Sunday, 3 May 2015

Alberta Campaign 2015

On June 19 2014, the 100th anniversary of the Hillcrest Mine Disaster I had the incredible opportunity to walk the kilometre or so from the Mine Memorial back to Hillcrest with the man who would end up being our premier, Jim Prentice. I didn't really know him but because of a conversation with former PC minister of environment, Fred Bradley, just after Harper formed his first government I did watch him. Fred tried to allay my fears about what we would likely see from Harper as our Prime Minister. He said simply "watch, if Harper puts Prentice into cabinet you will see his government will be more progressive than you think".

It appeared Fred was right, about Prentice anyway. He showed himself to be a very good cabinet minister. The only one that Canadian mainstream media approved of, calling him the rising star in Harpers government. Prentice confirmed himself as the progressive person Fred said he was when he stood up, against his government, and voted to support gay marriage. The only Conservative to do so. When he left government it could only mean he didn't fit in Harper's regressive regime. So it was kind of exciting when Prentice came back to seek the leadership of Alberta's PCs. After all the reality is the PC's are Alberta's governing party no matter what. We do need another progressive like the province's first PC leader Peter Lougheed.

On that bright sunny day in Hillcrest our next premier said all the right things. He talked of the need to build schools, the delivery of better health care, fixing the ignored infrastructure of the province. He was going to restore all that Alberta was. Fix the wrongs. He looked to be everything we needed here. To top it off he was from Grande Cache. He worked time at the mines. He understood that part of our economy. He was impressive enough and had him tell Robin Campbell to get me membership cards.

With his campaign in full swing and just a few days before the vote Jim came to Grande Cache with Robin. Jim impressed all with his talk of fixing the wrongs of the recent past invoking the name of Peter Lougheed, Alberta's best premier. He reiterated everything he spoke of that beautiful day in the Crowsnest Pass. There was no doubt, in my mind, that he was the person best suited to lead this province. Robin gave me some membership cards that night. There were only a couple of days left in the leadership race but some memberships got sold.

Prentice wins the leadership! A good day for us here in the coal mining town of Grande Cache dependant to large degree on an ailing mine. We will have a progressive government with a Premier and Finance Minister both with close ties to this town and its economy.  Finance Minister, Robin Campbell, is the Past President of UMWA Local 1656 in Hinton and we have known each other and worked together in the union since the mid 80's. I was sure we would see positive progressive change in our beautiful and diverse province. Things look as bright as that gorgeous June day in Hillcrest.

Our new premier puts his stamp quickly on our government and gets set for his election in one of the four October by-elections. Going in it was easy to assume Prentice and Mandel would be elected. It was also easy to assume (with no change in government on the line) the Wild Rose would win one if not two of the Calgary races. Who could have predicted that out come? With nothing at stake, and with a chance to send the government a message the voters did exactly that. They told us, they told the world, Wild Rose is dead and that there is no room in Alberta for a social conservative party.

I don't believe Jim Prentice orchestrated what happened next but the conservative hierarchy did. Danielle Smith did what she was convinced was the right thing to do. She did it for conservatism in Canada. She did it for noble and moral reasons. Unfortunately poor Danielle learned too late politics is all about allowing your self to be used. The conservative oligarchs handed her the sword and she fell upon it in a fashion that will never be forgotten in Canadian politics. Prentice then welcomed the majority of the Wild Rose party into his caucus. I'm not angered like most are but begin to question whether the PC party is the going to be the progressive force under Prentice that I believed it would be and yes I do understand completely the impact felt by the collapse of oil prices.

Now the fourth premier in as many years brought out the much anticipated budget. Whew, not as bad as it could have been and an announced break for the working poor but not this year. Why? Working Albertans, though, would have to bear the burden of the loss in oil revenue. The big profitable corporations would be off the hook. Corporations continued to be favoured at our expense. That upset many Albertans including me. I get over it. It is only a single issue in a much bigger picture. it appears many Albertans are not quite so forgiving. Things are starting to turn for the PC star.  Prentice is no longer looking good to a lot of Albertans. The party that was killed in by-elections has been resurrected by the mass defection. Definitely not a time to call an election. He has to to know that but had already told us he would give Albertans a chance to judge him on his budget. Admirably he kept his word.  Joe Clark did an admirable thing once.

It begins. The election is called. Prentice and Campbell kick it off right here in Grande Cache! The local chamber hosts a dinner with unannounced special guests. It is a pleasant night. No big speeches or announcements. Each of the ranking two members of the governing caucus say a few obligatory words. Dinner is eaten, the visiting, and glad handing begins. Prentice comes across very well. Just another hometown boy. The following morning was more official, the big kick off, a staged event in front of the cameras surrounded by our local president, myself, employees, and staff of Grande Cache Coal Corp.

The PC leader laid out his "balanced plan" with a challenge to those on the extreme left, those who want to see corporations taxed, and the extreme right, those who don't want to see any tax hikes. Did he just call me extreme? No big deal Ive been called worse. What will voters think?  He then went on to talk about leadership invoking the names of Peter Lougheed and in the same breath Ralph Klein. Doubts about where this party is going are really pushing themselves to the front of my mind now. However I continue to believe we will see the positive and all the good in Prentice come out in the full campaign.

Now we are in the final weekend of a campaign, the likes of which we have never seen in Alberta. The PC's campaign disintegrated quickly under the attacks from Prentice's left and his right. Prentice hasn't shown Albertans where he is going. I pay attention and I don't know. A reversal on charity payments and hints at coming cuts do nothing to add any clarity. Who are you and where are you taking us? Tell us we are begging you? Show us why we should support you? Prentice's campaign completely failed and now completely degenerated into a farce with other actors taking the stage. It is nothing less than disgusting that the heads of corporations and federal tories are front and centre in this campaign of fear mongering. Its know I have never been accused of being conservative but enough is enough. This campaign completely lost me. More importantly it lost a whole lot of Albertans. We deserve better and just may get it. So to all you torys out there. Should you wake up Wednesday morning to a lost dynasty and want to know why. Look in the mirror!

Oh and just so it is clear. Don't be afraid to wake up Wednesday morning under a moderate progressive government led by Rachel Notley, nor even one led by the unknown Brian Jean.

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