When I first moved up to Alberta, Rob told me that the land I would call home was not too different from a land in the States that I narrowly avoided having to put down roots in when I graduated from university back in 1987 – Texas.
Graduating into a recession, and with an English degree and a teaching certificate no less, I found that most job offers came from the south. Houston Independent, Brownsville, Nogales. Texas and Arizona border towns that boasted huge populations of immigrants – many illegal – and offered slightly better than dirt in exchange for educating their children. It was only the grace of the universe and an English supervisor from Des Moines, who saw potential in me, that saved me from acquiring an even more pronounced drawl than the one I still occasionally lapse into.
Imagine my dismay when Alberta turned out to be just as redneck as Texas.
Albertans might, probably, take offense, but the comparison is a valid one. This is oil patch country dotted with derricks and refineries and all other manner of ancillary businesses. There are ranches and rodeos. And when people refer to their smaller vehicle, it’s usually the Soccer mom version of an SUV. Trucks dominate, and just as in the states, most who own trucks are posers. The most they’ve ever hauled was their weekly haul from Costco.
Everyone here camps and has the RV taking up half their driveway to prove it. If they have a boat or quads as well, they park on the street.
Strathcona County, were we live, is faux farm country. An acreage is the dream so one has room for the rec vehicles and the trucks and can keep horses because if your kid doesn’t play hockey or ringette, they ride barrel or Gymkana.
If only it were easier to keep guns here and people twanged instead of elongating their vowel sounds, no one would know this wasn’t Texas.
Okay, the weather might give us away, but other than that …
Until recently, we had a sort of Rick Perryish Premier. The leader of the majority party PC’s, which stands for Progressive Conservatives – by no means viewed as an oxymoron by the natives – was a career politician, who played the game in stereotypical fashion. But, a couple of missteps forced him into retirement and a new leader was chosen last fall. A woman.
Women in leadership roles is likely the only thing that distinguishes us from Texas because there are a lot of females in local government here. The new PC leader, which because they hold the majority makes her the Premier as well, is a woman named Allison Redford. She is what the call a “Red Tory” because she is far more progressive than conservative, and despite having to spend a good deal of her first months in office cleaning up the last guy’s goofs, she appears eager to focus on the now and the future and dragging Alberta out of its stubborn attachment to isolation and smugness where the rest of Canada is concerned. She is determined that Alberta shore up its crumbling infrastructure and take its rightful place at the federal table.
And how has the general population greeted this?
With horror .They’ve flocked to an upstart conservative party (wingnuts who’ve broken away from the PC’s and become the Canadian version of the Tea Party) who are promising them things that I haven’t heard since I left Iowa (which coincidently is also a state where the elderly and the rural dictate how everyone else should live).
What is the Wildrose Party, as they call themselves, offering? Lower taxes, a balanced budget rule, less spending on infrastructure – even as they claim they will “fix” the healthcare system and shore up education – and a $300 rebate check to all Albertans.
That’s right. The tried and true political pandering of the George W. Bush years has come to Canada. The gods help us all.
And it’s making me crazy because I feel like I am living squashed in between two war fronts. In the States, they are waging an endless POTUS election with its war on women, civil liberties and common sense; and even though I don’t live there anymore, my citizenship means I will never be completely free from its overreach. And then here, a place where I can’t even object through the ballot box, I am directly assaulted by lunatic reactionary politics of the short-sighted and apparently ignorant of history folk.
Albertans are very much American in their opinion that the government should provide for all their needs while not expecting much from them in return. The idea that things like health care, roads, schools and public services need to be paid for and the cost – like everything else – climbs at the rate of inflation – is something that the general population thinks is not their problem. So when the Wildrose tells them, “We can cut government spending and still build longterm care facilities, upgrade roads, lower your taxes while piling up surplus cash AND give you a (measly) $300 check (which the Federal government will likely claw back somehow anyway)”, it gets eaten up with a big spoon. Mostly by old people and rural people and anyone without the mental capacity to see that you can’t have everything and that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
To be fair, I went to the Wildrose website and read, and what I read, I’ve read and heard before back in the U.S.
Their education plan panders to the outliers and if Alberta is looking for the most inequitable and crooked, pitted playing field to put our kids on – theirs would be the best plan for it. Charter schools, which mounds of research in the States have already shown to be no better and often worse than public school systems. Allowing school boards to set salaries instead of sticking with the province setting all the salaries, which means that some areas (read “rural”) will not have the money to attract teachers and will go begging for staff. And the homeschooled can expect to have their bums kissed til they drip with saliva.
Their idea to shore up property rights and ditch the capture and storage plan are good ones, but the savings on the latter will not pay for the lower taxes and rebates. Like most people, the Wildrose is looking at the budgeted money for the capture and storage as though is already exists. It doesn’t. You budget and then you find the money from revenues over time. But I doubt most voters realize that and that’s good for the Wildrose.
The healthcare stuff is the most maddening. Because the majority of people here can’t recall anything but the Medicare system, most have no idea that what passes for a workable delivery method really sucks. I have groused about the pathetic inefficiency and generally awful experience seeking medical attention here before. Premier Redford wants to address the most glaring hole – access – but the Wildrose leader, Danielle Smith call her plan “unproven”.
What is that plan?
Multi-use healthcare centres.
If you are from the U.S., you will recognize the concept. A medical building that houses multiple specialities, labs, x-ray/imaging and may even have an acute care set up for emergencies that don’t really warrant an ER visit and very often have after hours and are available on the weekends.
Danielle Smith needs to travel south more often because these “unproven” health centres have been a staple in even states like Iowa since I was a child.
Have I mentioned that I really wish I could fucking vote?!
Not a single member of my able to vote family will cast a ballot for the PC on April 23rd. They will throw their votes away on Green party members or someone else who either can’t possibly win or who will be in such a minority status that they will barely matter in terms of policy making.
“Is voting for the winner the most important thing,” my husband asked when I pointed this out to him.
And the answer is “no”, it doesn’t. But voting for someone who can actually make something happen IS important. Voting some ideal or principle is all very noble, but if in the end, moronic politics ends up ruling the day – all you have is that nice pat on the back you gave yourself.
Pandering to the hard right, as the Wildrose seems determined to do because being in power is really all that it is about for them, leads to all manner of bad. Just look south if you don’t think I am correct in this line of reasoning. It started out down there with wanting to pay less and get more for that less and now they can be strip searched for getting too many parking tickets, must go shoeless in airports and if they have a vagina, they can’t rightly claim authority over it anymore.
Overreacting, you say? I think not. Slipping down a slope implies that you once stood on top of a hill.
- The rush to spend Alberta’s windfall is on (theglobeandmail.com)
- Political parties promise billions in perks to Alberta voters (calgaryherald.com)
- Alberta takes off the Stetson (theglobeandmail.com)
- Free tuition, Dani-Dollars and small-town health care – the Alberta election … – Globe and Mail (theglobeandmail.com)
- Alberta’s female leaders and the fight for women’s votes (cbc.ca)