Democracy struggles with tar

As former denizens of the tax hatin est, gun totin est, most cow eatin est and best educated est province in this glorious dominion (complete statistics only appeared in the print version), we were not especially surprised by the results of the election two days ago.The longed-for revolution just wouldnt make the leap off the written page. We find it amusing that this disappointed anyone.

Now, unlike sales of cowboy boots for once a year company pancake breakfasts, Alberta does not have a monopoly on low turnout (most western democracies without compulsory voting systems, like Australia, suffer from this problem to some degree.) That said, less than half the population voted and this is significant.

For the cities, our explanation is that money and low density discourage voter turnout. Calgary and Edmonton are grey stains on the landscape, furiously leaking into the farmland around them, and neither city has a mayor willing to bite the bullet and slow things down  the economy is booming and theres too much demand. It is preferable to cry for provincial infrastructure funds and avoid long-term planning.

Things just arent bad enough. Other than traffic and a lack of parking, with even supermarkets putting out neon signs advertising $15 per hour cashier jobs, it would take a major catastrophe for the greying electorate to rouse themselves out of their Coca-cola comas and consider voting, let alone for anyone other than the Conservatives. Suburbanites inevitably have an entitled attitude towards government, since their public social interactions are limited to looking at the car next to them. These are not people with a strong sense of the obligations of citizenship, they live in a delusion of independence encouraged by multiple cars, single-family homes and high incomes.

The leadership issue was a red herring. A plate of beans has more charisma than Ed Stelmach, and would be the premier if it was on the ballot in Conservative blue. The failure of the other parties notwithstanding, Jesus himself could have emerged out of the tar sands and he would have struggled to get elected for any other party.

As for the rural constituents, they did as rural constituents tend, and the system gave them a disproportionate voice, but this still doesnt account for the Conservative domination. The electorate didnt want change, which feels more risky during a boom than a bust, and so they didnt go to vote.

Until things start going terribly wrong, and it will likely take some time (Extra! Extra! Maybe not? before they do, Albertans will sleepily hold the Conservatives hand into a future of endless oil revenues, low taxes and bad traffic.

As usual, you read it here first.A parallel can be drawn to the federal Conservatives, with most Canadians feeling like they havent done anything crazy yet, and the opposition strategy appearing to be, were  killing time until they do.


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