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

Tofino mourns sudden loss of municipal councillor and community champion

Longtime resident Dorothy Baert died on Wednesday.

Short documentary showcases Chez Monique’s on Canada’s West Coast Trail

“The story we are trying to share is of the loving haven they created and sustained for decades.”

Confirmed case of Parvovirus could spread through Tofino-Ucluelet puppy population

“We need to keep this contained and the animals within communities need to stay at home.”

Construction continues on Pacific Rim National Park Reserve’s $51M trail

Path through Park Reserve will link Tofino and Ucluelet.

Tofino graduate credits family and community after receiving $40K scholarship

“I would not be here and I would not be the person I am without my community.”

Feds lowered poverty line, reducing the number of seniors in need: documents

Liberals introduced a poverty line that was below the prior low-income cutoff

BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs have been sold

Victoria company has purchased BCHL team, but will keep it in Port Alberni

“Does Kirby care?” B.C. First Nation’s group using geo-targeted ads in Houston, Texas for justice

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council has called out Kirby Corporation for the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill

Trudeau announces $79M investment for 118 more public transit buses across B.C.

Contributions from municipal to federal level to fund more buses in a bid to cut commutes

B.C. woman wins record $2.1 million on casino slot machine

‘That night was so surreal … I wasn’t able to sleep or eat for the first two days,’ she said

After B.C. dad’s death, Technical Safety BC wants changes to trampoline park rules

Jay Greenwood, 46, did ‘a series of acrobatic manoeuvres prior to a fall that caused serious injury and cardiac arrest’

Cars keyed on BC Ferries after alarms bother dog on board

Delta police arrested one passenger on suspicion of mischief

$900M settlement reached in class action on sexual misconduct in Canadian military

After facing criticism, the government moved to begin settlement proceedings in early 2018

Most Read