As a citizen of the province of Alberta, I will dutifully head to my nearby polling station to cast my vote in the provincial election on Tuesday. I admit that, even after many decades of voting, I still get a tiny little thrill about the democratic process. As Churchill said, democracy is the worst form of government … except for all the others.
Barring something entirely unexpected (even impossible), one of two parties will form the next government: the Rachel Notley Party (formerly known as the New Democratic Party), or the United Conservative Party. I am unenthusiastic about either option. I have never voted NDP, and I’m not going to start now. We all have biases, and a strong aversion to anything NDP is one of mine.
Jason Kenney has called the NDP an accidental government, and this is one of the few times that I agree with him. The NDP went from four members to government, so clearly they were not remotely prepared to win. But despite the handicap of having virtually no bench strength (it’s hard to run a government with social workers, baristas and 20-something university students), the NDP has not been as nightmarish as Kenney says. Some policies I don’t agree with ($15 an hour minimum wage is the kind of policy that is created by people who have never had to meet a payroll), and the climate change/carbon tax plan is a mixed bag.
In fact, I could almost be supportive if they made any effort to reign in spending, at least a little. But they didn’t. The plan was to keep spending, and to create jobs by hiring more and more civil servants. Keeping the civil service happy, after all, is one way for a government to stay in power.
Pipelines have become the dominant issue in this election. But is Rachel Notley to blame for the fact that not one single kilometre of pipe has has been laid anywhere in Alberta? No. I find her conversion to rabid pipeline supporter to be hypocritical (NDP governments in B.C. and the federal NDP are more in line with traditional, anti-pipeline NDP thinking), but I think she has tried to get it built. In the current climate in this country, getting ANYTHING done has become nearly impossible, so you can’t lay the blame on her shoulders. And it’s not her fault that the bottom fell out of the oil industry during her time in office.
And what of the UCP?
There is no discussing the UCP without talking about Jason Kenney, a deeply unpleasant and worrisome leader. If he thinks he can finesse the construction of pipelines with bullying, he’s is sadly mistaken. I’m also concerned that he will go on a Ralph Klein like cutting spree, setting Alberta back years in important issues like health care and education. Basically, I don’t trust him. And there is the indisputable evidence that the UCP is infested with far right wing, Christian fundamentalist types. A UCP government worries me, probably more than an RNP government worries me. If I had no choice in the matter, I would push down the bile and vote NDP. But thankfully I have other options. The Alberta Party is a reasonable alternative. Socially progressive, fiscally conservative. Luckily for me, I live in a constituency with a very viable Alberta Party candidate, so I won’t feel like I’m wasting my vote.
Unless the polls are spectacularly wrong, the UCP will form the next government. And if they do, I hope Rachel Notley stays as NDP leader. We’re going to need a very strong opposition to keep tabs on Kenney and his government. And the NDP better hope she stays on, because without her, they have nothing.
I never thought of Justin Trudeau as being stupid, but I may have to re-evaluate my opinion. This week, with the flames of the SNC-Lavalin scandal/affair finally flickering out, Trudeau pumped fresh oxygen into the whole sorry affair. Out of nowhere, Trudeau threatened to sue Conservative leader Andrew ‘Howdy Doody’ Sheer for defamation over comments he made about the SNC thing.
Seriously, Justin? Sheer must have danced a merry jig when Trudeau issued this threat. Sheer has been a marginal player, at best, in the whole SNC thing. After overplaying his hand by immediately issuing his demand that Trudeau resign, Sheer has been almost forgotten. Now Trudeau has given Sheer an enormous boost. Maybe Trudeau’s critics are right – he doesn’t deserve to be prime minister. But then, does Howdy Doody?
So much happened this past week …
Scientists have succeeded in taking the most remarkable snapshot of all time – the first ever image of a black hole. What is a black hole? Well, it’s very complicated, but let’s just say it’s where Justin Trudeau’s reputation has gone. In science circles, photographing a black hole is a very big deal, but not being scientifically inclined, all I can say is: why isn’t it in focus?
Also big in the news this week, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been arrested, pulled out kicking and screaming from the Ecuadorean embassy in London after seven years. He is facing one single charge in the U.S. of trying to hack into U.S. government computers, but in Sweden they want him on a suspected rape charge. Stories coming from the embassy indicate that Assange was not the best visitor; there are reports that he smeared poop on the walls, perhaps a sign of derangement from being cooped up in an embassy for seven years.
And finally, India is holding elections. In a country of a billion or so people, you just don’t hold an election in a day. And India goes to extraordinary efforts to make sure everyone gets a vote.
This is from the New York Times: “Bharatdas Darshandas, the lone inhabitant and caretaker of a Hindu temple deep in the Gir Forest, has become a symbol of India’s herculean effort to ensure that the votes of every one of its 900 million eligible voters is counted … a team of five election workers will trek to Mr. Darshandas’s temple and set up a polling station solely for his use.”
The Indian election is the largest democratic election in history. There are about 900 million voters. It takes one million polling stations, and 12 million people to get the job done, spread out over 39 days. To provide ballots to voters in the most remote areas, the politically independent Election Commission of India will deploy 700 special trains, as well as boats, planes and teams of camels and elephants. And boy do they have choices: the total number of registered parties is 1,841.
Charles Van Doren, 93, a Columbia University English instructor and a member of a distinguished literary family who confessed to Congress and a disillusioned nation in 1959 that his performances on the television quiz show 21 had been rigged. The scandal was the basis of the film Quiz Show. Read the New York Times obituary here.