Alberta is more progressive than most conservatives would like to admit

One of the interesting realities of Alberta politics is that every time the people have changed their government they have opted for a party more progressive than the incumbents they removed.

In 1921 the incumbent Liberals were defeated by the upstart United Farmers of Alberta, a party born out of the progressive movement and committed to revolutionary change to the electoral process and public policy.

In 1935 the 14 year old U.F.A. was scandalized and unable to deal with the worst of the Depression. Albertans opted for the brand new Social Credit party, with its promise of radical change to the economic system.

Coincidental with the experience with these two parties, Albertans created a number of significant farm service, rural electrification, telephone and natural gas cooperatives:  In days gone by, Albertans have been guided by the idea of people helping each other — the barn-raising, for example.  These governments also invented the Energy Resources Conservation Board, and nurtured what was arguably the best system of public education in the world, in days gone by.

In 1971 Albertans viewed the 36 year old Social Credit administration as tired, lacking in imagination, and too conservative. Albertans opted for a Progressive Conservative party that put the emphasis on being progressive, rather than conservative.  This was the government that repealed the Sexual Sterilization Act, adopted the Individual Rights Protection Act, invented the Alberta Heritage Fund, levied royalties at 10 times the current rate, and appointed a prominent labour leader as Chair of the Workers’ Compensation Board.  This is also the government that has moved from being progressive to being conservative.  (Perhaps, like their federal counterparts, they will drop the word progressive from their name.)

The province did not collapse because of the things any of these parties did during their first term in office.  (Should voters fear new and untested parties?)

The question for 2015 is whether Albertans will continue the well established tradition of moving from the conservative to the progressive when they change their government.

Not only have Albertans opted to move in the progressive direction when they change their government, each time they have done this their decision has been derided as foolhardy or risky, and the wisdom of their decision has been confirmed with the passage of time.

Having taken a risk on the unknown U.F.A., Albertans were sufficiently satisfied that they elected them 2 more times. Having taken a risk on the unknown Social Credit, Albertans were sufficiently satisfied that they re-elected them 8 more times. Having taken a risk on the unknown P.C.s, Albertans were sufficiently satisfied that they re-elected them 11 more times.

Arguably, Albertans are wise enough to know that the tendency of evolution in provincial politics is progressively toward inclusion, transparency, social justice, careful stewardship, strong communities, and constant experimenting to nurture stronger democracy. Arguably, progressive parties, by whatever name, are more in tune with the Alberta story than are conservatives.

If Albertans are explorers and entrepreneurs, as they claim to be, they will venture into the unknown — new territory — and put things together in new ways, to create new and greater opportunities in the aftermath of the May 5th election, as they did in 1971, 1935, and 1921.

Alternately, as Social Credit party founder William Aberhart was fond of saying:  If you don’t feel that you have suffered enough, it is your God-given right to choose more of the same.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *