Is the Orange Tsunami Heading West

Columnist Tom Fletcher discusses the recent political shift in Alberta

VICTORIA – Albertans have always laughed about their long-standing reputation as a reckless, immature society. The classic bumper sticker, now available as a T-shirt or coffee cup in several variations, states: “Please God, give us one more oil boom, we promise not to p— it away this time.”

Now they’ve thrown out the government that finally tried to stop blowing money like a roughneck fresh out of the bush. Jim Prentice had the gall to propose raising income taxes for high wage earners, doing away with former Alberta treasurer Stockwell Day’s signature flat tax.

In response, voters have abruptly replaced the 44-year Progressive Conservative dynasty with an upstart NDP that wants to tax the rich and corporations even more. Facing an oil slump, layoffs and a huge structural deficit in Alberta’s lavish public service, NDP premier-elect Rachel Notley is committed to a 50-per-cent increase in the minimum wage and another “review” of resource royalties. One headline in a national paper summed it up: “Go home, Alberta. You’re drunk.”

In the sober days after the election, a few truths emerge. Alberta hasn’t been a fiscally conservative, small-government place for a long time. Among other things, it has ratcheted up teacher and nurse wages across the country. Alberta is broke, again, and even the NDP is afraid to resort to a sales tax.

The minimum wage hike is a pet policy of Canada’s labour federations, which somehow remain convinced that poverty can be eliminated by state order.

On the positive side, Notley has promised to end corporate and union donations to political parties, as has already been done federally. B.C. should be next, but the gravy train of business donations is too tempting for our nominally Liberal government.

Here at the B.C. legislature, an NDP staffer passed out cans of Orange Crush to celebrate. NDP leader John Horgan pronounced himself “ecstatic,” and hastened to assure reporters that Notley is “as competent as she sounds.”

Notley now has to sort through a caucus that includes typical NDP place-holders, college students and union staff running in faint-hope constituencies. Soon after the result, the party pulled down its website platform and candidate biographies, as Notley began phoning energy companies to reassure them Alberta will be “A-OK” on her watch.

Horgan likes to describe the “capital flight” from new NDP governments as if it’s just a show put on by big business. Plummeting stock prices and relocation of corporate offices are all staged, according to the party line, nothing to do with actual investment conditions created by NDP policies. This fiction is all Horgan dares to say publicly, because it’s what his party base devoutly believes.

Besides, they’re only branch offices of multinational oil companies like Shell, Horgan said. He used his favourite Tommy Douglas quote, about the bad news of a big oil company leaving. “The good news is, the oil is staying here.”

B.C.’s natural gas might be staying here too. Horgan insists he supports a natural gas export industry, but his party seems more concerned with an ascending Green Party, and an urban base that believes you can run a resource economy on windmills and solar panels.

Notley supports twinning the TransMountain pipeline, while Horgan continues to insist he has no opinion on the project Adrian Dix so memorably opposed.

The Alberta NDP has a steep learning curve ahead. The B.C. NDP has a couple of years to see if the appearance of a like-minded Alberta government is a boost for them, or a cautionary tale for voters.

(Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca)

 

Just Posted

VIDEO: North Island Atom Eagles tie Victoria Ice Hawks, fall in rematch

The North Island Atom Eagles will be back in league play action at home in January.

Strong winds expected to hit north, west Vancouver Island: Environment Canada

Environment Canada said southeast winds will reach speeds of 70 to 90 kilometres per hour

Town of Port McNeill hesitates on replacing harbour’s dock and ramp

“The danger is the longer we hold on to awarding the bid, the closer we get to the tourist season”

It’s the last day to vote in B.C.’s referendum on electoral reform

Ballots must now be dropped off in person to meet the deadline of 4:30 p.m.

Property assessments to rise again on Vancouver Island

Some areas could see their assessments spike as much as 20 per cent

‘Abhorrent’ condition of autistic B.C. boy shows flaws in care system: report

‘Charlie’ was underweight and ‘covered in feces’ when he was removed from his mom’s care

Military closes book on oft-criticized support unit for ill, injured troops

The transition unit will provide support and services to military members struggling with physical and mental injuries so they can return to work.

Vancouver Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson named NHL’s first star of the week

Canucks centre scored two goals and six assists in three games

Protester says Canada doing U.S. ‘dirty work’ outside Huawei exec’s bail hearing

The U.S. wants to extradite Meng to face fraud allegations after Canada arrested the high-profile technology executive.

Union says arrows and gasoline tossed at striking Comox Valley assisted living workers

BCGEU president Stephanie Smith says arrows and gasoline were thrown at the picketers early in the week

Environment Canada issues wind warning to much of Vancouver Island

‘Strong winds that may cause damage are expected or occurring,’ says forecaster

Break-in at home of detained Chinese Huawei executive

Meng Wanzhou was detained in Vancouver on America’s request

Natural gas rates will go up in B.C. on Jan. 1

Regions could pay up to $68 more

Most Read