Early indications are that there is more interest in local elections for municipal government and school boards this time than three years ago. Only anecdotal but the advance poll in Edmonton shows a marked increase in voter turnout. The Edmonton Sun non-scientific on-line "poll" shows 67% of us say we will vote. We always say we will vote but we perpetually lie about our actual voting behaviours. Maybe citizens will have more integrity this time and do what they say on October 18th
Three years ago things were pretty rosy in Alberta, energy prices were soaring to new highs and everyone was scrambling to keep up with the overheated economy. Now the change is dramatic but in reality we are in a more normal economic situation but tinged with some critical uncertainties. Uncertainties like the US economy and the rise of the BRIC nations and enormous personal and public debt overhanging the psyche and climate change seeping in as a reality. It all adds up and with record gold prices we see the economic angst being acted out in the market place.
Back to the local realities in Alberta - will we see a revived sense of citizenship in improved voter turnout next Monday? What will be the ballot questions? Calgary is in a culture war that is illustrated by the wide array of candidates for mayor. I wonder if Calgary wants a new face for their city or if the entrenched power structure will opt for a version of a status quo candidate, McIver or Higgins.. Mandel won in Edmonton two elections ago because both highly touted front runners were found wanting in some fundamental way. The chance for change took over and both of them were rejected in favour of the third place candidate - Mandel. Could that happen in Calgary this time? Would Nenshi, Stewart or Hawkesworth benefit from this kinds of yearning for real change in Calgary?
Edmonton started out as a yawner of a campaign but has heated up significantly thanks to Envision Edmonton efforts to press for a plebiscite on the municipal airport closing. The mayoralty campaign here is turning into a battle for the next narrative of the story Edmonton wants to tell itself about itself. There is a sense by the traditionalists Envision Edmonton types to almost emulate the Wildrose as the yearn for an Edmonton of a time past. The modernists just want to be left alone and get on with their lives, make some money and without having to worry about messy things like politics, democracy, citizenship and social issues.
The real question in Edmonton is will the progressives show up and support Mandel or just presume his win is a foregone conclusion so they can stay indifferent and inert politically. If that happens and the grumpy types from Envision Edmonton show up then anything can happen. That is the nature of politics.
School Board elections are interesting in Edmonton - have not followed them in Calgary. EPSB is in for some serious change for sure, not sure about the Catholic board here but will ponder that in the next few days. too.
I encourage all Albertans to get informed and get into discussion with friends an family about what they want from their government and make a conscious considered choice at the polls. I especially encourage progressives to take this plea to heart. Indifference is inexcusable in tight races. The progressive voice is being lost in the Alberta political culture because we are not speaking up and not showing up. Other voices are speaking up and showing up. And they are taking over the political power in our province.
Remember it is not THE government. It is OUR government - whether you voted or not.
If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at www.rebootalberta.org