Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Instead of Angry Alberta, How About Petulant Conservatives?

A curious trend on social media has emerged with the #NotAngryAB hashtag trending on Twitter. It has been cornucopia of pet videos and scenic shots of Alberta landscapes. In the broader context, it is an election year both provincially and federally and the aspiring provincial opposition has been doing its best to ratchet up the animus against the current incumbent governments. Today the price of oil is $7 lower than it was when the Progressive Conservative party was counting down the last few days to its election loss in May 2015. This is but one of many things that the opposition, and reportedly the majority of the province are angry about in 2019.

The anger that the opposition, and by opposition I should narrow that to the United Conservative Party, seems to come from what could be construed as either a sense of entitlement or a resistance to change. For much of the last year, the party has had a commanding lead in provincial opinion polls but that somehow does not seem enough to content the presumptive government-in-waiting. The sense of entitlement manifests itself in two ways: 1) the assumptions that they ought to have been in government for the last four years and that the largesse of oil revenue that the province had enjoyed for much of the last 50 years ought to be restored, perhaps because Albertans are prepared to make the promise that they really, REALLY will not piss it away this time and 2) that the province of Alberta is owed some degree of insulation from the changes that have been occurring recently. Whether it is the empowerment of Indigenous peoples as partners in the development of natural resources, the diversity and tolerance that have become prevalent in the province over the past few decades, the pesky souls with that environmental consciousness that muddies the discussions about extraction and custodianship and that provincial government that does do things the way previous governments did.

So with the cat videos providing the thin edge of the wedge for discourse on anger or the lack of anger in Alberta, I'll quote Pema Chodron about "an essential choice that confronts us all: whether to cling to the false security of our fixed ideas and tribal views, even though they bring us only momentary satisfaction, or to overcome our fear and make the leap." It has been clear throughout the brief life of the United Conservative Party that they are replete with fixed ideas. It has been apparent in their opposition to Gay-Straight Alliances in public schools, and other social policies that they have opposed. As far as tribalism is concerned, the favour they have gained from racists in the province, not to mention the positions of authority that those with racist points-of-view have had within the party do not indicate that the ascension of a United Conservative Party would not be regarded as a hopeful breath of fresh air.

The rise of the UCP and their quiver of fixed ideas will herald an era of unresponsive, incapable government with a mandate to setback social policy rather than respond to the changes that are occurring and are beyond the control of the provincial government. UCP leader Jason Kenney does not have experience in an economic portfolio under his belt and his aversion to current provincial polices indicates that he will conduct a slash of spending that will be motivated by visceral attachment to dogma or disdain for anything done by the Notley government because it was the NDP.

The anger that has been expressed on the part of conservatives in Alberta and in other jurisdictions over the last few years -- the United States, United Kingdom and Ontario to name the most vivid recent example -- has been aimed at change. In each case, governments have been granted powers to resist change and each of these governments have demonstrated their quixotic responses in fashions that are clearly worthy of ridicule. Jason Kenney may be a more polished politician that the likes of Donald Trump, Teresa May and Doug Ford but that polish does not extend to bestow on him the aura of a visionary or an innovator. He did not gain the leadership of the UCP by virtue of an engaging and invigorating grassroots campaign. He got the position by virtue of the name recognition and the political capitol he has accumulated through the course of his 20+ year career.

As the vanguard of a political party pushing for a regression to past values and tired entitlements Kenney, the UCP and other angry Alberta conservatives seem too preoccupied with harbouring their grudges and plotting a return to an old world order to focus on diversifying the economy of Alberta. Perhaps they are merely averse to admitting that the oil industry with remain moribund indefinitely, but the United Conservative Party do not conduct themselves as a group of forward-thinking innovators who are capable of acknowledging that change is inevitable and generate policies that help Alberta adapt, and encourage and invite entrepreneurs and new businesses to set up shop. Instead, they will double-down on oil and insist that someone at the federal level pour good money after bad.

The United Conservative Party does not, despite its relative youth as a political entity, strike me as a group that possesses the mentality of a start-up. The do not seem connected to the innovators and the influencers who have a vision to take Alberta into a future that is built on inclusion, economic diversity and an interest in supporting the innovation, risk-taking and entrepreneurship that is required to pave the route forward. Instead, they are more inclined to ensure the security of the old ways and they will recommit themselves in an initiative that will ultimately fritter away resources and political capital that they have in shorter supply than they think.

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