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Queen’s Park Watch: Why A Wildrose Win In Alberta Could Be Thorny For Ontario

Next week could see a right-wing Wildrose Alliance Party government in Alberta—and with it, a more contentious relationship between eastern and western Canada.

Tim Hudak must be gnashing his teeth in envy. While in Ontario, the middle-left Liberals and NDP bicker genteelly over the budget, Albertans go to the polls on April 23 in a two-party race between the right-wing Progressive Conservatives and the more-right-wing Wildrose Alliance Party. Polls show the upstart Wildrose and leader Danielle Smith are within lasso distance of ending 40 years of Tory rule, an outcome that could have a knock-on effect here in Ontario.

The Wildrose Party represents an assertive and combative Alberta, energized on full employment and resource royalties and not afraid to take maximum advantage of their economic clout. Having declared the Conservatives too pink and prissy for the land of Stetsons and dirty oil, the party is musing about changes to their relationship with the federal government and the rest of the country. These changes could include, among other things, reduced transfer payments from Alberta to other provinces under the equalization program, greater control over immigration, and opting out of the Canada Pension Plan in favour of an Alberta-based model.

While leader Smith describes herself as a libertarian who wouldn’t legislate social issues, recent embarrassments imply that some Wildrose candidates hold views more aligned to those of south-of-the-border Tea Partiers. Alan Hunsberger got flak for a blog post last year warning that practicing homosexuals would “suffer the rest of eternity in the lake of fire” (curiously, while many in the media criticized the remark as homophobic, few pointed out that it’s also insane), while another candidate opined that as a Caucasian, he was better equipped than visible minority citizens to represent constituents. Even Smith herself isn’t immune to some Yankee-style crazy, saying in an online debate last week that the science behind climate change “isn’t settled,” an assertion that puts her at odds with pretty much every major scientific organization on the planet.

What impact could the success of the Wildrose party have on us poor wretches still trying to eke out a living here in the Rust Belt? For one thing, if Smith does form the next Alberta government, it’s likely that there will be some serious discussion with Stephen Harper about keeping more of that oil-sands cash in-province, with potential reductions in payments to newly have-not Ontario. An isolationist Alberta might also be harder to work with on issues demanding provincial cooperation, such as health-care funding and cross-border commerce.

Moreover, if the ramping up of right-wing rhetoric wins the day out west, we could see more of the language of division that’s already been piloted with mixed results by certain politicians here in Ontario. Toronto mayor Rob Ford rode into office on synthesized outrage and a largely imaginary gravy train, and the last provincial election proved there’s a market for political platforms based on bombast and regressive social policies. The last thing Ontario needs is a new role model to encourage them.

Radicalism and short-sighted provincialism can be appealing on the campaign trail, but the real world experience of governing often has a moderating effect. If the Wildrose do win their election, we should hope this is one of those times.


  • Jyurba

    The writer sounds a bit naive when calling them out for saying climate change isn’t settled. Especially with the two recent studies stating the glaciers are growing and penguin population doubling contrary to climate scientists predictions. Usually a good idea to be properly informed before making an ignorant statement.

    • Mike Nowak

      Before criticizing a writer for sounding a bit naive, it would help to not sound a bit naive yourself. The doubled penguin population estimate was simply a satellite study of the numbers of Emperor penguins. One species. And the doubling has little to do with climate change as it’s merely a discovery of more colonies that weren’t fully accounted.

      Pretty much every other penguin species in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic is in decline and the main factor for that is, believe it or not, there being MORE snow coverage. A couple degree increase in the air and waters of the Antarctic brings with it more moisture and, hence, more snow (it’s typically very dry there.) With no bare ground and rocky surfaces most of the Antarctic penguin species are having a hard time laying and hatching eggs. Hence, decline.

      Who’s ignorant now?

    • Anonymous

      The rabbit population of Australia has been growing by leaps and bounds over the last 40 years, surely evidence of a stable and harmonious ecology!

      Maybe taking a single data point out of context isn’t the best approach to take here.

      • Marcg

        Which is exactly why we usually leave science the scientists. Instead, people interpret one or two papers here and there how they want and when they’re told they’re wrong the claims of oppressive elitism sprout up. What a country we live in.

  • Phil Garber

    I’m not sure how much change there will be other than a turn toward better fiscal management and a new openness to experiment with health care delivery. As an Albertan I’m looking forward to both. Wildrose is basically the PC party under new management, made necessary by a reverse takeover of the PCs by liberals.

    As it is, this is a kind of fun campaign to watch. Seeing the Alberta PCs channel Jean Chretien at his right-bashing worst is a bizarre experience similar to seeing staid Uncle Ned come out as a cross dresser.

    • Anonymous

      “better fiscal management”

      Curious as to why you think they can deliver on that promise.

      • Phil Garber

        I don’t know that they will, but it’s not as if they have any competition. The PC’s certainly won’t if recent history is any guide – especially if they keep all their promises. The other parties don’t even pretend to care. They are bringing the usual tax and spend to the table.

        Here’s the question: if the Alberta PC government can’t bring in a balanced budget with oil at $100/bbl and unemployment at 5.3%, what reason is there to believe they ever will?

        • Anonymous

          Can you explain to me from a macro-economic standpoint why tax and spend is bad? I’ll remind you that we’re in a recession right now. Even though I’m positive you’ll take that reminder the wrong way.

