Monday, March 03, 2008

Winds of Change Not Really Blowing in Alberta

Today is the day

Today, Albertans will go to the polls in order to elect their government.

And despite polls suggesting that 52% of Albertans feel it's time for a change in government, actual poll numbers suggest that Ed Stelmach and his incumbent Progressive Conservatives are coasting to yet another majority government.

According to the Angus Reid poll, the Alberta Tories hold a 15 point lead (43% to 28%) over the opposition Liberals, and a 30 point lead over the provincial New Democrats (13%) among decided voters.

Among those voters describing themselves as merely "certain" the Tories hold a much slimmer lead over their Grit rivals, 39% to 30%. The NDP again register at 13%.

Yet, the poll isn't all candies and roses for the governing PCs. The poll determined Stelmach's momentum score to be a dreadful -13. Kevin Taft, leader of the provincial Liberals and NDP leader Gary Mason scored +5 apiece.

So while the polls seem to suggest Stelmach's best case scenario (Conservative majority), his worst case scenario (Conservative minority) may well be a reality.

But this may not be such a bad thing. With the Liberals offering the best education policy -- funding a $1,000 reduction in yearly tuition fees -- and the New Democrats offering a promising (although risky) housing policy -- offering interest-free homeowners' loans -- Alberta may benefit from a minority government that, by necessity, will have to address the growing concerns of many Albertans and remind the PCs that if they want to continue governing, they'll have to earn it.

Of course, it's hard to imagine Kevin Taft or Gary Mason as premier to be anything less than an absolute disaster. But a minority legislature will at least finally give the provincial Liberals and New Democrats to get their houses in order, and get back to the business of building alternative governments. They'll probably have to start by ditching their prospective leaders -- the Liberals in favour of Calgary mayor and alleged prospective Grit leader Dave Bronconnier and the NDP in favour of absolutely anyone.

In other words, even if today's election delivers yet another Tory government, it just may serve as the catalyst for a re-vitalization of Alberta politics.

All Albertans would benefit from a more competitive political system.

Go make it happen, Alberta.

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