The young child cried out, “The emperor has no clothes”.
Only then did the emperor realize what he had to do – get dressed.
In the late 1970s when I moved to Alberta, I was a self-selecting economic/political migrant. I wanted a province where I didn’t have to explain my right wing politics. I wanted a province that was entrepreneurial and free market. I wanted a province with low government and slow government. When I arrived in Calgary, I realized I had not done my due diligence. The provincial government, under Peter Lougheed, owned an airline, a telephone company, a bus line, a gas transmission line, and a gas production company. They were a highly regulated interventionist government. To my horror, we were the first province to institute a Franchise Act, making Alberta the most expensive franchise jurisdiction in Canada. The government was hell-bent on protecting everyone and everything and owning companies like there was no tomorrow.
Over the years, there was a subtle shift away from direct ownership to the Getty phenomena of being able to pick champions (not) to diversify the economy. Only to diversify the sources of wealth of promoters and charlatans that persist even today. The MagCan abandoned facility near High River is a mute and massive memorial to this lunacy.
I had, in fact, been deceived. I think we’ve all been deceived. We’ve been self-styled and mythologized as being redneck, free-enterprise, small government radicals. The truth is, we’re a surprisingly open and liberal society, embracing many diverse interests and lifestyles even back in the 1970s. Calgary was much more inclusive and willing to embrace male homosexuals than Toronto. And we celebrated diverse ethnicities in a more sensitive and caring manner than any city in Canada. Finally, the statist inclinations of our governmental masters were our dirty little secret.
In the recent iterations of the progressive conservatives of Alberta, we have seen socialist budgets. We have for decades had the highest per capita government spending of the country. We have had the most interventionist and intrusive government public service in the country. And a highly co-operative judiciary.
Now we have elected a socialist party to lead the province. I say, we have announced, “the emperor has no clothes.” For decades we have been hiding our statist bloated bureaucracy behind a flood of oil and gas royalties. Now we have come clean with ourselves and the rest of the country.
Now, have we done irreparable harm, shot ourselves in the foot, or some other critical action? I don’t think so. Let’s imagine the worst-case scenario four years from now at the next election cycle. Under four years of rule by the NDs, teachers and nurses in particular will have had their salaries increased and pensions enhanced. The public service will be similarly enriched. Taxes will be higher. Trial balloons regarding a sale tax will have come down to earth and we’ll have a sales tax. Deficits will be higher as well. This is not an exciting and enthusiastic prospect. But is it any different from what we were offered by the PC administration that we just threw out? No. It’s virtually identical to what we would have seen under the PC administration.
Some might suggest that the NDs will destroy the oil patch. That capital will not come to the province so long as they are in charge in discussing the possibility of a royalty review.
Let us not forget it’s the PCs of the past who had brought in royalty reviews. Capital did, in fact flee. And it will flee the NDs as well. But in this pricing environment what capital is being attracted to oil and gas anyway. Let’s get this over with, bite the bullet and get the NDs out of the way – then we can re-energize and re-attract capital back to the province.
The benefit is that if we had allowed the PCs to take us to that position, four years from now we would be confronted with the same challenge that we were confronted with on May 5th. We have to deal with the rascals and throw them out.
That job has been done. So we are in a position where we are in a no worse position with greater clarity around what has to be done.
During the same four years that the NDs expand teachers’ salaries and nurses’ salaries and public service benefits, Wildrose can position itself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal, to chip away at some of the urban strongholds currently won by the NDs.
And Wildrose can further work on embracing the remnants of the PCs who are truly on the fiscal right. Imagine that they would be able to capture Rick McIvor or Richard Starke. The rest of the PCs, following the language of the heart, would move to the NDs, which is their natural home of refuge. They’ve only been with the PCs because the PCs were the only power game in town.
Steven Carter’s analysis that the PCs would fall apart because the only thing holding them together was power will come to be seen as true.
We have a lot of work to do. But when the young child spoke the truth, and only after that truth had been uttered could the emperor make any progress, with the wisdom of the child announced the emperor knew what he had to do: get dressed.