Why Albertans vote for status quo, every time

Alberta’s ruling party staged the most specular salvage operation since the discovery of the Titanic. … Don Braid, Calgary Herald political columnist

“You know, my life is good, and the PCs have played a big part in that in government over the years’,” Bill Smith, PC Party president

12 consecutive majority governments since 1971. The latest challenge to this dynasty successfully fended off, at least for another four years. Local and national pundits are spilling gallons of Internet ink to explain how and why Alison Redford’s Progressive Conservatives fended off the challenge from Danielle Smith’s Wildrose. But it’s ridiculously simple.

Albertans need their provincial government to be predictable.

They don’t need it to be effective. They don’t need it to be competent. They need it to be predictable.

We are terrified of political change.

This is why Wildrose’s storm at the citadel was initially so successful. The “new” party wasn’t offering anything new: it wasn’t going to move Alberta forward. It split off from the Progressive Conservative party alleging that the Mothership had changed too much; to use University of Calgary history professor David Bercuson’s phrase, even before Redford took the helm, “’these [weren]’t your grandfather’s’ Tories.”

Wildrose was going to take Alberta back. Not forward. See, and that works here. We are terrified of political change and uncertainty.

And it’s not because we’re backward, redneck, ignorant, stupid, narrow-minded, or risk-averse. It’s because we’ve got too much risk elsewhere in our lives. What fuels our economy, what makes this province rich—and by extension, contributes to the wealth of this country—is such a risky business. We throw money down deep dark holes in the ground. We make million—and now billion—dollar bets. On exploration. On development. Then commodity prices. And we’re held hostage by those prices—set by world markets and events over which we have zero control.

Remember what the “Great World Financial Crisis” did to you in 2008? Greater and lesser variations of that happen to Alberta all the time. We go hot. We collapse. We bet it all… win big. Lose everything because of something that happens in Japan, India, the Gulf, Antarctica.

We’ve got no risk left to expend on political issues.

Wildrose gained momentum by appealing to that fear: by painting Redford as a bringer of that thing that terrifies us, change. But as the social intolerance of some of Wildrose’s candidates came to the fore, voting for Wildrose became an intolerable risk. As Globe columnist John Ibbitson writes, “How can a province that elected a Muslim mayor in Calgary and a Jewish mayor in Edmonton elect a government like Wildrose?” We didn’t. We couldn’t. We’re terrified of risk on the left—but we’re also terrified of risk on the extreme right.

Alberta votes for safety. Predictability. Change? Risk? Volatility? The world markets thrust it at us relentlessly. We don’t need it from our politicians.

An aside: The viral video I’d Never Thought I’d Vote PC has had more than 85,000 views

The New Democrats’ response video (with lower production values, incidentally), I Never Thought I’d Vote PC, So I Won’t, got 7,500.

And that pretty much says it all.

Marzena Czarnecka is a Calgary-based freelance business and legal affairs writer. How do you think she voted this election?

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