Sunday, October 14, 2007

AlbertaPolitics LamentForAProvince

Lament for a Province, Part 1: An Introduction

I love Alberta. I was born here, and have spent four fifths of my life here. Yet when I returned from a five year university jaunt in Ontario I could not help but notice that something in Alberta was making me tremendously uncomfortable. My feelings about it have gotten progressively worse since I returned in August of 2005, until they finally boiled over with the release of the "Our Fair Share" royalty report.

It's the political culture.

To truly understand what I am about to write in the following posts, one must understand what my political stance is. I am a pragmatic conservative. I believe in a cap on health care spending. I believe that levels of government should stick to their jurisdictional knitting. I believe that the innocent should be protected from the guilty, and I eschew the false mythology and the moral superiority that many Canadians exhibit when discussing our place in the world. I believe that Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes both had something to say, and I dispel any notion that equates Keynes with uncontrolled deficit spending. I believe that debt is acceptable for capital projects but not for operating expenses.

I've always been aware of the general political leanings of Albertans, and I am acutely aware that Alberta's political culture skews to the right. This is not a bad thing. Unfortunately our mainstream provincial opposition parties attempt to align themselves in a similar fashion to political spectra in other Canadian jurisdictions and generally are not considered viable alternatives. They are victims of their own leadership, and to a certain extent their organizational structures are to blame as well. Alberta's right, however, suffers from its own problems, and since Alberta's spectrum is skewed, the right wing's cultural problems become Alberta's cultural problems as a whole.

"Redneck and Proud of It!"

Sometime in the late nineties I received a phone call from a sales representative at the now-defunct Alberta Report magazine. She was doing a sales pitch for magazine subscriptions, and her summary for the magazine was that Alberta Report was so conservative that they were, as she put it, "redneck and proud of it!"

I lived in Ontario through two federal elections filled with Liberals slandering Alberta. I put up with snide remarks made by job interviewers and rude comments from other students. I remember a newspaper columnist in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record that once implied in one of his columns that Alberta is less than civilized1. For five years I defended Alberta vigorously against the redneck stereotype. I am saddened to see that some organizations on the right actually find this moniker to be appealing.

Redneck is not today's Alberta, but some of the stuff flying around on the rightmost fringe unapologetically is. The Alberta Alliance and the Wild Rose Party are cut from the same cloth as Alberta Report, so for the purpose of my discussions I will refer to them as the rednecks.

In my next post I will discuss the National Energy Program and Equalization. I will also explain why I consider Alberta's political culture to frequently exhibit childish immaturity.

1 Etherington, F. (2004, March 15). Restaurant gouging turns your wine to sour grapes. Kitchener-Waterloo Record, p.B1.

When discussing a proposed Ontario law allowing restaurant patrons to bring their own wine, Etherington remarks that, "Even Alberta -- not the most civilized province in the country -- allows people to bring their own bottles into licensed restaurants and take home unfinished booze."


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