NDP Leader Rachel Notley and UCP Leader Jason Kenney faced off in the Alberta election on Tuesday, April 16.
It’s over. The best news is that this election campaign was only 28 days long, albeit it seemed like forever. Chicken Little is back on his roost; the sky has not fallen; the sun has come up.Now the real work begins, not just for the winners, but also for all of us. Alberta’s fortunes have not improved in 24 hours, but they haven’t sunk any further. Whatever rancour remains after this negative, insulting and personal campaign needs to be set aside, as fanciful as that sounds after being pummelled mercilessly since the UCP killed off the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose, raised its united head, and started chewing the scenery.Nonetheless, the first moron who tries to perpetuate the lingering sulphuric taste in the air needs to move elsewhere. Try Ontario, where the premier is attempting to make my last name a curse and the province a laughing stock.Meanwhile, the rest of us will return to who we are: Albertans first. We may not like the outcome, but that’s over. So what’s next?Where does one start?One of the first positive moves we can make as citizens it to give our heads a shake.If 2019 is the year Alberta devolved into an American-style personal election of two leaders and not 87 members of the legislative assembly. We are all responsible for such lazy actions. It would be easy to blame Jason Kenney or Rachel Notley for making the election about them, not about the people who will actually go to Edmonton and represent their ridings. But we bought whole-heartedly into the easy narrative of whether we want this person or another to be the premier. We actually had little say in the matter. We are a parliamentary system and whoever is the leader of whatever party takes the most seats is granted that privilege. It does not come as a fiat.It truly is not a personal popularity contest. Indeed, while there are 13 parties in Alberta politics, only four (five, if one wants to count either the Freedom Conservative Party or the Greens) actually count, regardless what the fringe candidates would like the voter to believe: New Democrats, United Conservatives, Liberals and the Alberta Party.For the four main party leaders, the reality is only those voters in Edmonton-Strathcona (Notley); Calgary-Lougheed (Kenney); Calgary-Mountain View (David Khan) and Edmonton-McClung (Stephen Mandel) got to directly vote for a party leader. As for the FCP, led by Derek Fildebrandt (Chestermere-Strathmore) and Greens, led by Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes (Calgary-Varsity), both ran against a full slate.In the inevitable post-mortems, which began last night as soon as the polls closed, much of the analysis will focus on the leaders’ messaging.With few exceptions, the losers will shrink back into obscurity; the winners, for the most part, will go to Edmonton and a different form of obscurity. Many will largely become automatons, voting at their party’s pleasure and whim.Forget local concerns, they will be met with bland platitudes and polite dismissal, unless whatever personally affects you and your family happens to correlate with government decisions and policy. Then you will be trotted out before people like me to explain and extol how the Alberta government is “listening to the people.”Am I cynical? Not necessarily, but having been in this business for more than 50 years, I’ve learned something along the way — beware of anger politics and those who benefit from it. It demeans all who engage in it. Mucking around in a swamp is not fit adult behaviour.Why am I taking you through Politics 101 the day after an enervating provincial election? Because October and the federal election is only six months away. If we continue to vote like lemmings, that campaign will be little different than the one we’ve just been through — nasty, brutish and short, the latter being its only surcease.You’ve been suitably warned.Catherine Ford is a regular columnist for the Calgary Herald.