Leading up to last week’s election, many felt the expanding momentum of the Alberta New Democratic Party headed by Rachel Notley, but very few would have anticipated such a lopsided victory. With the NDP’s capturing 53 out of a possible 87 seats, the province watched as their votes crumbled the Progressive Conservatives 44 year reign over Albertans. With sixty Conservative MP’s and four liberal MP’s losing their seats to the likes of the NDP’s, Wildrose, and Alberta Party, the election signaled a truly remarkable shift away from the traditional political parties in Alberta. The province now has two polarizing, but fresh parties running the parliament for the first time, and it is safe to say that there will be significant change.
Under the Progressive Conservative governments of Ralph Klein, Ed Stelmach, Alison Redford, Dave Hancock, and Jim Prentice, Alberta for the most part thrived economically. This was most crucial in the 2008 economic downturn, when Albertans largely carried the load for the struggling Canadian economy. This success for decades was rewarded with unwavering support at the polls, giving the PC’s a complete sweep in the province in 2006, followed by a near-sweep in 2008. But under Jim Prentice’s leadership, the PC’s managed to break the trust of Albertans through a combination of poor government management, and poor politics. Details of this aside, change has come to Alberta, and this will likely affect several industries greatly.
With higher taxes on high earners, and a 2% increase on corporate taxes the NDP’s will have gathered a little more money to play with. The NDP’s have promised to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour and also plan to roll back the Tory health levy, as well as to reduce the costs of education within Alberta at all levels. But amongst all these points within the NDP platform, my eyes began to flicker out of excitement when I read their plans to “phase out coal-fired electricity”. It got better as I continued reading, “…to reduce smog and greenhouse gas emissions and expand cleaner, greener sources, including wind and solar and more industrial co-generation in the oil sands, all of which will improve both the environment and the health of Albertans.” This illustrated many things we Albertans haven’t heard from government: an acknowledgment that our actions have an impact on the environment, and that the environment has an impact on our personal health. This linked to a very realistic approach to cleaning up Alberta that managed to suggest greening the province while still acknowledging our reliance on the oil and gas industry to remain economically and infrastructurally afloat. The platform also included a plan to establish a green retrofitting loan program that will assist Alberta families, farms and small businesses to reduce their energy usage affordably, which will reduce the environmental impact of each family, while creating jobs in the construction industry. This, as well, encouraging language for the future of the Albertan environment, economy, and energy independence.
With a clear commitment to the environment, and future green technologies, it is with pleasure that I applaud our new Premier Notley for not only running on a platform with a commitment to future generations, but for persuading Albertans to elect her on this platform. Through incrementally increasing our reliance on renewables, Albertans will see an improvement of air quality, a lesser reliance on fluctuating energy prices, and will perhaps shed the label of being environmentally evil and gain our rightful label as being hardworking, progressive people.