Viva Le Wildrose! The Politics of the Old, the White and the Well-Off

Alberta's provincial flower, the wild rose, an...

Alberta's provincial flower, the wild rose, and the rocky mountains, coloured Wildrose Party green for use in a userbox. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was too much to ask that my adopted home of Alberta not be as short-sighted, bigoted and rife with entitlement issues as the land of my birth. When it comes to playing disenfranchised populations worried that they might have to change a bit with the times or contribute a bit more for the upkeep of the towns and cities where they live, hard-right political groups will nearly always triumph.


Because of two fairly reliable truisms about people. One, they don’t like change, and they especially don’t like change that might require something from them. And two, people only really care about themselves and a small handful of others.

The Wildrose Party of Alberta is a schismatic off-shoot of the Progressive-Conservative Party, which in recent years – and now under its new Premier Allison Redford –  has threatened to be more progressive than punitive conservative. Today, they stand to win enough seats to form a new conservative majority.

To be fair, the PC’s have only themselves to blame. They’ve made mistakes in the past few years and by electing a progressive as their new leader, they’ve raised the ire of the rural, the money-hungry and senior citizens. Groups not known for their caring ways. Farmers, business types and old folk, who barely live in the province anyway because many of them snow bird it down to the cheap real estate they picked up in the U.S. south during the housing collapse, are not much interested in the young or minorities who will be most affected by the draconian budget plans of the Wildrose. Budgets that border on skinflint are not likely to impact them much at all.

I’ve lived most of my life under conservative governments. Even the Wildrose can’t hold a candle to the GOP of the United States, but I’d hoped for better from Canadians. I guess I bought into the stereotype that they really weren’t like Americans with their semi-universal health care and same-sex marriage rights.

But they are just the same. Colour me disillusioned.

“We have to move to Ontario,” I told Rob this morning.

“There’s no place to run from this,” he said with a chuckle.

He finds this more amusing than I do, but he left the U.S. before Bill Clinton sold it down river to the GOP plantation, paving the way for Dubya and the horror show which passes for governing and politics down there today. I lived it. I have little stomach for it.

“We are not homophobes or racists,” says the Wildrose.

No, they just harbour them and help them get elected. But if the United States is any example – and it should be – you can’t tolerate extremists without inadvertently becoming their jumping off point.

In our riding, most people are pretty to very well-off economically. They are near exclusively white. The poor folk are confined to a few neighborhoods in the older part of town and their kids are mostly kept to just the one elementary school. Minorities work at the Tim Horton’s, run the fast food joints and take care of lawns. They probably don’t live here but commute back to the city where “more of their kind” live.

So, no one here has much incentive to worry about them. Not fixing the health care system or shifting more of the burden for funding the public schools to property taxes won’t hurt our riding – except out on the fringes where the poorer folk live and who cares about them.

Not many of the people who are voting in my town today.

Here’s what they care about:

– lower taxes

Even though taxes pay for all the infrastructure and entitlements they would screech to the high heavens about if they fell into disrepair or ceased to exist, most people are not willing to connect taxes with the things they take for granted. Connecting them would require thought and thinking is hard and painful. Better not to think.

– punishing the PC

Anger politics is a cutting off your own nose to prove no point at all thing really, but it feels good in the moment. Feeling good right now should be the mantra of the Boomer generation whose fault it is that things have gotten to the point they have for so many reasons that it’s a wonder the younger generation tolerates anyone over 55 at all.

– refunds and rebates

The Wildrose pulled out on of the most tired vote-buying scams there is. They promised every citizen a $300 rebate for the next couple of years. A great thing if you are married or married with kids, but doesn’t mean much to childless single young people. But who cares about young people? Not their grandparents who live in Arizona half the year and will be dead long before the note on their entitlements come due.

– bullying the rest of Canada

Albertans have a real stick up their bums about the other provinces. They especially loathe Quebec and the Maritimes. The root of this is something called “equalization”, which is where the Federal government redistributes tax dollars in a way that recognizes need rather than population or might. Albertans feel they are subsidizing the provinces that are not as economically viable (which is code for “aren’t sitting on oil”). They think this is unfair despite the fact that our province has barely felt the last economic downturn and is poised to come into an obsence amount of oil wealth in 2014. The other provinces can pound sand as far Alberta is concerned. We don’t need you and because of that we should be calling the shots.*

With an attitude like that Alberta should really just vote to pull out of Canada and apply to the United States to be the 52nd state.

The minority parties in Alberta see themselves as the only hope for real change, but the NDP has a tar sands view that is not realistic, the Liberals elected an idiot – and a floor-walker to boot – to run their party and the Alberta Party is still too small and unknown. The PC’s are the only real hope of leaning more to the actual moderate center, but their Premier of six months is being held accountable for every mistake her party has made since she was seven years old, and people just hate change.

That’s what it comes down to. They hate change. They will say or do or vote anyway they have to in order to avoid it.

Tomorrow I will truly be living in the Texas of Canada, barring some sort of miracle, I had hoped for better. People who aren’t grounded in the now and think beyond next week are seldom rewarded for their efforts.

*Although they have yet to admit to it, my guess is that threatening to pull out of the Canada Pension Plan and start an Alberta fund is part of the leverage the Wildrose will use to fix the equalization plan in Alberta’s favor. It’s a lose-lose for Harper though and the net result will be slight score for Alberta and a new Prime Minister for Canada in the next federal election and maybe even a power shift.

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