On Saturday night (or more accurately, Sunday morning), after it became apparent that Alison Redford was going to be our new premier, I went on Facebook to see if any of my ‘friends’ were registering any opinions. There was only one (most of my friends are in bed at that hour, and if not, they sure as hell aren’t looking at Facebook at 1:30 a.m.), and what she said brought home the enormity of the Redford victory.
My friend is a liberal and (or at least, was) a Liberal. I always felt she wouldn’t have voted Tory even if promised a lifetime supply of licorice. But on her Facebook update, she wrote: “Alison! Alison! This is amazing!”
And I thought: “Uh, oh.”
Redford’s stunning victory Sunday puts all the pieces in play. For years, Alberta politics was as predictable as the sunrise and complaints from farmers. Now, all bets are off (although I would take odds on the Tories extending their winning streak for another four years).
What the Tory party has done, at least in my view, is nothing less than paddle against the prevailing political currents. While Stephen Harper goes further and further right, and American politics threatens to fall off the face of the earth, the reigning conservative party in the most conservative province in Canada has taken a leftward turn. Not a hard left, by any means. Alison Redford isn’t going to put out the welcome mat for creeps and bums to return to Alberta. But Redford is the reddest of Red Tories, a former human rights lawyer in a province where human rights have been up for sale for years. Achieving power while being beholden to no one, she is free to shape her cabinet with new faces, without a concern to repaying debts owed to the lame, the halt, and the rural Conservative MLA. (Doug Griffiths, however, might want to take up permanent residence on the backbenches, having backed the wrong horse on the second ballot.)
Redford’s victory has so many potential ramifications, it’s perhaps easiest to just put them in point form, which is an easy dodge for lazy writers:
• Where will angry Gary Mar supporters go? Will they turn their backs on the party because their guy got stiffed, or was his support more bandwagon jumping than true blue? (Once again, the Tories have allowed a loser to become a winner. Redford came in second on the first ballot, second on the second ballot. And yet she emerges the winner.)
- Will Redford push the Tories solidly on the centre-left (by Alberta standards, anyway) setting up a truer leftish vs. right showdown with the Wildrose?
- I think Wildrose supporters might be dancing in the streets today; the right wing of Alberta politics is now wide open, with only one standard bearer for the right.
- What will rural Albertans think? Well, the party they have voted for blindly for so many years first conspired to get rid of one of their own (Ed Stelmach), and replaced then with a lefty woman. Now that rural Alberta has been so thoroughly shunned by the Tory party, there may no longer be any valid reason to stick with the PCs. Unless, of course, the Tories appear set to win the next election, in which case the rural vote follow the power.
- Media darling Brian Mason is now the oldest face in the race. The PCs and Wildrose have dynamic, accomplished young women in charge. The Liberals have a controversial, headline attracting youngish immigrant running the show. That leaves Mason — an old, male, career politician — looking very much like a Chevy Vega in a showroom full of 2012 model sports cars.
So much to think of. So many ramifications. The only thing I know for sure is that the political ground shook, and shook hard, on Sunday. All that’s left to see now is who’s left standing.