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VANCOUVER, BC, May 10, 2015/ Troy Media/ – First impressions at introductions are important, but no more so than the way you say goodbye. The behaviour of Alberta’s new and departing premier in this regard says much about their character.
Premier-election Rachel Notley’s victory speech was in turn humble, referential to parents, open to negotiation with big business and the Harper government (in spite of a chorus of ‘boos’ from the gallery), and thankful to the legions of hard workers who got the NDP elected. One was left with the impression that the province was in new, capable, kind and wise hands.
Jim Prentice’s cheap shot
Jim Prentice’s speech, however, was tinged with pathos, ‘what might have been,’ and by turns and twists, at least aware that the people of Alberta have spoken. And chosen. The shocker wasn’t his decision to resign as leader of the Progressive Conservatives, but not to represent the people of Calgary Foothills. The votes for Calgary Foothills had not even been fully tallied, and yet their MLA was throwing in the towel. It was a cheap shot ending to the era.
One of my Facebook friends quipped: “You may be unfamiliar with the plays of William Shakespeare. The lead character with the tragic flaw always dies at the end.”
A long-time PC friend, who was a personal acquaintance of Peter Lougheed (and indeed worked with him on the repatriation of the Constitution Act in the early 1980s), was caught by surprise by the MLA resignation.
“Peter Lougheed would never have resigned as MLA – that’s an insult to all those constituency volunteers who worked so hard to get him elected!” Jim Prentice’s hasty resignation will go down in the history books with “Look in the mirror,” and “I know math is hard,” as souvenirs of his days in power.
Alberta now has to come to grips with the transition of power. Notley’s first decisions about cabinet ministries, deputy ministers and patronage appointments will be closely scrutinized. Her ‘nuanced Laytonism’ style implies leadership that is based on high emotional intelligence, homework, well-advised wisdom and oratory that resonates for a broad spectrum. It conveys that the role of government is more than just getting the economics right.
The new politics of the Alberta NDP is family centric, inclusive of the complete economic spectrum, but distrustful of CEO elites (especially those who threaten to withdraw their charitable donations to children’s hospitals).
This new politics will also have to speak to Millennials, who represent the average age in Alberta – 34.
Many young voters have just begun their lifelong investment in representative democracy with this election. It would be a good idea for the Notley government to be mindful of their desire for inclusive and diverse work environments, environmental stewardship, and economic diversification. All of these Millennial desires will probably be helped by rising oil prices over the coming year. With a little luck, Notley may be able to govern into a first-term economic boom as oil prices rebound.
Progressives across the country will also be watching for indications of how Notley’s team resonates in the post-election polls, in advance of the Oct. 19 federal election.
NDP wins only 40.6% of popular vote
Interestingly, the main knock on Canada’s ‘first past the post’ electoral system, namely the Harper government’s 39 per cent plurality giving them a majority government, is now vexing the Notley Crue with their 40.6 per cent of the popular vote. The Wildrose’s 21 seats and the PC’s 10, came with 51.8 per cent (24.2 per cent and 27.6 per cent respectively) of the votes cast. Many Canadians are now tiring of this notable ‘representation-by-population’ deficit, which in Alberta unfairly favours rural constituencies. Clearly there is much work to be done.
As the Calgary Chamber of Commerce motto states: Onwards! Let us wish the new premier well, and energy for the tasks at hand.
Mike Robinson has been CEO of three Canadian NGOs: the Arctic Institute of North America, the Glenbow Museum, and the Bill Reid Gallery. He currently writes for a broad range of Canadian media, and consults to the boards of start-up NGOs.
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