Canada’s most right-wing province flirts with civilization

EDITORIAL by Stephen Whitworth

I moved here in the fall of 1998 and figured out pretty fast that Reginans have a HUGE crush on Alberta. It’s funny to me as a former Winnipegger — back in the day, my fellow Manitobans all had crushes on British Columbia. Alberta? Seemed an all right place, and there were jobs there. But if we wanted to move somewhere truly awesome? BC was it.

But starting in the late ’90s and into this century my opinion about our Western neighbour shifted from friendly apathy to fizzing antipathy. Under the late, not-lamented-by-me Ralph Klein, Alberta exuded greed, entitlement and stupidity.

I didn’t like the endless growth of the environmentally destructive tarsands. I hated the creeping privatization of health care. I despised the attitude towards the least fortunate best exemplified by Premier Klein’s drunken 2001 rant at a homeless shelter.

Like its premier, Alberta often seemed arrogant, intolerant, mean-spirited and drunk. Of course you can’t judge a province by the behaviour of its nasty governments. Well, not solely.

But times may be changing in Alberta. The two major cities seem increasingly dynamic and savvy. Calgary might have Canada’s best mayor in Naheed Nenshi, a guy who actually stands up to the developers trying to push the city into profitable (for them), but poor, planning decisions. And Edmonton has a world-class city administration that does all kinds of progressive things.

Also, the Oilers won the draft lottery, fired their GM and might not totally suck next year.

Most important, Alberta has a provincial politician in NDP leader Rachael Notley who’s intelligent, charismatic and seems bent on governing based on sound policy (gasp!) rather than the constant capitulation to corporate interests that’s the norm in Alberta. And now, when old-school politicians display naked self-interest (like the PC’s Jim Prentice) or hopeless out-of-touchism (like Widrose’s Brian Jean, or, actually, the entire Wildrose party), Albertans seem — seem — to respond with disapproval.

It’s enough to give a guy hope.

I will say this: if Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives win another majority after the never-ending displays of ego, entitlement and corporate cronyism we’ve seen over the last couple of decades, it might be time to place the province’s democracy under administrative management. For its own good.

And Canada’s.

This article has been updated since publication.