Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Prairie winds of change

In yesterday's Globe and Mail were two interesting articles pointing to political upheaval in two otherwise politically stable provinces: Alberta and Saskatchewan.

In a CTV interview, Preston Manning predicts rocky times ahead for Premier Stelmach. His compromise on royalties may have been a perfect one thus pleasing nobody. Manning expresses doubts that the decades long Progressive Conservative regime will be reelected saying that:
I think it's becoming increasingly unlikely unless, say, the government demonstrates a capacity that it hasn't shown thus far. I don't see votes going to the Liberals or the NDP. I think their biggest danger is another 150,000 people staying home who voted Conservative the last time and then that puts dozens and dozens of seats up for grabs.
Meanwhile, in the adjacent province of Saskatchewan, another longtime government, this time NDP, is also in jeopardy.

In this column, Janice MacKinnon, a former NDP finance minister argues that the Calvert government is out of touch, tapped out of ideas and that it will cost them. She argues:
The lesson to be learned is that when designing future social policies, political parties cannot merely return to the traditional idea of universal social programs. Instead, they must be more imaginative. They should build upon targeted programs, such as the National Child Benefit, which links benefits to income and is affordable in the long-term.
Another point made was the dearth of discussion in the election over Equalization. She notes that:
Equally revealing in the campaign was the role played by equalization - or rather non-role. Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert had been the most outspoken ally of Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams in attacking the federal Conservatives for breaking their promise on equalization. For several months before the campaign, the NDP government focused on how the province had been shortchanged in its equalization entitlements. Yet during the election, equalization was hardly mentioned. Why? In part, the call for $800-million more in equalization funding at a time when the province is booming is at the very least confusing. Just as important, many voters do not understand or care about equalization. It is not a program that affects them directly.
Her final observation has as much to do with this province as it does with Saskatchewan:
The final campaign development of note has been the very transformation of Saskatchewan itself. In the past the province was called "next year country," reflecting the eternal optimism of a province that has seen its share of tough times. But with high commodity prices, an extensive research infrastructure centring on national facilities like the Canadian Light Source synchrotron, and an influx of people from Alberta, there is a feeling the province is on the cusp of a new era. Rather than fighting with federal governments over entitlements rooted in the past, people in Saskatchewan want to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities of the future. They sense what economic forecasters have predicted: Saskatchewan is joining Alberta and British Columbia as a major economic force in Western Canada.
How far are we from that point?

No comments: