As I’m sure you are all already aware, in amazing and ridiculous fashion, Alberta has elected an NDP majority government. I’m in the camp of people that is generally quite pleased by this result. However, I have a bunch of thoughts on expectations going forward.
Primarily, I wish to manage my expectations. Electing the NDP is not going to bring any utopia to the province of Alberta. (Nor, for those who were disappointed, is the NDP going to bring distopia to the province of Alberta.) Moreover, many of the progressive policies that I might hope for from a centre-left government will not necessarily be enacted. I am quite hopeful, but I’m not expecting the world to change overnight.
I do expect taxation to change and to be pleased about it. (Our election campaigns in the last ten years, both provincially and federally, have focused heavily on taxation more so than I generally think is healthy, but maybe that’s a discussion for another time). I expect the NDP to raise corporate tax levels and move in the direction the PCs started this spring away from flat tax structures. I wonder if they will consider sales tax; I wouldn’t put it past them but I don’t necessarily expect it. I expect the provincial share of personal income taxes to also rise somewhat. I think these tax increases are probably reasonable and necessary, but I am particularly looking forward to more progressive tax structures.
I expect the oil industry to survive and oil production to depend almost entirely on international demand, not NDP policy. I can hope for more stringent environmental oversight of the oilsands, but I’m skeptical about how much the new government will be able to accomplish. I do expect less government support for large pipeline projects.
I expect corporate Alberta to rattle sabres, threaten leaving, and then mostly continue on with their business as usual. I expect this NDP government to make modest (but only modest) inroads with higher corporate taxation, higher oil royalties, and more public oversight. I believe it is incumbent on democratic governments to take a moderately antagonistic stance towards corporations, simply for the reason of power. Corporations are great concentration of power and influence and their interests of profit are usually in conflict with the interests of the greater good. Government ought to serve the greater good and act as a control to corporate power. Perhaps my greatest disappointment with our previous government was how much it bought into the myth that the interests of the corporations are the same as the interests of the province. There is overlap and, given how our society is structured, we need corporate activity; but identifying our interests with the corporations is sheer nonsense. I’m encouraged that this government will be less likely to buy into this myth.
I expect mistakes. The caucus of MLAs is very inexperienced. Even assuming all of them are reasonable, well-intentioned and capable (in general, a dangerous assumption in politics), due to sheer inexperience, mistakes will be made. I hope they will not be disastrous. Though the new NDP will almost certainly lack the entitlement of the PCs, there will also be corruption, some of which will lead to scandal.
I expect budgeting will be very difficult. Modest tax raises do not necessarily address our infrastructure deficit and the reality of lower oil prices. The NDP have many costly goals. I’m very curious to see how they try to balance it all. For selfish reasons (since I work in the post-secondary education sector), I hope for the strengthening of funding to universities.
Lastly, I have no idea what to expect about the political climate going forward, particularly how Albertans will feel in four years at the next election. I don’t know if this result represents a serious re-alignment leftward or just a call of protest. I don’t know if this will actually unify the centre-left Alberta Party/Liberal/NDP block behind the NDP as the single progressive voice. I don’t know what the future holds for the PCs and the Wildrose are and how they will vie for representing the conservative voice. I’m sort of excited to find out, even with all my skepticism and hesitance.