It took only two minutes for Progressive Conservatives and four minutes for the Wildrose to issue statements criticizing Premier Rachel Notley’s TV address on Thursday night, April 7.
One really wonders how swiftly the leaders of the two opposition parties weighed and judged the elements of the speech and decided that its contents were visionless and offered no solutions to the problems of the population of the province. One should also note that Wildrose statement even included an audio format, which should probably require at least half an hour to record, edit and upload to Internet.
And these reactions came despite the fact that Premier Notley left the disclosure of many new initiatives aimed at diversifying the economy and job creation to the announcement of the budget this week.
Interestingly enough, none of the provincial opposition parties came out in support of Rachel Notley when she took on the delegates at the national convention of her own NDP over the weekend and criticized their Leap Manifesto for being ill-informed and naive, and defended Alberta’s energy sector and construction of pipelines to carry province’s oil to open sea ports. Aren’t these exactly what both PCs and Wildrose want?
In multi-party democracies, the opposition has a vitally important role, which is to keep the governing political force in check, force it to correct its mistakes, propose policy alternatives and thereby serve the interests of the electorate even without the privilege of running the government machinery.
Are the provincial opposition parties really doing a good job on that score?
For instance, has the main opposition Wildrose offered any alternative economic prescription other than continuing to focus on the energy sector, which is the source of the main conundrum the province finds itself in?
In all fairness, Notley government has been trying to address a very serious situation which it had very little to do in creating. Any political organization that would be governing the province now would have to be dealing with the same problems and would, regardless of what the opposition says, definitely have a big budget deficit.
That doesn’t mean that the current provincial government is free of mistakes. On the contrary, the NDP government has a serious problem of failing to put its ducks in order: From education to healthcare to agriculture, there is a lot of organizational confusion as to who should be performing which tasks and what manner.
The infamous Bill 6, drafted and swiftly carried through the Legislature without proper consultation with not only various stakeholders but also the agriculture minister in the cabinet himself, is a good example of how clumsily the government handled some important issues so far.
But, again in all fairness, one should not forget that NDP is the first party to come to power after the downfall of the 41-year-old PC dynasty; every new government needs to go through a learning curve.
The important thing that needs to be emphasized here is the fact that Premier Notley did sound like admitting the mistakes they have made and appeared to be asking the electorate for a second chance when she said “Let’s leave the divisive battles of the past in the past, and keep working together”.
Should her government be given the benefit of the doubt?
Currently it seems there is not really another option.
With its majority in the Legislature, NDP is certain to govern the province until the next election and all the Wildrose and PCs can do is to criticize them.
But the opposition should be well advised to consider the current circumstances in charting their course of action: There is still a lot of time until the next elections and a rebound of the oil prices until then is perfectly possible.
If they fail to demonstrate a better performance, one that will go further than criticism for the sake of criticism, then they might not be rewarded with the opportunity to take the seat of power in the next round.