The Alberta government is wringing every soundbite it can from the fall referendums and senator-in-waiting elections. We are two (three? More?) news conferences in, and we have yet to be told what the test questions will be.
So far, our new era of direct democracy is more of a talkfest on why we are having this circus than the issues themselves. Few Albertans outside of the party faithful are buying the UCP’s referendum justifications of a “promise kept” and saying yes to fairness will get pipelines built.
The less faithful are wondering what the referendums say about the state of the UCP: scared or scheming? The scared camp believes the UCP is frightened of its polling numbers and internal divisions. So scared the leadership is fantasizing that soft-ball questions about saving time and telling the rest of Canada to be more grateful for Alberta’s income tax dollars are the yellow-brick road to re-election. At least it might distract voters from mis-managed public finances, union knee-capping and grinding away at the social security net of the vulnerable in the name of saving a few dollars.
The scheming camp sees the referendums as a way for the UCP to get out the vote and elect some UCP-friendly local governments and school boards. Fluffy Direct Democracy 2021 also looks like the UCP is dipping its toes in the referendum lite waters to see what levers and manipulations work before rolling out its legacy Alberta Police and Pension Plan referendums.
While these are part of the UCP’s motivation for the referendums, they are not the base reason. The UCP and its govern-like-you-are-in-opposition style is driven by fear that Alberta, Canada and the world might not actually match up with the vision they see when they peer out of the Legislature’s tiny windows, or whatever tiny windows they like to peer out of.
The tumult of change that is our world is not the reality our UCP leadership wants to accept. To ward off the nagging doubts engendered by changing demographics, social justice demands, technology, climate and global economics, now ramped up even further by a change-accelerating pandemic, the UCP creates stories and fantasies to affirm the symbols of the world it wants to believe exists.
The UCP likes bedtime stories such as: properly run municipal elections produce right-thinking mayors and councillors; corporate tax cuts create jobs; gutting the public sector and cutting the salaries of those remaining balances budgets and maintains frontline services.
Popular UCP fantasies are: pouring public dollars into the dry well of oil and gas will create a stable economic future; a referendum on fairness will put being nicer to Alberta at the top of the national priority list or at least get pipelines built in other provinces and roll back federal climate change and environmental policies.
These and a long litany of stories and fantasies will be repeated and sound-bitten until the UCP convinces the world to listen or fails trying.
(Photo courtesy Jason Kenney’s Facebook page.)