On Tuesday, Albertans voted overwhelmingly to turn back to a conservative government and seek different solutions to help its sputtering fossil fuel-driven economy and to address a climbing debt load.
The outcome has an air of familiarity to Ontario’s own vote last year, albeit Rachel Notley’s NDP weren’t in power nearly as long as Liberal governments here and the history books might speak more to the divide of traditional conservative voters the last time around than a groundswell of support that Notley received at that time.
At any rate, a political landscape is emerging with a powerful, vocal block of ideologically similar parties at the provincial level prepared to bring their policy options to the national stage. Whereas Scott Moe’s Saskatchewan may have been out on its own for some time, he’s now joined by the likes of Doug Ford and Jason Kenney in national fights like the current one to scrap carbon tax regimes and, likely, a push for spending restraint and smaller government. It will be interesting to see how these premiers use their collective lobbying power.
The changing face of Ontario and Alberta politics also sets up an intriguing story line with a federal vote ahead this October. There’s been some convention in the past that voters have looked to create their own checks and balances by electing governments of different stripes at the federal and provincial levels, but with Justin Trudeau struggling in the polls in the wake of SNC-Lavalin there may just be a change that would align the House of Commons with some of the more prosperous provinces. If Andrew Scheer is successful, it is possible there could be grounds for some major changes in the way the country operates.
That makes the next six months crucial as Canada moves to elect a new government. The electorate will be watching to see how these provincial governments move forward — Ford’s first budget last week will definitely be scrutinized for where it cut and where it didn’t —and their actions will likely influence votes at the federal level.
Meanwhile, the federal parties have an opportunity to showcase their plans for a fractured country. This is the time to show how their respective leadership can cure the issues that give rise to populism. They’ll also have to demonstrate which principles they’ll co-operate on and where they’ll draw a line in the sand. While it can be presumed that most Canadians want to see representatives work together for the common good, would some live with politicking if it matches their values on climate change, social supports, or infrastructure investment?
Ultimately, it’s all about getting the best collective deal and finding the best people to provide it. As another silly season approaches and the choices appear stark, it is hoped that Canadians can focus on the issues and not delve into the us-versus-them rhetoric that has crept into the political landscape around the world. Regardless of who wins the federal election, citizens must rise up and demand the best solutions, period. They could and should come from both sides of the aisle. Unfortunately, to many, the current system appears to be a pendulum swinging with one segment always feeling left out Of course, the ones who figure out how to have a broader appeal often have the pleasure of sitting longer and influencing more.
The stage is set and the players are known. It’s time to actively choose the landscape for the next four years.