Lessons for the USA in Alberta Election: People Don't Like Extremism, Even In Conservative Territory

Wild Rose Bus/Screen capture

Alberta is home of the oil industry and the tar sands, and is often thought of as Texas North. It has had a Progressive Conservative government for over forty years. But they were too progressive for some, and notwithstanding the really unfortunate graphic design on their bus, Danielle Smith and her Wildrose party were expected to sweep into power last night. All the polls predicted it.

Instead, they got killed, gaining only 19 seats to the PC's 60. What happened? It certainly wasn't environmental policies, both Premier Redford and Smith are gung-ho on the oil sands. But Smith was a public skeptic, saying the usual: "The science isn’t settled, If we’re going to embark on this path, we’ve got to be darn sure that the science makes sense." The party called anyone who said anything against the tar sands "environmental extremists." She promised to cancel a big carbon capture project.

Some say this video had a lot to do with it, telling young people who previously wouldn't be caught dead voting PC that they had better hold their noses and get out and vote PC. But there are other things that relate directly to what the hard right is saying in the United States. John Ibbitson writes in the Globe and Mail:

In 2012, you can’t go around warning that homosexuals will burn in hell, as one Wildrose candidate did, or that ethnic minorities can only speak to their own kind, as another did.

You especially cannot, as Ms. Smith did, defend such comments as a matter of religious conscience, or something that can be taken care of with a quick and only half-hearted apology.

Oh, and trying to reframe the abortion issue or those who oppose gay marriage in the context of “conscience rights” doesn’t appear to go down well either.

In the end, all of the "undecided" went to the less radical, if still conservative party. The cities went solidly PC. Young people went solidly PC. The extremists got their hard core vote and that was it.

Could the same thing happen to the Republicans in the United States?

Tags: Alberta | Tar Sands

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