COMMENTARY | Widely expected to sweep the provincial election in Alberta, Canada, home of the oil/tar sands, the upstart libertarian Wildrose Alliance (WRA) Party surprised pundits by not sweeping the province, and by taking 17 seats.
It’s not the victory the Wildrose had hoped for, but it represents a massive upset in Alberta politics where, for the past 41 years, the Progressive Conservative (PC) party has been the unquestioned winner.
Incumbent Premier Alison Redford rode to a surprise victory ‘up the middle’ in a Progressive Conservative leadership campaign last fall. She enlisted the support of the powerful Alberta Teacher’s Association, on the promise of returning funding previously cut, and easily swept the party vote on the second ballot. Since then, her party has been plagued with scandals.
Wildrose victories seemed to be concentrated in rural southern Alberta, including the riding of Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, which she took by a healthy margin.
Wildrose had a strong start in the campaign which appeared to dwindle somewhat over the past weeks. Many commentators claimed ‘bozo’ comments from her own people, and from Smith herself did them in. Two comments concerned race and gay issues; one concerned climate change (Anthropogenic Global Warming – AGW).
Smith was widely mocked for stating that there is a scientific debate going on about AGW climate change and that her party would “continue to monitor the debate.” Some commentators said that “…only people in Saudi Arabia or Iran would question the consensus on climate change…” Yet, ironically the day before the election, the Friends of Science celebrated their 10th anniversary in Calgary.
Friends of Science (FoS) are a group of geologists, engineers, and scientists primarily based in Calgary who question the ‘consensus’ on climate science and specifically the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) theory. They also question the extraordinary costs associated with carbon emissions standards and taxes that are having negligible impact on climate or the weather. Many of the FoS members are retired; their jobs no longer in jeopardy as they speak their minds on this hot-button issue.
The Fos advocate maintenance of the evidenciary based scientific method in climate assessments and reject computer modelling, central to IPCC claims of AGW(whose internal corruption of methods and scientific/academic integrity have recently been laid bare by Donna Lafromboise). Likewise, FoS members cite research that indicates that the sun is the key factor in climate change, not humankind, and that climate change is, in general, a natural rhythm of the earth far beyond the control of humans.
During a forum hosted on the national broadcaster CBC Television, Smith was loudly booed for even questioning the consensus on climate change. Yet even the ruling PC party has some of its own media speak on the issue: “The Alberta government recognizes that global climate change is real and that the current level of scientific agreement on this issue warrants further action…”
If you read that statement without your AGW blinders, it seems to say that Wildrose is not alone in how it perceives AGW.
Clearly many Albertans, and probably forces at large like the Alberta Teacher’s Association, various trade unions and perhaps also the powerful Alberta Union of Public Employees (AUPE) that rely on the status quo for on-going work across the province, were concerned that too dramatic a change in Alberta politics could ‘throw a spanner in the works’ of the engine of the oil sands, and all the jobs it creates.
That’s not to say that most Albertans think the winning Progressive Conservative party is the best choice; it probably means they know the PCs are the only party that knows how things work.
With massive projects like multi-billion dollar oil sands expansions, Keystone XL Pipeline and Northern Gateway Pipeline, Albertans most likely chose to maintain some stability. After all, it’s a topsy turvy world where national governments are dropping like flies in the face of massive debt in former stable countries around the world. These factors probably affected voter decisions; otherwise logic defies the reality that the PC’s are a party fraught with accusations of corruption, by-election improprieties and pork-barrelling.
However, the PC’s have held the reins of power for so long, even if someone new like Wildrose took them over, it would be hard to know if the “horse” of government had only a mind of its own, or if it would follow a new leader.
Albertans apparently thought the horse was running the government; the PCs were just along for the ride. But since the PCs hold the reins, and know where the feedbag is, why unseat them?
Still, Wildrose went from a ‘no-party’ to being a “somebody” with some 17 seats. That gain in itself is historic. And Smith has managed to make people think a lot about climate change theories, what constitutes ‘freedom’ of speech, and what the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms really means in an otherwise ‘pc’ (politically correct) PC province.