posting online, Edmontonian Matthew Yeo seemed to agree. Yeo said that when Ralph Klein declared the province debt free in 2003 the corporate tax rate was 13 per cent and the small business tax was 4.5 per cent. These numbers are higher than the NDP’s proposed rates, which would be a 12 per cent corporate tax and a three per cent small business tax.
“Watch out for the godless communists, everyone, the great orange horde has a devious, nefarious plan to tax you less than Klein did,” wrote Yeo. “The horror.”
Notley is proposing a two per cent corporate tax increase and more funding for healthcare and education. She’s also proposing a Resource Owners Rights Commission to review the royalties oil companies pay to the province. She’s talking about increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018 from the current wage of $10.20 and introducing more tax brackets for high earners.
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She has also publically come out as pro-tar sands and pro-pipeline although she favours Energy East over Northern Gateway.
"'Gateway is not the right decision,” said Notley to the Calgary Herald on May 1. “I think that there's just too much environmental sensitivity there and I think there's a genuine concern by the indigenous communities,' she said. 'It's not going to go ahead. I think most people know that.”
Speaking like a business minded PC, NDP candidate Aileen Burke who lost the Livingstone-Macleod riding to incumbent Pat Stier, said she’s remaining with the party and would to increase Economic Developers Alberta’s presence in the riding.
“Alberta has some exciting times ahead,” she said. “Obviously I'm disappointed that I wasn't elected but I am extraordinarily grateful for all of the individuals who came out and supported me along the way. We made a lot of inroads in this election and that's something to be proud of.”
Over the past five to 10 years, hundreds of thousands of people have moved to the province from across the country and around the world. Alberta now has the youngest population in the country, with a median age of 37.
It also has the highest proportion of people who are of working age, which may have helped the NDP attract voters concerned with class sizes in schools, daycare spending and social services.
On May 8, Ryan Kubik, president and CEO of Canadian Oil Sands Limited, was speaking to this year’s graduating class at Crowsnest Consolidated High School.
“You live in a province where people from across the world and across Canada are moving to because of the opportunities that exist,” he told the assembled graduates.
Kubik acknowledge that times have changed since he graduated from CCHS in 1985.
“I believe the students in this room are smarter and more aware of the world than my generation was,” he said. “I recently attended a meeting where Canadian CEOs pondered the future of Canada’s millennial generation. We recognize the future of our country sits right here in this room.”
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May 13th ~ Vol. 85 No. 19
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