They call Alberta the Texas of Canada. The province extracts oil, raises cattle for beef, and it has a long history of evangelical Christians as political leaders. Its policies are the most conservative in Canada. Albertans pay no sales tax, and the provincial income tax is a flat 10%. And yet, the conservatives who have been a majority government for 40 years, the Progressive Conservatives, faced a challenge this week in provincial elections from a still-farther right party, the Wildrose Party.
The Wildrose Party questions climate change and opposes Canada’s participation in international environmental treaties. It is extreme in its free-market ideology. It is also anti-immigrant, and in the last few days before the election, a few comments from candidates hinted at racism and homophobia in the Party. In a province known for its conservatism, many pundits predicted that this would be the turning point when Canada began shifting toward the United States politically. Pollsters backed up this prediction, claiming until the very end that the Wildrose would not only challenge the Progressive Conservatives, but would form a majority government. The rest of Canada was holding its breath, feeling certain that Alberta would swing as conservative as possible. But it didn’t.
Albertans defied the pollsters, voting for the Progressive Conservatives in large numbers, giving them another majority government. This begs questions for polling methodology, to be sure. It also allows left-leaning Canadians to enjoy a sigh of relief from the worry that Canada is slipping away from them. However, it may well be a preview of politics to come. If the Wildrose Party makes a few adjustments, becomes more disciplined about racist and homophobic statements, and so on, there is probably a good number of Canadians who would welcome a Tea Party-esque combination of extreme free-market ideology and social conservatism. For now, Alberta will have to make do with rather-extreme free-market ideologies and rather-socially-conservative policies. Say, any chance we can trade you Alberta for Washington/Oregon?