Canadian Politics

Alberta Votes, Will Almost Certainly Elect First Elected Female Premier

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?

By Millie

Millie is a perpetual grad student, an internationally recognized curmudgeon, and an occasional hugger of trees. She also makes a mean batch of couscous.

9 replies on “Alberta Votes, Will Almost Certainly Elect First Elected Female Premier”

I am an Albertan (though living in Ontario for school) and have been following the election fairly closely. Danielle Smith and the Wildrose terrify me primarily because of the conscience-ness rights and the desire to open issues that have been settled to public referendum. I am also super sketched out by the fact that she believes so vehemently in privatization and cuts but at the same time has promised every Albertan a $300 cheque in the mail if the wildrose wins (what’s an extra $300 going to do if your grandma can’t get a bed in a nursing home?! nothing!).

Anyways, consequently, I am voting conservative by mail ballot… I never thought I would (and will want to take a shower afterwards) but I need to do my part to make sure the wildrose doesn’t win.

Yeah, I was holding back because I’m not as up to speed on this as I’d like, but pretty much everything I’ve heard about Wildrose sets off giant flashing alarms in my head going DO NOT ELECT REPEAT DO NOT ELECT.  There’s a lot of wingnuttery waiting in the wings, from the little I’ve heard, and I’ve not seen much to indicate that there’s enough depth to the slate of candidates that the wingnuts could be squirreled away in the back benches.

I’m worried about the “opening issues that’ve already been settled, dammit” aspect of the whole thing, too.


I live in Alberta. The Wildrose party is extremely scary. They refuse to take a stand on moral issues as a party, saying they will instead open issues like gay marriage and abortion to public referendum. One of their candidates, Ron Leech, said “I think as a Caucasian I have an advantage. When different community leaders such as a Sikh leader or a Muslim leader speaks, they really speak to their own people in many ways. As a Caucasian I believe that I can speak to all the community, to the region here, the whole area and lift up every community that is represented.” Smith basically backed him up when she was asked about it.

I think Redford’s okay. She’s definitely pro-education and pro-health care, which I like. And she’s smart and articulate, unlike certain past provincial leaders. I’d be satisfied if she kept her position as premier.

I personally would prefer a party further to the left than either of those, but it’s just not going to happen in this province at this time.

It’s interesting that the provincial PC party is more moderate than many of the federal Conservatives from Alberta. My MP is pretty extreme in his right-wing Christian conservatism, which is why I’m scared my riding will swing from Liberal to Wildrose in this election.

Yup, there’s a lot of, uh, less than enlightened commentary out of some of the Wildrose candidates, from what I’ve read.  This does not bode well, unfortunately.

None of the provincial parties merged with the Reform, though, so they’re all still Progressive Conservatives.  There’s a big difference between the two, and Redford is a perfect example of that.  (To be fair, not all the provincial PC parties are lead by reasonable people *coughHudakcough*).  I’m surprised your Liberal MP is a right-wing Christian conservative, given that there’s further right parties that he could belong to.

Ontarian here, but I have been following the election a bit, as it seems to be quite a close race, and I have a journalist friend living in Edmonton. After everything I have read, I must say that between the two, I like Alison Redford’s platform, and am a bit afraid of Danielle Smith’s politics. Redford certainly does seem to be a bit more old school PC, and I like that. It sounds strange to say, but I miss Joe Clark. Since the merger of the federal PC’s and the Alliance, the Tories have become much more right wing, especially under Harper and this seems to have trickled down to a few provinces as well. However, Redford’s platform seems fairly moderate in terms of healthcare, and other views. She is pro tarsands, but I think it’s near impossible to find an Alberta politician who isn’t. She’s not a perfect candidate, but I think she is some one I would consider voting for if I lived in Alberta (which I haven’t been able to say about a PC candidate in years).

Smith on the other hand, has some views that concern me a fair bit. First, she seems to be following Harper’s lead in terms of muzzling her candidates. They even had to pay money ($1000) that they would only get back if they didn’t act up during the election. The Globe and Mail also claimed that her party has been harassing journalists who write opinion pieces on the party. And yet, when a Wildrose candidate posted a blog entry decrying public school boards for promoting acceptance of LGBT youth, she said he was entitled to his views (which is true, but perhaps those remarks deserved more comment/censure than that). She also had an old platform item about introducing so called “conscious clauses” for public sector employees, and when questioned about it recently she didn’t comment on whether that was still on the table or not. I am certainly interested to see what happens in the election.

As far as sexism, the two incidents you mentioned (the bus and the tweet) are the ones I had heard about, but I am sure there has been more that someone following the race more closely would have picked up on.

I like Joe Clark too, because even though I disagree with his politics generally, he’s *reasonable.*  He’s not a twofaced, slippery politician like the current crowd of Conservatives, he was respectful of Parliament when elected, and isn’t a blind ideologue.  The fact that when the PC party got taken over he very publicly distanced himself from the whole debacle, and has stayed very, very far away from them since then, says a lot.

I see a lot of parallels between Smith and Harper too — same sort of populist style, same style of keeping candidates with seriously questionable values on a tight leash (rather than just not having candidates with seriously questionable values), same zealous embracing of privatization of national/provincial institutions.

I’m pretty sure being openly anti-tar sands is tantamount to political suicide in Alberta.  Even if people aren’t a fan of them generally, they’re  huge economic drivers with economic impacts far beyond the people who work in the fields, and saying you’d like to shut that down is not going to make you a popular person there.

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