Manitobans can tell Albertans a thing or two about living under NDP rule.
We have endured a lengthy tenure of government ineptness and broken promises under the NDP. So many broken promises … about getting rid of “hallway medicine”, about balancing the budget, about ending the practice of placing vulnerable children in hotels, about raising the PST … so many things. We have seen the NDP claw away more of our earnings every year while our tax burden increases relative to other provinces. We have seen the NDP turn a venture capital fund into what could fairly accurately be described as a ponzi scheme, and subsequently dodge all responsibility for the investors’ losses, and in doing so cast a pall over venture capital investment in Manitoba that lasts to this day. We have seen the NDP conceal information from the press and reduce the transparency of government. We have seen the NDP disregard the advice of Hydro engineers and experts in favour of ideologically-motivated choices that will cost taxpayers billions of dollars.
The examples of waste, mismanagement and incompetence are too numerous to list in one place, yet our neighbours in Alberta went and elected an NDP government.
We tried to warn them. “Don’t do it!” we cried. “You’re going to regret it!” We spoke out on twitter, listing the multitude of NDP failings using the hashtag #LifeWithNDP. I even took part, throwing out a couple tweets of my own. We did everything we could, but those silly Alberta voters didn’t listen, and in the blink of an eye, orange was splashed all over the Alberta electoral map.
So what now? Should Albertans brace themselves for four years of waste, mismanagement and incompetence? To be honest with you, I don’t think they made a bad choice. This is coming from someone who never voted NDP and probably never will, but let me explain …
Many of the problems we have here in Manitoba have more to do with poor leadership than with the NDP ideology specifically — and certainly the NDP does not have a monopoly on poor leadership. Political parties in general tend to become complacent, arrogant and/or corrupt when they stay in power for too long. “Too long” may be as little as a couple of terms in some cases. In others, it may take longer for a party to lose it’s way, but it inevitably happens sooner or later.
The PCs were in power for 44 years in Alberta. That’s a heck of a run, but it’s no surprise that they began to take their position for granted, and lost touch with reality. They were buoyed by good economic fortune for quite some time, but the downturn of the oil industry had focused people’s attention on the provincial leadership, and the arrogance and entitlement were impossible to ignore. It was obvious that change was needed, and Albertans evidently decided that the Wildrose Party was not enough of a departure.
What happens now? Will voters regret their impulsive decision? Maybe not … The national and various provincial NDP parties share a playbook to some extent, but don’t expect huge changes in Alberta. Rachel Notley must realize that her party’s explosion from 3 seats to 53 was a result of wide-spread disgust in the current leadership, and not because Albertans are 17 times more socialist than they were 3 years ago. Demographics are changing in Alberta, but they haven’t changed that much.
This is an opportunity for Rachel and her Notley Crew to show that they can be moderate, fair and responsible. The PCs will rebuild, and the Wild Rose Party will learn from this election as well, and both will challenge in four years. If the NDP goes way off on a left wing expedition they will last one term and nothing more. Certainly there will be some change: corporate taxes will go up a bit, resource royalties will probably increase and so on, but this is probably not a bad thing. Something you can count on is that four years from now Albertans will, as a whole, still be the lowest taxed Canadians.
It seems so far in past now, but Manitoba’s NDP leadership was once somewhat moderate. They ran balanced budgets about half the time and they socked away money in the fiscal stabilization fund (although they had the benefit of unprecedented increases in transfer payments and a booming economy to help.) But eventually the Manitoba NDP government proved incapable of dealing with the economic and social challenges that faced them, and resorted to deception and scare tactics to remain in power.
Notley will have to do better. This is a trial run, and she will need to operate with integrity and fiscal responsibility to have any chance of solidifying the NDP’s position as a viable choice in the future. Albertans are, after all, still a mostly conservative bunch who like their low taxes and corporate head offices.
The bottom line is that Rachel Notley has earned the opportunity, and nobody can blame Albertans for giving it to her. So to my fellow Manitobans I say this: let them be. Maybe it will work out for them. Maybe not. But they had little choice but to boot the reigning Progressive Conservatives out of power, just as Manitobans ought to do to the NDP next year.