Alberta shows progressive alternatives can win

Immediately following the Alberta NDP’s historic and exhilarating election victory, the spin masters and political pundits went into full action. Some said the NDP’s victory was little more than a protest vote against the Conservative’s 44-year reign. Others put it all down to NDP leader Rachel Notley’s charisma, claiming that whatever party she led would have won.

There’s no question Premier-elect Notley is politically savvy, charismatic, intelligent, appealing to ordinary Albertans and ran an excellent campaign with her team. But to attribute the Alberta’s NDP’s election victory to protest votes and to Premier Notley’s charisma is demeaning to Notley, her team and to the 603,000 Albertans who voted for the NDP.

At the core of the NDP’s campaign was a comprehensive, progressive and fully-costed platform Notley and her team crafted that clearly appealed to ordinary Albertans—and not just the CEOs who tried to scaremonger about it.

The Alberta NDP’s platform and now mandate includes progressive tax measures, including: increasing Alberta’s corporate income tax rate from 10% to 12%, reintroducing a progressive income tax so the richest 10 percent pay more than the current 10 per cent flat tax rate, reversing regressive health care levies and user fees that hurt families the most. and a resource royalty review so Albertans receive a better share from the exploitation of their natural resources, putting the additional revenues raised into the province’s Heritage Fund.

They will also take action to create jobs, increase wages, and diversify the economy, by restoring the province’s youth job creation program, introducing a new job creator tax credit, raising Alberta’s minimum wage to $15 by 2018, and by diversifying the economy, particularly by increasing the value-added and processing of the province’s natural resources—instead of relying on exports of raw bitumen.

Protecting and improving public services was a major element of their platform that appealed to Albertans, particularly following the Conservative government’s threatened cuts. Commitments include stable and predictable funding for heath care, education and municipalities. In health care, this includes protecting and improving public health care, expanding public long-term care beds, improving primary care, and ending the province’s costly experiments in privatization, redirecting the funds to public services. In education it includes phasing in all-day kindergarten, investing in child care, and a tuition freeze for post-secondary education

On environmental issues, the Notley government will take leadership on climate change, including phasing out coal fired electricity generation, establishing a green retrofitting loan program and strengthening environmental standards, monitoring and enforcement. Promotion of equality is an important part of their agenda, with creation of a women’s ministry, more family friendly employment standards, more spaces in women’s shelters and more support for family, children’s and community services. The new government’s mandate also includes commitments involved in a renewed partnership with Indigenous Peoples of Alberta.

Increasing honesty and ethics in government and in decisions over government contracts was a major issue in the campaign with a Conservative government that was seen as running the province as its own crony fiefdom, not interested in increasing transparency, accountability or democratic oversight.

And democracy responded loudly. Voter turnout in this election increased to the highest rate in 22 years, with many, especially younger Albertans, voting for the first time. And they voted for an indisputably progressive, but also reasonable agenda, given where Alberta’s policies have been, without pandering to powerful corporate and business interests.

Yes, leadership and campaigns matter, but the success of the Alberta NDP also shows there is a strong political alternative to austerity, inequality and regressive neoliberal economic policies—and that voters will support it.

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