For a province that is passionately engaged in complaining about Ottawa, activity around the fall federal election is surprisingly muted in Alberta. Although there has been plenty of populist sabre rattling over pipelines and equalization, active electioneering is so far nonexistent.
The closest thing to a politician on the federal stump is Jason Kenney, beating the drum for his federal Conservative counterparts.
Party nominations have been low key. The Conservative Party of Canada has most of its candidates. But the Liberals and New Democrats are slow to put people in place. By the end of June the Liberals had fewer than 10 candidates and the NDP even less than that.
No wonder, when polls show a coming Conservative sweep. The CBC poll tracker shows faint hope in only three Alberta seats, two potential Liberal and one NDP, but the odds are pretty high all 34 seats with go to the Tories.
In 2015, the Liberals managed to eke out four seats and the NDP one. Since then, Calgary Liberal Darshan Kang ended up sitting as an independent after a sexual harassment scandal.
NDP Edmonton stalwart Linda Duncan announced she will not be running in 2019.
The People’s Party of Canada has most of its candidates named, but given that its closest provincial analog, the Freedom Conservative Party, failed to take a seat in the recent provincial election, the battle will be uphill for the new party.
Meanwhile the Twitterverse is afire with rightwing Alberta trolls calling for the heads of Alberta Senators, a group they have no chance to unseat in 2019. Kenney’s renewed interest in staging Senate elections in Alberta won’t have any effect this election year.
So why the political doldrums? Well, it is summer after all. And Alberta is still recovering from its own spring election. Maybe as the fall vote date approaches the excitement will mount. Perhaps a serious debate will emerge with candidates from all parties bringing their all to the question of how best to satisfy the yearning of Albertans to be meaningfully included in the Canadian political whole.
Or it won’t. Because in a province where there is only one party with an apparent chance of taking seats, debate like that goes largely unheard.
Western alienation so often sited as a rising movement in Alberta has more than a bit to do with partisan politicking. Alberta votes Conservative in large part and discontent rises when Liberals are in power.
Liberal and New Democrat arguments are brushed off that no big pipelines were built under Stephen Harper’s government and the dreaded equalization formula currently in place was actually crafted by that government. Harper was Alberta’s guy so it was tough to say Alberta was silenced in the national debate of the time.
There is a sore loser aspect to the way Alberta deals with anything but a majority Conservative government in Ottawa.
There are some sincere individuals who think the country needs fundamentally to be changed, the constitution and institutions need to be reopened for review, maybe even first-past-the-post electoral systems need a shake-up.
And there are some who truly believe Alberta should get serious about independence, despite the obviously insurmountable difficulties of such a proposition in an export-dependent landlocked economy.
But so far, there is no political vehicle to address some of those issues. Alberta hasn’t got even the glimmer of a Bloc Quebecois-style party to mix things up in a federal election.
Alberta’s disaffection will again play out with a worn out old Canadian equation — Conservatives against Liberals. No matter how much rhetoric goes on about the national deck being stacked against the province, it comes down to partisan issues in the end.
The chances of a breakthrough being bleak, the Liberal and New Democrat parties are unlikely to devote a lot of resources to trying to woo voters in the province’s scant 34 seats.
During an election campaign, the very time that Albertans should be engaged in politics, the result of local races are such a foregone conclusion that even the political parties aren’t shaking off their summer torpor.
A little excitement over the race, some diversity of opinion to start the debate rolling, would be a welcome novelty in Alberta.
Photo Credit: CBC News
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