Tuesday was exciting night in Alberta. Not only did the Flames pull out a big win (and for the record, that puck was in!) but something surprising happened in politics; Alberta changed its government for the first time in 44 years.
My Twitter and Facebook lit up as many began to lament how this NDP victory spelled the end of the Alberta advantage and how the province would be brought to its knees over the next four years due to this change. The purpose of this post is not to espouse or endorse one political ideology over another, but rather a pragmatic approach to why we should give our new government the benefit of doubt.
As I read the various posts on social media three main arguments begun to emerge from those who saw the future of Alberta as some sort of apocalypse: (1) previous NDP governments in other provinces have been bad and this one will too, (2) this NDP government is full of inexperienced and incapable candidates, and (3) this NDP government is anti-oil and pro-union which is not good for Alberta.
In case you are wondering, I did not vote for the NDP this election. But what I saw on social media afterwards scared me and I wanted to address the arguments above and tell you why we should remain optimistic about the future of our province.
1. Although other provincial NDP governments have had limited success (or failures), the Alberta brand of all the parties have tended to have their own flavour. Let's begin with giving this new government a fair opportunity to represent the mandate it has received. We can help be part of the solution and constructive dialogue or we can become part of the problem by not even giving them a fair chance. The last thing I think we need in Alberta is divisive and dismissive politics which vilifies the other party and ignores valid critiques. That is all too popular south of our border and I hope that trend never comes here as it erodes the dialogue that is necessary for a good democracy.
2. The inexperience and youth of the NDP can both be an advantage and a disadvantage. While the disadvantages seem obvious, we should be hopeful about the advantages. An inexperienced MLA will hopefully have to rely more upon the bureaucracy which consists of lifelong public servants who, for the most part, genuinely care about their roles and have the best interest of the province in mind. They are often highly knowledgeable and experienced and relying on their advice may be good. Also, unknown MLA's are much less likely to have been influenced by special interest in the past. This leads them to examine our policies with unbought eyes - a fresh perspective that Alberta will benefit from. I trust, perhaps foolishly, that these new MLA's will bring an energy and vigor to Alberta politics that has not been there in recent memory. We can choose to think our government will fail or we can choose to think it will succeed and help them find the way.
3. Politics is politics, but it is well known that a successful and prosperous Alberta can only be accomplished through making the most of our natural resources and working with industry to make Alberta a great place to do business. Let's keep in mind that politicians are politicians and as such once in power they will do the best they can to remain there. In Alberta, you cannot retain power for long if you are anti-industry or anti-business, and I predict that the Alberta flavour of the NDP will be more business friendly than people anticipate. Perhaps I'm an optimist but I would like to believe that our province is strong enough to survive a change of government and that we may enough benefit from it.
The future for Alberta is bright. We are better served by engaging in constructive discourse with a new government (which may be more willing to listen) than in putting up barriers and not approaching the situation with an open mind.