September 18th, 2019

Campaign hasn’t started yet, but really, it’s been going since 2015

By COLLIN GALLANT on March 14, 2019.

It’s been well noted and often that the political landscape in Alberta is heating up ahead of a spring election, and it’s widely accepted that the race to form the next government in the province has been on for some time.

It’s been invigorating for some, maddening for others, but Albertans should be under no misconceptions about the scope of the issues that will be hashed out over the next month.

Already in recent weeks we have seen a blowout of policy proposals from the United Conservatives and an avalanche of announcements by the ruling New Democrats.

No nook nor cranny seems outside the bounds of what’s being proposed for change or protection by those who are vying for your vote this spring.

In some ways it might seem like another chapter in the fits and starts of Alberta politics, where voters tend to make sea-change decisions at the polling stations.

The UCP is framing this as a wholesale change from four years of mismanagement and ideological decision making in Alberta – a change to reinstate Alberta’s conservative nature in government and protect its long-held principles.

The New Democrats say that process of change – from a province once left on auto-pilot to a progressive, dynamic one – is still ongoing and needs new support and re-endorsement.

Both say the choice is clear.

The voters will, of course, make the final decision.

A pre-election planning session at the News this week turned a brainstorming exercise into a marathon.

Everything, it seems, is capable of becoming a major issue leading up to and during what could be a four-to-six week election period, beginning as early as next week.

There are as many major issues as there are ministries, and a number further broken into substantial sub-issues, where the governing New Democrats will stand on their record and challengers – the UCP chief among them – will attempt to find a path to victory.

Climate change and the carbon levy. The operational definition of publicly run health care. The goals of public education and the fate of a curriculum review, and gay-straight alliances in schools. School choice. Labour and employment standards. A $15/hour minimum wage and farm safety legislation. New consultation on farm safety regulation.

Corporate tax rates. Support for renewable energy development. Industry development. Rural crime. And the grand-daddy of them all, market access via pipelines.

Hiding somehow in there is a re-emerging debate about Alberta’s place in confederation – a 500-pound gorilla if there ever was one.

A good case can be made that campaigning began the day after Rachel Notley’s NDP surprisingly took power in the spring of 2015.

That was quickly followed by a complete reorganization of two parties on the right – led then and now by Jason Kenney, whose laser-focus is set upon unseating the Alberta NDs.

Indeed, elections are years in the making.

Another work that is years in progress in the notion that voters, citizens and, yes even, media outlets, need to do a better job of holding candidates to account, researching the issues.

Individual voters need to pick the best, not necessarily the loudest, candidate on the issues that matter most to them.

There’s a lot of that work ahead.

(Collin Gallant is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to https://www.medicinehatnews.com/opinions.)

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