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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ted Morton, bad for Alberta in the short term, great for Alberta in the long term

Why do I think Ted Morton would be so great for Alberta in the long term? Because, as I kept trying to argue to other New Democrats at the convention a couple of weeks ago, he represents the end of the long Tory rule in this province. And it turns out that moderate and smart long-time provincial cabinet minister Gary Mar agrees:
Cabinet minister Gary Mar has said he will not run for re-election if Morton wins, as he believes the party's 35-year reign over Alberta would end.

"If we went to a general election with premier Ted Morton we would fail to form a government in the next general election."
There's something that the NDP forgets, that the rest of the country forgets, but it's something that Albertans need to remember. We've only replaced our provincial government three times, and one pattern has been consistent throughout: our governments spend decades and multiple leaders in a slow drift to the right, and we throw the bums out with a radical shift to the left. When we elected the UFA in 1912, it was a precursor to the CCF. By the time we replaced them in 1936, they had drifted rightward, and William Aberhart and the Socreds were offering what amounted to a guaranteed income to help get us out of the depression. The Socreds remained until 1971, by which time items such as eugenics legislation still on the books had become an embarrassment to the people of this province. The Tories under Lougheed seemed young, energetic, and far more moderate.

Up until now, this pattern took three Premiers per party. Ralph Klein avoided repeating the pattern by radically changing the Tory party he inherited, and despite a general sense that he's a right-winger, the fact is that he nipped several socially right-swinging efforts from his own caucus in the bud. In his first few years, he resisted pressure to use the notwithstanding clause to undermine the Vriend decision ("reading in" protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual preference into Individual Rights Protection Act), and he stepped hard on an effort to de-list abortion as a provincially health-insured procedure. While cutting budgets severely in those early years, his wasn't an effort to, as the American Republicans like to talk about, shrink government until it's so small that it can be conveniently drowned in the bathtub. Instead, he was simply trying to get the books in order. I think there were many better, less painful, and possibly even braver paths to that goal, but I can't fault the intent, or dismissively label it "right-wing". An NDP government in Saskatchewan was making the very same hard choices at the very same time, for instance.

I digress quite a distance. My point is if the phone-in show denizens that constitute his base continue to rally and get Ted Morton elected Premier, then Albertans, despite having a reputation for radical redneckery, will reject the Tories, perhaps dumping them in the same trashbin that the Liberals, UFA, and Socreds already occupy, to not ever return.

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