Here we are at the dawn of a new political era: For the first time in more than 40 years, the Throne Speech was written by a political leadership that is not of Progressive Conservatives.
A new Lieutenant Governor read a government program that contained the promises made in the election campaign and commitments were made to passing legislation without delay to deliver on those promises, which include a more balanced taxation system reducing the burden on lower income families but bringing broader tax obligations for higher earners and big corporations, more spending for health care, education and human services, among others.
What is more important is the fact that the opposition, with the exception of a little whining from the heavily defeated PC leadership, was in agreement with at least some of the proposals contained in the new government’s program.
Main opposition leader Brian Jean of the Wildrose Party expressly stated that his party would support the move to cut funding to political parties from what he called “special interests.”
And Liberal Party leader David Swann agreed to co-chair a government committee to review the province’s mental health policy.
Furthermore, the proposal by the government to establish a joint commission to look into ways of strengthening the democratic fundamentals of the processes of governance was welcomed by both political opposition and the wider political establishment.
So is everything OK, is it all pink? Could we feel safe to sit back in comfort and wait for Notley and her cabinet deliver the goods for the people of the province?
The answer is, of course, a categorical no.
One very valid point of the criticism leveled at the Throne Speech by various opposition figures is the fact that there was no reference in it to agriculture or other mainstream industries in the province.
While we know that the governing NDP has its powerbase mainly in the trade union movement, and, therefore, is heavily focused on urban concerns, the responsibility of being the government for the whole province compels the leadership to develop and implement policies that will benefit all sectors of the economy. Because what was announced on Monday is an interim program until the government comes up with a full budget projection by the end of the summer, maybe the government should be given the benefit of the doubt in the hope that there will later be adequate provisions regarding other sectors of the economy than the energy.
But on the very issue of the energy policy, this provincial government could really have the chance of making a historical contribution to not only Alberta, but to the whole country on a wide range of vital issues from environmental protection to energy security to economic development.
Progressive Conservatives in Alberta and Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in Ottawa, have been unreservedly pushing for increased oil and gas production for the last 10 years or so, putting corporate profits before the concerns for the future of the environment and health of the overall economy.
The one proposal in the Throne Speech that suggested Alberta should lead a revision of the national energy policies could ultimately prove to be one of the most important ideas generated by the Notley government.
Of course, with Stephen Harper still in the PM’s seat, this is not likely to lead anywhere meaningful unless Alberta’s new government can mobilize all provinces and territories in the country for this cause.
But with the federal elections looming in the horizon and Harper’s reelection chances seemingly dwindling, it is not totally impossible that we might, after all, within a few years, have a substantially revamped energy policy focusing on responsible resource development and diversifying the economy by using the financial power generated by the energy sector.
This may remain only a dream, but it is still a good thing to dream of.