The Globe and Mail Columnist Jeffery Simpson last Saturday commented on “The Bozo Years” being over for Alberta and asked “What Now?” That is the ballot question in the hearts and minds of Albertans who are going to chose the new Progressive Conservative leader and Alberta’s pro tem Premier. It is on the minds of all of us, at the back of mind for some and at the top of mind for others. That is the central question - "What Now?"
There is an old axiom that says if you are coasting but still moving forward you have to be going down hill. That has been the recent reality for the Progressive Conservative Party and the “animating” (sic) characteristic of the Klein government for the past too many years. The basking in the glory of defeating the debt and deficit dragon has worn thin. It is now showing serious negative consequences because we have a government that believed debt and deficit was a finish line instead of a starting line.
Change and choice and taking chances are the stuff of elections and leadership campaigns. I sense Albertans are not only “up for” some different approaches in all three of these elements – they are demanding them. After 35 plus years of Progressive Conservative government is Alberta poised for one of it classic tectonic political shifts?
It has been said of Democrats that they make plans and then they go do something else while Republicans follow the plans of their grandfathers. I think that description has some resonance when applied respectively to the Progressive and the Conservative elements within the PC Party of Alberta too.
Part of the “Send ‘Em a Message” Survey on Policy Channel has been a rating of the Klein government’s performance in the 15 key policy areas we are researching. The survey is web based so it is not scientific but the participants self-select and volunteer so they have some “investment” in the answers they give. The group so far is 55% male/45% female. 58% are not PC Party members and 42% are. However 65% said they were “somewhat, very or extremely likely” to vote on the leadership. They are activist and engaged folks with things on their minds.
The performance rankings they gave the current government on the four most important issues on their minds are:
Environment: 17% Good and 83% Bad
Timely Access to Quality Health Care: 27% Good and 63%
Quality Education K-12: 49% Good and 51% Bad
Managing Growth: 13% Good and 87% Bad.
The only issue the government got positive ranking in was Lowering Taxes with 64% Good ranking. Lowering Taxes was also ranked as the least important issue facing Alberta so no serious benefit can be expected there for the next Premier. To say there is room for the current government to improve belittles the obvious.
What now? That is the ballot question, not just who is next?
Yes Alberta is moving forward. The growth in GDP and investment activity tells us that. But we have been coasting too. The PC Party memberships unceremonious ending of the Klein leadership last April 1 was the proof of that. The above survey performance ranking of the PC government also tells Progressive Conservative MLAs and party members that Albertans feel we are going down hill as well.
If this sense of government coasting down hill continues under the new leader - Albertans will definitely be doing some house cleaning - perhaps as soon as the next election.
Take 5 minutes and do the survey. It forces you to make some tough choices but it will help to get your voice heard.