I grew up in Alberta in a dyed true blue Conservative family. We voted Conservative, we thought Conservative. Like religion, we followed our parents. My brother, the eldest, was a young Conservative and became a member of parliament and minister under Peter Lougheed. He was considered a red Tory, a more liberal thinking Conservative. Alberta was so Conservative that Albertans could barely even recognize that other parties existed. I like to refer to Alberta politics and the way people vote as the lemmings of Alberta; they’ll follow their leader unthinkingly into water or the abyss.
After high school I went to art college and I guess you can say that artists are rarely conservative thinkers. Art is often about challenging boundaries, whether one’s own or society’s. Nice and pretty art has its place but it doesn’t say much. Art is often political. Just ask those who have been incarcerated over time for their writing or paintings or performances. But that’s another post.
Alberta’s politics run to the Conservative party both provincially and federally. They’re predictable. BC is not. We’re known as a swing province. If we’re not happy, we’ll vote the other way but for a long time we’ve been a more liberal or left wing province. That’s why the Liberals under Gordon Campbell came into power, because they pretended to be Liberals when they were as conservative as Alberta’s Klein government or more. In fact, I always suspected that Klein and Campbell were political bed buddies. Campbell certainly looked at what Klein did, then streamlined it and ignored the people. Christy Clark, who has not yet been voted in by the populace, is more of a Liberal but who knows by how much. BC might be a Liberal province but it’s been a combination on the federal level. And there is no guarantee we will stay that way and hardly likely. We’ve been NDP, Social Credit and Liberal. We’re more link monkeys on the vine, swinging this way and that.
But back to the lemmings next door. In my family, as disillusionment grew and politics shifted my family all moved away from being Conservative. Like the province I live in I have voted Conservative, Liberal and NDP. My other family members vote different ways and even my once fully entrenched Tory brother had to finally declare he was becoming Liberal. Why? Because Prime Minister Harper’s Conservative party has become dictatorial and so far right wing that homophobia and religious ideals are coloring the politics, and unlike the US, Canadians don’t like to mix church and state. Harper barely hides it but as I’ve said, if you’re not white and not Christian and something happens to you in another country, you’re going to be SOL for government intervention. Harper hails from Alberta, rare in itself for a prime minister.
We call Alberta Little Texas, known for oil, cattle ranching and rednecks. The KKK has a stronghold there. It’s part of the Bible Belt, a strip that runs into the US and known for ultra-conservatism, right wing, religious views. But Alberta does have pockets of other…somewhat. In a way it was surprising to see the rise of the Wildrose Alliance to challenge the Conservative party’s 40-year rule. I didn’t pay a lot of attention but when the media said the Wildrose was right of the Conservatives a friend asked, “What, is it Attila the Hun?” There is something right of this? Wow. But then Alberta was the birthplace of the federal Reform party (or Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance party as they were known until it was pointed out it spelled CCRAP) which was a right wing answer to the federal Conservatives. The Reform party was absorbed back into the Conservative party and that’s when Harper and his ilk gained power. There have been accusations that the Wildrose party emulates attitudes that were found in the Reform party, such as homophobia, racism and narrow views about the rights of a woman to her own body.
Is it the truth? I suppose at least partially. It’s definitely what the media picked up on in the campaign that saw Alison Redford’s Conservatives back in power. But the Wildrose party did get seats and the polls predicted they’d win. Maybe the lemmings were frightened by change or maybe they feared Attila over Caesar but the Wildrose was definitely a thorn in Redford’s side. I guess from my perspective, (obviously biased and no longer immersed in that province’s politics) the biggest surprise is that such a conservative province actually has two female leaders.