The following column originally appeared in the March 13, 2008 Prairie Dog. Thanks to Nigel Hood for suggesting I put it on Dog Blog. –Steve
Thank You For Not Voting
Alberta election 2008: another stunning victory for “None of the Above” | by John F. Conway
Tory Premier Ed Stelmach won 72 of 83 seats with 53 per cent of the popular vote, cutting the Liberals from 16 to nine seats (26.5 per cent) and the NDP from four to two (8.5 per cent). The Greens and the right-wing Wild Rose Alliance were left in the dust with about six per cent each and no seats.
But the real story is not the continuation of the Tory dynasty, which first won power in 1971.
Despite a few bumps in the campaign — expressions of doubt and anger, a lot of complaining about the overheated economy and the collapsing infrastructure, polls revealing a yearning for change and worries about those left behind, and the rape of the environment — the Tory victory was never in doubt.
The real story of the Alberta election is the voter turnout, now at 41.3 per cent — the worst in Canada. In fact the Alberta election was a landslide victory of 58.7 per cent for “none of the above”.
This is the second consecutive landslide for the “none of the above” party, having crushed King Ralph’s Tories in 2004 with 55.3 per cent. The fact is Emperor Ed, despite his victory, has no clothes, having won the support of a paltry 21.9 per cent of Alberta’s eligible voters. That’s just a hair over one in five.
The crown will not rest easily on Emperor Ed’s head, haunted by the fact that 78.1 per cent of Alberta’s voters did not support him. There is no doubt disillusionment with the Stelmach government will begin growing quickly. Aware of cracks in Tory support when he took over from Klein, Stelmach made some promises he won’t keep. He provoked a phoney war with the oil companies over a proposal to increase oil royalties by $1.4 billion a year starting in 2009. This helped cover up the revelation that the province had failed to collect millions in royalties due under the existing royalty regime, and painted Stelmach as a man who could stand up for Alberta against the oil big shots. He has already promised the oil industry a review of his promise to increase royalties.
Stelmach, sniffing the polls, also expressed worries about the terrible pollution and water overuse caused by tarsands development (Alberta is Canada’s worst greenhouse gas emitter thanks to the tarsands), but in the same breath quietly exempted tarsands developments from the recommendation for more oversight and control made by Alberta’s Royalty Review Panel. The tarsands environmental policy Stelmach promised during the election, under the telling slogan “Change That Works for Albertans” , is to do nothing for the next 12 years and then to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a meagre 14 per cent by 2050. So the destruction of Alberta’s environment will continue, and the air we all breathe will continue to be fouled by the tarsands, and the water we all need will continue to be sucked up at an accelerating rate in order to increase tarsands oil production.
The oil industry still runs Alberta. The Stelmach government is the oil industry’s government — he and his party are owned by the industry. Oil also owns our Prime Minister and all those Alberta Tory seats propping up his minority government. The stakes are huge: the industry will take $23 billion in profits just out of tarsands in 2008.
And as tarsands production continues to boom, thanks to $100 oil, these profits will increase astronomically over the immediate future.
So it appears the only change Emperor Ed stands for is “not much”. Albertans aren’t happy about that, but for now they’re only engaging in a sort of passive resistance by not voting and disengaging from electoral politics.
But that could change quickly — especially in Alberta, given its political history. Continue reading “John Conway Called Last Night’s Alberta Election Result Back In 2008”