          • Phil Garber

            A 5.3% unemployment rate hardly constitutes a recession. We don’t need any more stimulus in Alberta at this point. My concern with tax and spend is that by needlessly giving up fiscal room in good times we are setting ourselves up for hard times when the oil price drops…. as it will.

          • Anonymous

            Sorry. I thought when i said macro you’d realize all those financial problems in the world actually affect us. I see now you’re a typical Albertan that could give a rats ass about the rest of Canada or the world.

            I’d venture to say you probably thought the idea to have Alberta as a separate nation was a good idea.

          • Anonymous

            Actually he doesn’t have to. The onus is on you to explain why it’s good.

          • Anonymous

            Thanks spokesperson. Oh wait. You’re not.

          • Anonymous

            If I’m going to take $100 from you, I probably should give you a reason. If I’m not going to take anything from you, there’s no need to explain anything.

            GET IT?

          • Anonymous

            What the hell are you going on about?

            You can access that information at any time. Taxes and how they are spent *are* publicly available.

          • Anonymous

            Your analogy is broken.

        • Anonymous

          “the usual tax and spend”

          As opposed to the usual lower-taxes and increase-spending right wing governments all over the place have crammed recent history with examples of?

          If the Alberta government can’t balance its budget despite record-setting oil revenues and everyone working, perhaps it’s because taxes aren’t high enough.

          • Anonymous


    • Anonymous

      “experiment with health care delivery”

      Nothing historically was ever wrong with health care delivery.

      “Wildrose is basically the PC party under new management”

      Oh shit, you reminded me why it changed.

      Move along…

      • Phil Garber

        I don’t where you read your history but I take it you haven’t spent much time lately in emergency for a non-emergent but still painful issue? In my case I would have dearly loved to have a privately operated alternative to go to that could do minor surgery. The problem is that private clinics are not allowed to do enough while hospitals are required to do too much.

        • Anonymous

          Now. But what lead to that? Who has dismantled health care to get us to this point?

          • Anonymous

            But … your family doctor and those walk-in clinics are not government run, right? That’s private health care delivery, right there.

            Health care costs rise faster than inflation, because we are living longer, and because the advanced medical technology that we demand is increasingly expensive. So the answer to the question “who has dismantled health care?” is: “All of us.”

            To pretend there is no problem is to give space to radicals like Wildrose who would gut the medical system that we enjoy.

          • Anonymous

            “But … your family doctor and those walk-in clinics are not government run, right? That’s private health care delivery, right there.”

            They are both government funded and government regulated. So yes, they *are* in fact government run.

            I’m not saying there isn’t a problem. I guess you missed the leading questions. I’m saying we need reform not “alternatives”.

            ” So the answer to the question “who has dismantled health care?” is: “All of us.””

            No. You’re wrong plain and simple. Read the f’n link. “WE” don’t control transfer payments. “WE” don’t control medicare budgets.

            Also, private healthcare isn’t going to guarantee that the technology demand will be met. If you think that, I suggest you go live in the U.S.A for a few years (wait till you get cancer or something) then talk to me. It’s proven time and time again that private healthcare does NOT deliver better service.

          • Anonymous

            Aside from the exact meaning of the word “private”, I think we agree. So, yay! Although, your links are monuments to the strawman argument.

          • Phil Garber

            If you’re okay with private walk in clinics I think we’re on the same page. All I want to see is the door opened to private hospitals which are publicly funded as walk in clinics are but that are able to do more non-emergent procedures.

            In my case I had an external fixator with the anchors at one end stripped loose from the bone. Very painful and potentially dangerous due to the risk of bone infection. I waited 7 hours at Calgary Foothills hoping to have it removed only to be told they wouldn’t help me without my orthopedic surgeon present. That’s a long time to wait for non service.

          • Anonymous

            I think we’re *mostly* on the same page. I’d rather see (increased) funding to our current system to fix these problems ;)

  • Anonymous

    Of course climate change is settled. Climate changes, we all know this. Humanity itself could be defined by its unique ability to adapt to climate change, as opposed to being wiped out by it or replaced by other species.

    We’re also pretty sure there’s a logarithmic 1 degree per doubling of CO2 sensitivity in isolated laboratory conditions.

    But are water vapour and other feedbacks high, low, or negative? And even if the alarmist conjecture that there’s a resultant 3 degree feedback sensitivity per CO2 doubling is correct, is it catastrophic? Moreso than a rapid decarbonization of the global economy would be?

    Should we pour tens of billions into windmills that can only amount to a feeble 1 or 2% of the province’s energy production and don’t reduce GHG emissions? Should the oil sands, which are expected to pay for 30% of the nations growing healthcare pension costs be shut down, when using up the entire supply would only contribute 0.3 degrees of warming, even using alarmist climate sensitivity projections?

    Not so settled.

    Put that much thought into it however, and then they’ll call you crazy. But you don’t have to travel all the way to the U.S., or even Alberta to find such thoughtful people. (Who, for some strange reason, keep getting ignored when it comes to Torontoist’s Hero nominations.)

  • Anonymous

    I’m getting the idea that it’s not the Wildrose Apocalypse that has Ontario leftists so worried, but rather the lack of such an apocalypse should they get elected.

  • Anonymous

    Dirty oil? Unlike that clean oil from Deepwater Horizon and Lago Agrio, amirite?

  • Anonymous

    How’s that WildRose thing working out then?