The Canada Primer series is to help all the non-Canadians I’ve picked up over this year’s blogging get some context as to what arm-flailing inanity our right-wing has picked up from your right-wing. It might also be a good place for fellow Canucks to catch up or review.
Alberta, aka Texas North, has a lot of oil-like sludge and bigots. For 84 god damn years we elected nothing but right-wing governments. In 2015, the entire country gasped: We elected a vaguely left-leaning party instead.
Alberta’s legislative body is, funnily enough, called the Legislature. The province is carved up into districts loosely defined by population, called ridings, and each riding corresponds to a seat in the Legislature. A person who wins the riding is called a Member of Legislature (MLA). The party with the most seats gets to elect its party leader as the Premier. The Premier appoints Ministers to the Executive Council of Alberta, who have the thankless job of actually implementing laws that affect their area. A Member of Legislature that is not the party leader or a Minister is a “backbencher.”
Because each riding awards one full seat to a Member with the most votes, minority political parties struggle. There’s no proportional representation and in each riding it’s “winner take all”–even if the popular vote is 49/51. The 49 in that riding just has to deal with it. The system is called “First Past the Post” and it generates a lot of majority governments without majority mandates. But, uh, Americans might already be familiar with what that feels like. *cough*
There are four political parties considered viable in Alberta, along with a bunch of ragtag parties nobody realizes exist. The four parties are: The Wildrose Party, the Progressive Conservatives, the Liberals, and the New Democratic Party.
The party with the majority in Legislature–and therefore considered “the government”–is the NDP, headed by Premier Rachel Notley. The official opposition, second place, is the Wildrose, led by Brian Jean.
In third place is the Progressive Conservatives, who are currently cannibalizing the corpse of their 2015 election in a leadership race. The current person slated to win the PC leadership is
Darth Jason Kenney, but the PCs are officially leaderless for the time being.
In last place is the Liberals. David Swann, the party leader, was the only Liberal to win his riding. It was announced that the Liberals will also be undergoing a leadership election, but I don’t anticipate them to be a major player in the next election anyway.
“Theoretically” we are voting for our constituent representatives, the potential Member of Legislature, who might best represent our riding’s interests. In practice, most people vote for party platforms and the Member who wins their riding enjoys the happy coincidence, although political superstars can occasionally hijack party loyalties.
The last detail to note is that although provincial parties and federal ones are superificially the same, they are distinct entities. There can, and have been, staunch disagreements between provincial and federal sister parties, despite flying the same colours.
All that said, who should you actually pay attention to?
Jason “I don’t get caught up in the details” Kenney is running for leadership of Alberta’s so-called Progressive Conservative party. The first reason we ought to watch him closely are the strategies he is using to win the race: He plays real fucking dirty. The discombobulated goldfish running the PCs have been bleating ineffectually about Kenney’s routine violations of the party charter throughout his leadership campaign. They fine his campaign, whinge in a press release about how bad he is… and then do what conservatives do best: Hop into a time machine and pretend it never happened. Rinse and repeat.
The second reason are his policies:
- Climate change denial
- Fascist friendly
- Forced birther
- Pro-corruption, at least as long as Christians are doing the stealing.
You may recognize his name as former Prime
Overlord Minister Stephen Harper’s right-hand man and propagandist. He spun the niqab manufactroversy from whole cloth and left two thirds of this country wondering what fucking koolaid he’s on. And now, he’s Alberta’s menace.
Bearing in mind we have 3 more years to see how this chucklefuck’s platform takes shape, not that I really need to see much more to know this is a principally bankrupt man whose body, if dissected, would leak nothing but black ink and wailing banshees.
What makes him remarkable is that his leadership would steer the PCs–traditionally a party that veers and wobbles between Centre and Centre-Right–hard to the right.
Although I’m watching the PC Leadership race as a whole, there’s not much else to report on. Kenney will probably win, and the other candidates will fade to irrelevancy. And if/when Kenney wins, there’ll be trouble for our next band of ragtag miscreants: The Wildrose Party.
Dickweed Wildrose Party
The Wildrose is pretty much more of the same we used to have from the PCs. To wit, they’re a bunch of cat-herders struggling to wrangle together a mixture of: 1) frothy-mouthed reactionaries flailing aluminum sheets like stagehands in a local King Lear production over anything resembling the 21st century; with 2) “fiscal conservative socially progressive” types whose heads are planted so far up their own ass they need an oxygen mask to breathe.
