In reviewing the events and behaviour in Alberta politics in the last few weeks, it becomes clear that the need for fixed election dates is more acute than ever.
For those who watch twitter, the traditional hashtag #ableg has become almost completely dysfunctional as partisan supporters of all stripes from literally cabinet ministers to anonymous accounts engage in an ever-heightening vitriolic battle to win the hearts of the one or two undecided people who may follow that hashtag.
In the news, editorials are becoming more harsh and investigative journos have been engaged in an ongoing game of “gotcha” as increased general political scrutiny exposes slips and scandals of varying degrees of severity and importance.
Alison Redford broke her promise for fixed election dates and instead substituted this “fixed election period” which has led us to this politically toxic mess. For weeks now we have been in an election that is not officially an election. Frustrated opposition members watch as a Progressive Conservative campaign bus tours the province, tax funded radio ads for the government of Alberta fill the airwaves and taxpayers fund fancy election planning retreats in Jasper for PC candidates while non-PC parties can’t even place a lawn sign yet.
Doors are being knocked as they have been for months but the early contacts are becoming stale as an easily distracted populace forgets a past candidates visit.
Candidates are being worn down and frustrated as their literature goes out of date and signs gather dust in garages or expensive campaign offices that can’t be fully opened yet. Expensive phone lines sit idle while volunteers tire and lose interest. The human cost can’t be understated here. While many don’t participate in politics it has to be kept in mind that the vast majority of people who do are volunteers whether candidates or campaign managers. These people are taking time off work and time out in their lives in order to pursue political change and having no real schedule makes this nearly impossible and terribly taxing physically and emotionally.
Elections Alberta tries to maintain the temporary staff that they have trained and they pay for booked office spaces while they wait for the formal election call that Redford appears afraid to make.
Worst of all an already cynical and increasingly apathetic electorate is becoming disgusted with politics as we live in this circus of a hybrid almost-campaign period. A fixed election date would not solve everything but it at least would put a light at the end of the tunnel and a deadline to the show.
Simply picking a day and sticking to it would have been Redford’s easiest promise to keep yet she broke it. The reason for this is clear. This election date tinkering provides a huge advantage to the party in power while it demoralizes and tires out opposition campaigns. It also however abuses and tires the electorate. Unfortunately Redford has demonstrated like so many other PC leaders that she cares about the retention of personal power far more than the interests of Albertans.
Just call the election and get it over with already Redford. Show a little glimmer of principle for the first time in your short leadership.