For the second time in three years, PCs are leaderless when the biggest question on Albertans' mind is whether they are still capable of leading the province.
Despite the excitement of the current leadership race, PCs are quietly doing business as they always have. Severance packages for staffers leaving the Premier's office could cost Albertans up to $1 million at a time when the government is attacking wages and pensions of their own employees. Lorne Taylor, a former PC insider who actively fought the Kyoto Accord and stalled deadlines on greenhouse-gas reduction, has been appointed chair of A EMERA, an organization that will guide and fund air monitoring throughout the oil-sands region. It's a tale of two Albertas--one for PC friends and insiders, and one for the rest of us.
When Alison Redford swept into office in 2012, we heard the same promises we'll hear now: a new progressive agenda, a new party, renewed investment in health care and education. If her brief stint as Premier has accomplished anything, it has shown Albertans that the problem lies with the party itself, not with any one leader. The PC's problems are systemic, ingrained through years of abusing Albertans' trust and playing political sleight of hand. Premier Redford was forced to take the fall for her entitlement; it's time the PC party was forced to do the same.
Many long-time PC voters are looking for somewhere new to invest their loyalty and several have been attracted to the Wildrose Party. But Albertans need to realize that a choice between the PCs and Wildrose is no choice at all. The PCs and the Wildrose share the same agenda. The PCs and the Wildrose share the same corporate donors--oil-and-gas companies with substantial influence on the policy of both parties. The PCs and the Wildrose even share the same attitude towards Alberta's public health-care system--they believe in privatization so that those who can afford to pay have access to better care than the rest of us.
Meanwhile, we know Albertans share the New Democrats' vision for the province's future. Albertans want a balanced budget, fair and competitive taxation, a royalty system designed to ensure the longevity of Alberta's resource production and social service. Instead, Albertans are faced with a system where investment in schools and hospitals is tied to fluctuating oil prices. We are still waiting on action to end child poverty and implement full-day kindergarten.
The media frenzy surrounding the PC-leadership race won't solve any of the problems the PCs have caused. Redford's departure leaves more than one promise broken and more than one question unanswered, but the most important question remains whether Albertans and the issues that matter to them will, once again, be lost in the cabinet shuffle.
We'll be working hard to make sure that doesn't happen.
- Brian Mason, Leader, New Democratic Party