It’s a tenuous alliance. Head Cat-Herder, Brian Jean, is in the latter category (kind of); but the finance critic, Derek Fildebrandt, is a never ending fountain of bilgewater which belies a cozy friendship with the former category. The two have been butting heads, which has been something of a feeding frenzy for progressive commentators such as your illustrious hostess. Nom nom nom, motherfucker.
The reason the potential fracture is of major interest is that Jason Kenney has been very forthright about his intention to merge the PCs and the Wildrose. Brian Jean is not agreeable to the idea unless he’s leading it, but if the party machinery is hijacked by Fildebrandt, it could be more likely to happen with Darth Kenney at the wheel. With one major conservative party rather than two, the likelihood of another NDP victory would shrink considerably.
Rachel Notley, and the New Democratic Party
As the political head of the current Albertan government, Notley is a snarky smart-ass, which is the sort of humour Canadians tend to appreciate. She’s whip-smart and charismatic, which gives her an appeal to the voting bloc that casts their ballots with their metaphorical dicks instead of using their dusty thinkerboxes.
Still, I’m a numbers girl, and I vote based on policy. To that end, the NDP are mostly a party of disappointments. She can make me chuckle all she wants but my support is contingent on data.
The fiscal conservatives dislike her vision because she doesn’t pretend she’ll balance the budget in a recession, despite the fact that running surpluses during recessions fucked over a lot of (poor) people in the past. She also raised taxes for big businesses and people whose incomes exceeded $100,000/year, creating enough rich tears to power a hydro dam. This I support.
The progressives who rank climate change highly on their list of concerns don’t like her because she was the architect of the recently approved pipelines which will nonetheless sell fossil fuels for other countries to burn, and they’ll wreak havoc on Indigenous land. This renders our green energy program moot: The point is to reduce the carbon the planet as a whole is burning, not to merely outsource it elsewhere. Not to mention the whole human rights issue of eminent domaining water-ruining sludge through Indigenous reserves*. This I am against.
The social regressives hate her because she’s a woman. Worse, a woman who beat them. It’s really not any more complicated than that.
The NDP’s policy in other areas is solid, but their human rights record is going to be made or broken by the way they handle the Indigenous and environmentalist objections to the pipeline proposals. Despite being in favour of Queer affirmation, expanding numerous welfare programs, expanding our healthcare and our education, implementing carbon taxing, investing in infrastructure, overhauling child welfare, and giving me explicit human rights as a trans person, there’s huge potential for them to undermine their human rights record.
The NDP’s re-election strategy will almost certainly involve mopping up all the Centrists who are trying real, real hard, to pretend there isn’t a bunch of mudslinging and fisticuffs happening on the right-hand aisle. If a conservative merger succeeds, the result will almost certainly be an amorphous blob of sputum fit for a position on Trump’s cabinet. And the hare-brained neanderthals spawned by Alberta’s “choice”** in education will vote for it, because gawd and TAXES!! [cue aluminum sheet flailing]
- The provincial government: Rachel Notley, New Democratic Party, Centre ish left leaning kinda sorta, mostly competent, possibly undermining their human rights record depending on how the pipelines go.
- The official opposition: Brian Jean, Wildrose Party, butting heads with slavering bloodhound Derek Fildebrandt. Easily identified because everywhere they go they have a horde of white guys crying about taxes. Currently the wildcard that could catapult the political landscape in any direction, depending on whether Jean retains power.
- Progressive Conservatives: Misleadingly named party that will heavily influence the fate of the NDP in the next election depending on whether Jason “I don’t get caught up in the details” Kenney succeeds in his merger plan. Presently irrelevant, will not likely remain the case.
Thank you all for joining me on part one of politics primer for the Glorious Commune of Canuckistan. May you commiserate with me as I measure just how many voters are too damn deep down the rabbit hole to be saved.
*The sort of oil Alberta exports is bitumen, which is why it’s misleading to call us an “oil province.” Bitumen, as it is extracted from the sands, is leagues worse than a finished oil product. You might recognize it by its colloquial term Asphalt. Yeah, fucking tar pipelines. Oil at least has the courtesy to float.
**This dog whistle is not unlike what we know from Republican states. “Education choice” means two things, generally: Giving the rich the option to isolate their prodigy from the filthy proles and thus render them incapable of empathy when they grow too old to continue suckling on the desiccated teats of Ayn Rand; and giving the religious a factory which installs puppet strings where your brain should be.