Alberta Election Was a Referendum on Entitlement

It was the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae of entitlement.

On Monday, the day before the Alberta election, the province’s four largest newspapers — the Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Sun, Calgary Herald and Calgary Sun — endorsed the Progressive Conservatives.

Now, newspapers endorsing parties is nothing new, but every major newspaper in Alberta being owned by one company is new. (Postmedia acquired the Calgary Sun and Edmonton Sun this March when the Competition Bureau signed off on the purchase.)

What else appears to be new is that the Edmonton Journal (which did not endorse in 2012) was asked to endorse not by local management, but by head office in Toronto, according to editor-in-chief Margo Goodhand.

Asked by Canadaland who chose to endorse the PCs, Goodhand responded: "The owners of the Journal made that call.”

It’s hard to imagine a better way for Postmedia to undermine its own credibility than by dictating editorial policy in Alberta — from Toronto of all places.

As new Premier Rachel Notley said in the last days of the campaign: “Alberta doesn’t belong to any political party. Alberta is not a PC province, it’s not a Wildrose province. Alberta belongs to Albertans.”

As a born and bred Albertan with an election-watching obsession, it’s that quote that best sums up why Alberta voters made the leap to electing a majority NDP government. Albertans like to be their own bosses.

For a long time, they thought voting PC made that so, but this time, that changed — at least for the 40 per cent of voters who selected an NDP candidate on the ballot.

“The unprecedented New Democrat surge in Alberta was certainly abetted by a Conservative regime that looked out of touch and, frankly, acted like a dysfunctional family that needed counselling,” wrote Gary Mason in the Globe and Mail on Wednesday.

The first big blunder was made by PC Leader Jim Prentice, when he said Albertans needed to “look in the mirror” when it came to the fiscal mess the province is in.  Albertans weren’t too pleased about being blamed for a problem created by decades of fiscal mismanagement.

Next up, Prentice insinuated during the televised leaders debate that Notley couldn’t do math.

That moment was the embodiment of so much that had become wrong with Alberta politics — old, white guys so entitled that they think they can treat everyone from average Albertans to smart female political leaders with condescension.

The Edmonton Journal’s editorial on Wednesday (not written by Postmedia bosses in Toronto by the look of things) hit the nail on the head:

“The one thing we know about Notley and all of these fresh new faces that now govern us is this: They will not take their victory for granted. They have never been the ruling party, and they well know that governing this province is a privilege, not an entitlement. That’s the lesson for all Alberta politicians this time around.”

More than a lesson for Alberta’s politicians, it’s a lesson for oil companies that had grown too tight with the PCs and too full of their own sense of entitlement. Aided by the government, they’d begun to lose sight of the fact the resources they are digging up actually belong to Albertans.

The NDP has promised to review the royalty system: “The resources we have in Alberta belong to all of us, and the return we get on resources needs to be discussed publicly and regularly, openly and transparently.”

Unlike much of the fear mongering coming from the oil industry today, the NDP has made no indication that it will rashly move to increase royalties in the midst of slumping oil prices.

"Business is mobile," Adam Legge, president of the Chamber of Commerce in Calgary, said before the election. "Capital, people and companies move."

Well, apparently votes move too, Mr. Legge. And unless the world’s third largest proven reserve of oil is going to migrate outside of Alberta’s borders, it’s time for politicians and companies alike to stop taking Albertans and their resources for granted.

Image Credit: Jim Prentice via Flickr 

Emma Gilchrist is a reporter, editor, public speaker and spreadsheet-keeper. She started her journalism career more than 15 years ago…

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