I live in Eastern Canada, and I’ll admit that I read a lot more news about Eastern Canadian politics than Western Canadian politics. But Alberta is having a provincial election shortly, and with both the Progressive Conservative party and the Wildrose Party headed by women, Alberta is almost certainly going to elect a woman for the first time.
Alison Redford, of the Progressive Conservatives, has been Alberta’s first female premier since mid 2011, when she was a surprise winner in the party’s leadership race. She’s not been an especially controversial premier to the best of my knowledge, though her moderate stance on many issues, past employment with the archetype of a Red Tory Joe Clark, and history of international human rights work has had some people up in arms about her being a closet left-winger, or at least not nearly right-wing enough for Alberta.
Sidebar: can we, as a nation, stop with the “OMG son-and-so’s totally an X even though they’re a member of Y” nonsense? If that’s the sum total of your criticism of a politician, your political acumen needs a tune-up. Criticize what they do and say and how they vote, rather than whinging about increasingly arbitrary and/or several-decades-ago flag delineations.
Anyhoo. Running not far behind her is Danielle Smith of the Wildrose Party, which is a right wing libertarian party with a hilariously agitated sounding website. There’s pronouncements about how the people who kept Chretien in (federal) government back a decade ago(!) are out to take down Smith’s party, which… what? Current Alberta Conservatives kept Chretien, a Quebecois Liberal, in power for 13 years 10ish years ago? Not that after the GST, Meech Lake, and NAFTA, the federal PC party’s popularity was utterly decimated and it took time to rebuilt it from virtually scratch? No, it was those dastardly Alberta Liberals! If anyone has some idea what they’re driving at here, please, elucidate in the comments, as I am very perplexed.
One of Wildrose’s big platform planks is an accountability act, which they claim will increase government transparency and make MLAs more accountable to their constituents. Perhaps my perception of right-wing accountability promises is irrevocably tainted by Harper’s I-don’t-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means style of “accountability” (and those are quasi quotes, not scare quotes) legislation, but I’d be taking a long hard look at that proposed piece of legislation before I’d vote Wildrose. (Not that I would ever vote for a right wing libertarian.)
On the other hand, Redford’s PC party is looking to me to be more P than C than I’ve seen in a while. Conservatism is having a bit of a day in Canada, and having a premier in Alberta (land of Ralph Klein) who comes across as reasonable and not nearly so blindly ideologically driven is unexpected. Their site talks more about health care, poverty reduction, and environmental issues, which I’ll admit made me blink in surprise. Environmental issues are not something I expected to see much made of in conservative Alberta politics.
But of course the fact that the leaders of the two front running parties are women can’t go without remark, because I can’t remember that ever happening in Canadian politics. It’s rare enough to have a party lead by a woman, rarer still to have a woman elected as premier. Catherine Callbeck of PEI (1993), Kathy Dunderdale of Newfoundland (2012), Nellie Cournoyea of the North West Territories (1991) Eva Aariak of Nunavut (2008) are the only women who’ve been elected premier of a province or territory, though the territories’ style of consensus government means that Cournoyea and Aariak won their posts from consensus amongst the elected members rather than by the citizens. Four other women have been provincial premiers, but have won leadership campaigns rather than general elections. This is a dismal record, but the presence of two female front runners in Alberta is heartening.
And of course, there’s the gender-based gauntlet that women in politics face. Mid campaign, a Redford staffer tweeted:
If @ElectDanielle likes young and growing families so much, why doesn’t she have children of her own? #wrp family pack = insincere.
which, aside from being absolutely none of anyone’s beeswax other than Smith’s, sparked debate about the candidate’s fertility and family choices. The volunteer staffer resigned and Redford apologized, but I can’t imagine any male candidate being asked a question like that. There was the ill-placed Wildrose bus decal, which was just spectacularly poorly thought out. I’m sure if read more commentary on the election, I’d find all sorts of slights and underhanded digs with gendered overtones. Prove me right in the comments, Albertans!
So, Albertans – are there any of you here? What’s your take on this election? How does it look from within the province?