Alberta premier-elect Rachel Notley celebrates her majority government May 5.

Is the Orange Tsunami headed west?

John Horgan is celebrating Rachel Notley's NDP win in Alberta. We'll see if it's a trend or a cautionary tale for voters

VICTORIA – Albertans have always laughed about their long-standing reputation as a reckless, immature society.

The classic bumper sticker, now available as a T-shirt or coffee cup in several variations, states: “Please God, give us one more oil boom, we promise not to p— it away this time.”

Now they’ve thrown out the government that finally tried to stop blowing money like a roughneck fresh out of the bush. Jim Prentice had the gall to propose raising income taxes for high wage earners, doing away with former Alberta treasurer Stockwell Day’s signature flat tax.

In response, voters have abruptly replaced the 44-year Progressive Conservative dynasty with an upstart NDP that wants to tax the rich and corporations even more. Facing an oil slump, layoffs and a huge structural deficit in Alberta’s lavish public service, NDP premier-elect Rachel Notley is committed to a 50-per-cent increase in the minimum wage and another “review” of resource royalties.

One headline in a national paper summed it up: “Go home, Alberta. You’re drunk.”

In the sober days after the election, a few truths emerge. Alberta hasn’t been a fiscally conservative, small-government place for a long time. Among other things, it has ratcheted up teacher and nurse wages across the country.

Alberta is broke, again, and even the NDP is afraid to resort to a sales tax.

The minimum wage hike is a pet policy of Canada’s labour federations, which somehow remain convinced that poverty can be eliminated by state order.

On the positive side, Notley has promised to end corporate and union donations to political parties, as has already been done federally. B.C. should be next, but the gravy train of business donations is too tempting for our nominally Liberal government.

Here at the B.C. legislature, an NDP staffer passed out cans of Orange Crush to celebrate. NDP leader John Horgan pronounced himself “ecstatic,” and hastened to assure reporters that Notley is “as competent as she sounds.”

Notley now has to sort through a caucus that includes typical NDP place-holders, college students and union staff running in faint-hope constituencies. Soon after the result, the party pulled down its website platform and candidate biographies, as Notley began phoning energy companies to reassure them Alberta will be “A-OK” on her watch.

Horgan likes to describe the “capital flight” from new NDP governments as if it’s just a show put on by big business. Plummeting stock prices and relocation of corporate offices are all staged, according to the party line, nothing to do with actual investment conditions created by NDP policies. This fiction is all Horgan dares to say publicly, because it’s what his party base devoutly believes.

Besides, they’re only branch offices of multinational oil companies like Shell, Horgan said. He used his favourite Tommy Douglas quote, about the bad news of a big oil company leaving. “The good news is, the oil is staying here.”

B.C.’s natural gas might be staying here too. Horgan insists he supports a natural gas export industry, but his party seems more concerned with an ascending Green Party, and an urban base that believes you can run a resource economy on windmills and solar panels.

Notley supports twinning the TransMountain pipeline, while Horgan continues to insist he has no opinion on the project Adrian Dix so memorably opposed.

The Alberta NDP has a steep learning curve ahead. The B.C. NDP has a couple of years to see if the appearance of a like-minded Alberta government is a boost for them, or a cautionary tale for voters.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

West Shore lands Pan Am Cross Country Cup

Event coming to Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort Spa in February 2020

Mommy’s Inside Voice: Mourning the loss of friends

Motherhood can take its toll on friendships

Victoria shoppers fund Jubilee hospital cardiac monitoring

More than $40k raised over the holidays at Canadian Tire locations

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

POLL: Will you be wearing pink to take a stand against bullying?

Schools and workplaces across Greater Victoria and around the province will be… Continue reading

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Guards protest firing of fellow officers charged with assault at B.C. prison

Corrections officers demonstrated in Maple Ridge on Friday afternoon

Skier dies at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Cause of death for young man has not been released

R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse

R&B star has been accused of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls for years

More sailings coming to 10 BC Ferries’ routes

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the sailings were originally cut in 2014

Most Read