The Canadian province of Alberta is the center of that country’s oil patch. For 44 years, it has been governed by conservatives. That all came to an end yesterday with the election of a New Democratic Party government. The industry now faces a government in the province that is more friendly to the energy unions than management, more concerned about the environment than previous governments, and more interested in using the royalties the energy industry generations for the average person. As one as commentator put it, “Pigs do fly.”
The finally tally has yet to be made as one riding has yet to report. However, of the 87 seats, the NDP will have at least 53. The White Rose Party, which is to the right of the outgoing Progressive Conservatives, secured 21 seats. The PC will have 10 seats and the Liberals 1. In short, the NDP majority is solid, and the limits to what it can do in office are only those it sets for itself. It is important to note, however, that the WRP and PC split the conservative vote. The NDP took 40% of the popular vote, while the WRP got 28% and the PC 25%. Unless it scores some big wins, the NDP can look forward to a future election in which the right forms an electoral pact, and then, the NDP is back in opposition.
Or is it? Alberta has been transformed by the energy boom of the last decade or so. People from outside the province have come to work and live there, and as a result, they have brought political views from the places they once called home. Calgary and Edmonton, the two biggest cities in the province, are led by two young and progressive mayors.
Nevertheless, the NDP has no reason to sit on its hands. Presuming the next election will include united right, the argument for going big right away is compelling. What can the world expect from Rachel Notley’s party?
- A Resource Owners Rights Commission to review the royalties oil companiespay to the province.
- A boost in the corporate tax rate to 12 per cent from 10 per cent. Increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018. Current wage is $10.20.
- More tax brackets for high earners than the Tories proposed: a 12 per cent rate on income between $125,000 and $150,000; 13 per cent on income between $150,000 and $200,000; 14 per cent between $200,000 and $300,000 and 15 per cent over $300,000. NDP would also roll back the Tory health levy.
- The creation of 2,000 long-term care spaces over four years.
- A ban on corporate and union donations to political parties.
As for the pipeline issue that so many Americans on both left and right have turned into a cause celebre, the Edmonton Journal reports, “Notley has said she will not pursue the Keystone XL or Northern Gateway pipelines, believing both to be bogged down in legal and political wrangling that could go on for a decade or more. Instead, she will push for the Energy East pipeline and Kinder Morgan expansion, both of which she says could be exporting Alberta oil sooner.”
This journal has maintained that the real environmental problem is not a pipeline but the development of the tar sands in the first place. That battle was lost back in the 1970s. Ms. Notley is being realistic in her approach here. Energy East and Kinder Morgan make more sense, but they are just making the best of a bad situation.
Then again, if she halted the exploitation of the tar sands, the WRP and PC would win the next election, presuming there was not a revolution first.