Wow! Alberta politics suddenly heated up drastically in 24 hours, broadly confirming suspicions that the newly installed Premier Jim Prentice is likely to take the province to early elections soon, maybe in a matter of months.
Just a look at the list of events from Sunday Jan. 25 to Monday Jan. 26 late afternoon is enough to confirm to any doubter that at least something is in the making: On Sunday morning, PC Alberta organization announced that nominations for MLA seats in ten ridings were open; Monday morning, Derek Fildebrandt, former outspoken Alberta Director for Canadian Taxpayers Federation issued a statement saying that he would seek not only a nomination by, but also the leadership of the Wildrose Party, whose previous leader defected to PCs late last year; later, former Wildrose and then independent MLA Joe Anglin announced he was seeking to be elected again, only this time with a nomination from PC (an exemplary show of dedication (!!) to political principles, before Wildrose he was a member of the Green Party); Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths announced that he was leaving the Legislature; and then the provincial Liberal leader Raj Sherman announced that he was resigning as party leader with immediate effect and that he would not seek reelection at the end of his term (possibly with some instruction from the national Liberal leadership to boost the chances of an improved performance with a fresh face as the new provincial leader).
Closer to home, Peter DeWit, a Lacombe businessman has announced his intention to run in the Lacombe-Ponoka riding as PC candidate against Rod Fox, who was within the group that crossed floor to join the PC caucus several weeks ago.
Now, it is probably clear that a lot of people are jockeying for position before balloting day comes so that they can catch an opportunity to a seat of power.
As a species, politicians live for power and to cling to that power, almost anything is acceptable. Never mind the lofty statements of serving the nation/ constituents, being the voice of the people and working tirelessly for the benefit of the communities etc.; for a politician, the primary objective is to first survive and then to thrive as a politician.
Mr. Prentice, in order to justify his move to bring the provincial elections forward, will probably say that in this time of hardship (low oil prices), he will need a new mandate from the electorate and that he would want their consent for new policies (understand new or increased taxes), but in reality what the premier is seeking is an extended lease of life for his tenure, which could very well be in jeopardy if another year of low oil prices continues to deprive the provincial coffers of bitumen royalties.
We can ask a few simple questions: Why does the premier need a new mandate? Currently, he still has more than 20 months and an ample number of MLAs to support whatever he decides to do until the next scheduled provincial election and this should be enough time for a capable leader to put the ducks in order.
Will an early provincial election bring about increased oil revenues? Will early elections reduce or enlarge the projected budget deficit? How will an early election help Mr. Prentice other than filling more legislative seats with men and women who will accept his instructions without resistance?
We can be certain that if and when Mr. Prentice announces the date for the early election, it will be a blow for our provincial democracy, a typical case of a tool for democracy being used to stifle democracy.
But the premier should be reminded that the ballot box could also turn out to be a double edged sword, in particular if one factors in the possibility of the anger against mass Wildrose defection turning into a reaction vote.
– Mustafa Eric