(The April 16 election in Alberta saw the defeat of Rachel Notley’s NDP government, by Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party (UCP), which elected 64 MLAs to 23 for the NDP, almost all in Edmonton. Four Communists were on the ballot in Edmonton and Calgary, the largest number since the 1980s. The following commentary was posted by the Communist Party-Alberta on its Facebook page.)
The election is over – so now we will do what we do the day after every election – immediately go on with our plans to work with our allies and like-minded people in progressive movements to build the biggest and broadest possible militant defense of existing workers’ rights – put forward our ideas for the biggest and broadest possible unity around a program to extend workers’ rights and human rights – to extend the discussion beyond workers’ rights to workers’ power.
The election of Jason Kenney and the UCP is bad news for Indigenous communities, bad news for women, bad news for LGTBQ, bad news for the environment and bad news for workers – including the insecure and angry energy sector workers whose votes were courted by both NDP and UCP with promises of pipeline construction.
Both major parties worked to keep the election debate inside the bounds of the fantasy world where customers will continue to want to buy expensive and dirty tar sands bitumen, despite the economic attraction and the environmental imperative of renewable energy.
The NDP campaign, emphasizing social services and exposing Kenney’s profoundly reactionary record on social issues, was supplemented by an Alberta Federation of Labour campaign, emphasizing the negative effects on future employment if the UCP tax-cut and anti-labour promises were carried out. It wasn’t sufficient to win over enough additional voters to offset the newly reunited right-wing United Conservative Party.
The 2015 NDP victory arose not just from support for the NDP but from the fact that the right was fairly evenly divided between the old Tory party and the Wild Rose, allowing the NDP to take 62% of the seats with 41% of the popular vote. This time round the NDP won only 28% of the seats with 33% of the popular vote. However, the NDP post-election message is about their long term hopes for an electoral rebound, with no talk of engaging with mass movements in extra-parliamentary struggle.
Despite Kenney’s election night gloating, including promises to institute official government persecution of environmentalists, there has been no major shift in public opinion on social issues, and LGBTQ activists and their allies are planning mass actions to defend the safety of high schoolers in GSA clubs and trans-gendered people climate change activists are continuing their Friday student strike events, anti-fascists are becoming more united and effective. If the union movement and its allies can move quickly to provide leadership to disappointed energy sector workers, as their hopes of secure employment are dashed, we could see an upsurge in struggle in Alberta in the coming year.