It has been a week since Albertans cast their ballots and voted out the Progressive Conservatives, who had been leading the province for more than four decades.
As the PC party’s success began to unravel under the leaderships of Ed Stelmach, Alison Redford, and most recently, Jim Prentice, the people decided it was time for a change, time for a government that would better manage the taxpayer dollars and quit spending like drunken sailors. The people decided it was time for a government that would take seriously their property rights, put in place a health care system that did not affect the front line workers while rewarding those at the top. The people were tired of seeing local school boards having to rely more and more on fundraising for extra-curricular activities, tired of the larger classrooms with teachers having less resources to work with more students, and the people were tired of repeatedly reading in their newspapers the wastefulness in which the PCs were throwing away their money.
The PCs can not be blamed for the plunging oil prices, of course. That is the doing of OPEC and the Alberta government has absolutely no control over what decisions OPEC makes. So, to be fair, the PCs have been receiving some heat for something they had no control over. However, they did have control over how they managed the oil revenues that they were bringing in hand over fist during better times. Instead of socking money away, the PCs were outrightedly spending the money like it grows on trees.
Had they better managed these revenues, the province would not have been in such a dismal situation when the down-turn hit.
And, it’s not like they could not have foreseen the down-turn. The oil and gas industry, like most others, goes through ebb and flow cycles and good business leaders prepare for the ebbs.
Now, Rachel Notley and the NDPs have four years to prove to Albertans that they can do a better job. Time will tell and when their first budget is released, Albertans will be poring over it with a fine-tooth comb.
It’s hard to tell what Notley’s stance is on the oil and gas industry at the moment. On one day, she tells Albertans that it is “time to wean Albertans off oil”. On another day, she tells them that she is talking with oil executives and wants her government to work with them. Not sure which it will be, but in less than a week, she is caught talking out of both sides of her mouth on this one.
Notley will also be working with a lot of MLAs who lack political experience, so the learning curve will be a steep one and mistakes will be made until these people cut their political teeth. The rest of the province will be crossing their fingers and hoping the mistakes will not be too costly or take a generation to get fixed.
Albertans are fearful and rightly so. We are venturing into the unknown (at the unknown in Alberta) and worried about the future of our families, communities, our province.
And we are not the only ones worried. Investors are also shying away from investing in Alberta, at least for the time being, because of the uncertainty. Oil and gas companies are urging Notley to make a rapid decision for what lies ahead in the industry. Some call it fear-mongering, some say they have every right to be making the request, particularly when the industry is not stable and smaller companies are already closing shop completely or moving to locations that will not hammer their bottom line.
The NDP has four years to prove themselves or like the PCs, they will be turfed. Gone are the days of certainty in Alberta politics.
Give her a chance, they say. Let her prove she can run the province. Fine. She has four years to prove that the primarily urban voters (young, first-time voters played a huge role) were correct in electing the NDP. Time will tell.