There are few puzzles that match that of attempting to produce
some rational thought about politics in the province of Alberta. I suspect that those
who have the least awarenss of the topic are those who live in that province.
During the 1950s through out North America, the school curricullium was undergoing
some streamlining as the subjects of geography, history and civics were combined
into a single subject dubbed "social studies".
It was not a popular concept then and as it has turned out, most who consider what
we do with public education, figure it was just another of many errors. However,
the reason I point this interesting thing out, is that from Florida to Fairbanks,
SanDiego to Trois River the subject of social studies came into being.
Well not exactly, in the province settled primarily by Americans who were perhaps
more American than their folks back home, that subject was called "enterprise."
When the dirty thirties swept across the world throwing people out of work in the
great depression there arose a very powerful trend in politics toward more
socially aware forms of public policy. In the United States the President
implimented his "new deal" and in Manitoba
they talked of revolution and in Saskatchewan they formed the CCF the
most left leaning political party in North America to gain power. But there
was an exception, as the rest of the world moved one way, Alberta moved another
and completely opposite with a political party based on the economic theory of a
Scotsman named Major Douglas. Alberta, while the rest of North
America was reeling from the accesses of the collapse of the stock market, was
embracing with passion, the basics of capitalism to the max.
In 1968 I accepted my first principalship in the new oil town of Rainbow Lake,
a company town and I was shocked at the political attitudes of the folks who were
my adult associates. Alberta was in a period of continued Social Credit
governments which remained in power until Peter Lockheed put in place the
Alberta Conservative Party that was a little more to the right and therefore
more acceptable to the Alberta voter. Since then nothing has changed.
Decade after decade, Albertans, the 44% of those eligible to vote, go to the
poles and elect over and over the same bunch. The election yesterday is heralded
as a serious set back to the premier because his major declined by thirteen seats
still leaving them with sixty-one of the legislature's eighty-three seats, or about
three to one and the Alberta papers think that's a big loss for the sixty-two
year old former news reporter from Calgary who plans to retire near the end
of this new term in office.
Alberta sits atop the largest oil reserve in North America and with
the price of crude rising steadily, the province is debt free, has no sales tax and
its budget this year has a surplus about the same size, or perhaps larger than that
of the federal government, a whopping $9, billion.
Edwin Wallace sent me the headline for this story and the basic element of
the picture, as he and everyone who peers over the Alberta border wonder just
what the heck goes on over there.
One would think that with such enormous wealth the province would be looking after
its people better than any other province in Canada, but that just isn't the case.
Things are tough in Alberta for the poor and everyone has to pay out of pocket
health premiums, their electrical power is among the highest rates in the country
and their education system about the same as its neighbours.
I, as an opinionated and not especially unbiased individual, have for some years
thought, that the average Albertan is just not very bright. This is not to cast any
negativity on people with low mental ability, but rather to suggest that no matter
what their potential, Albertans as a group of people, are indolent and a shameful
lot. Instead of making something of their province, turning all that money into a
place of wonder for their fellow Albertans, they spend all of their energy on trying
to amass individual wealth for themselves. In general, if I see a person with his
shirt tail hanging out, driving a gas guzzling pickup truck, a beer can in his right
hand and his baseball hat on backwards, I think of him as an Albertan, or perhaps
a Saskatchewan guy wanting to become an Albertan.
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Editor : Timothy W. Shire
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