Alberta premier-elect Rachel Notley celebrates her majority government May 5.

Is the Orange Tsunami headed west?

John Horgan is celebrating Rachel Notley's NDP win in Alberta. We'll see if it's a trend or a cautionary tale for voters

VICTORIA – Albertans have always laughed about their long-standing reputation as a reckless, immature society.

The classic bumper sticker, now available as a T-shirt or coffee cup in several variations, states: “Please God, give us one more oil boom, we promise not to p— it away this time.”

Now they’ve thrown out the government that finally tried to stop blowing money like a roughneck fresh out of the bush. Jim Prentice had the gall to propose raising income taxes for high wage earners, doing away with former Alberta treasurer Stockwell Day’s signature flat tax.

In response, voters have abruptly replaced the 44-year Progressive Conservative dynasty with an upstart NDP that wants to tax the rich and corporations even more. Facing an oil slump, layoffs and a huge structural deficit in Alberta’s lavish public service, NDP premier-elect Rachel Notley is committed to a 50-per-cent increase in the minimum wage and another “review” of resource royalties.

One headline in a national paper summed it up: “Go home, Alberta. You’re drunk.”

In the sober days after the election, a few truths emerge. Alberta hasn’t been a fiscally conservative, small-government place for a long time. Among other things, it has ratcheted up teacher and nurse wages across the country.

Alberta is broke, again, and even the NDP is afraid to resort to a sales tax.

The minimum wage hike is a pet policy of Canada’s labour federations, which somehow remain convinced that poverty can be eliminated by state order.

On the positive side, Notley has promised to end corporate and union donations to political parties, as has already been done federally. B.C. should be next, but the gravy train of business donations is too tempting for our nominally Liberal government.

Here at the B.C. legislature, an NDP staffer passed out cans of Orange Crush to celebrate. NDP leader John Horgan pronounced himself “ecstatic,” and hastened to assure reporters that Notley is “as competent as she sounds.”

Notley now has to sort through a caucus that includes typical NDP place-holders, college students and union staff running in faint-hope constituencies. Soon after the result, the party pulled down its website platform and candidate biographies, as Notley began phoning energy companies to reassure them Alberta will be “A-OK” on her watch.

Horgan likes to describe the “capital flight” from new NDP governments as if it’s just a show put on by big business. Plummeting stock prices and relocation of corporate offices are all staged, according to the party line, nothing to do with actual investment conditions created by NDP policies. This fiction is all Horgan dares to say publicly, because it’s what his party base devoutly believes.

Besides, they’re only branch offices of multinational oil companies like Shell, Horgan said. He used his favourite Tommy Douglas quote, about the bad news of a big oil company leaving. “The good news is, the oil is staying here.”

B.C.’s natural gas might be staying here too. Horgan insists he supports a natural gas export industry, but his party seems more concerned with an ascending Green Party, and an urban base that believes you can run a resource economy on windmills and solar panels.

Notley supports twinning the TransMountain pipeline, while Horgan continues to insist he has no opinion on the project Adrian Dix so memorably opposed.

The Alberta NDP has a steep learning curve ahead. The B.C. NDP has a couple of years to see if the appearance of a like-minded Alberta government is a boost for them, or a cautionary tale for voters.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

Vanderhoof eligible for up to $6M in provincial infrastructure funding

The Northern Capital and Planning Grant will go to four regional districts and 22 municipalities

Province announces $100-million grant funding for Northwest communities

The Northern Capital and Planning Grant will go to four regional districts and 22 municipalities

Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project searches for partners

TransCanada is renewing permits for its natural gas pipeline project to North Coast.

Over 2,000 people used the pool in the first 2-weeks

Lifeguard training course needs a minimum of six people to register before Feb. 21

Peter Tork, Monkees’ lovable bass-guitar player, dies at 77

Tork, Micky Dolenz, David Jones and Michael Nesmith formed the made-for-television rock band

From a drunk judge to Clifford Olson: George Garrett recounts a life in B.C. news radio

New book from ‘Intrepid Reporter’ George Garrett offers readers a glimpse behind the headlines

Wife remembers B.C. man killed in possible case of mistaken identity

Rex Gill was in Kamloops working to support his family after oilfield job dried up

New report calls for regulated heroin sales to curb B.C.’s overdose problem

B.C. Centre on Substance Use points to organized crime and money-laundering as contributing factors

Millennial men least likely to have a family doctor: Statistics Canada

Report found more women have primary care physicians, compared with men

70% of Canadians agree with mandatory vaccines for children: poll

The debate for pro and anti vaccinations has heated up after a measles outbreak in Vancouver

VIDEO: Woman, off-duty cop in serious condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

Most Read