Sunday #17: April 22, 2012 – Heigh ho! Heigh Ho! It’s off to the polls we go! (But what do we do when we get there?)

So tomorrow Albertans go to the polls. I hope more will go this time than last. In 2008, only 41% of eligible voters cast ballots. I didn’t vote in the last election because I wasn’t living here, so I couldn’t. But low voter turnout in any election in this country puzzles me. We as a nation have fought for democracy for ourselves and for others around the globe, yet many Canadians do not take advantage of it come election time. I wish more people would care enough to do the right thing and vote. I wish more people would care enough to sacrifice one little hour to contribute to making decisions that directly impact our future.

With the potential for change in the air in Alberta for the first time in decades, I think more people will take the time to get out on April 23. I know I will be going out to vote tomorrow, even though I honestly still don’t know who to vote for as the clock winds down on this election drama.

As my husband Roland will tell you, I am great at deciding what I don’t want. Sometimes, like now, I just can’t figure out what I do want. I know I don’t want another PC government. Alison Redford’s talk of change is just that—talk.

I am not a PC supporter. I never have been. When Redford was chosen as PC leader last fall, though, I decided not to make an immediate judgment about her. Since she was our first female premier, I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. I waited. I watched. I listened. For months.

But in the end, I realized that Alison Redford is just another conservative (and Conservative) premier. She is no different from those before her. Alison Redford is a relative newcomer to the Alberta political scene, first elected in 2008. But don’t let that confuse you; her “newness” to Alberta politics does not mean that her political views or her tactics are new.

Redford is just like the previous PC premiers. She breaks promises as readily as she makes them. In late February, for example, she reneged on her promise to investigate whether Alberta doctors are bullied and/or rebuked for advocating for patients. This is only one example among many of how Redford is untrustworthy and dishonest, but it is an important one. If bullying of doctors is not investigated, it will continue, so it will continue to jeopardize health care quality in Alberta.

In addition, Redford broke a promise she made during the PC leadership race last year to set a fixed election date. Instead, the new law only requires an election be called every four years between March 1 and May 31. Although she accomplished a change to electoral law, she did not make the change she promised. Her decision appears to be motivated by the fact that before this election was finally called, the PCs had bogged down in a swamp of controversies that left her concerned about victory (and recent polls lead one to conclude that she was right to be concerned). Redford wanted to maintain her power over the election date in order to manipulate the date of this one to her advantage (which she seems to have nonetheless failed to do).

Alison Redford reminds me of a smooth but shady tradeshow salesman. She stands before us, speaking mostly from a prepared script. Like Conservative premiers before her, she spouts meaningless promises that she knows she will not keep. She is trying to sell us something—herself—so she says whatever she must say to make that sale. If you ask her a question, she supplies the answer she thinks you want to hear. It doesn’t matter that she gave the opposite answer to someone else only moments ago. To sweeten the deal, she throws in a little extra—something she believes you deeply desire. If you buy what she’s selling, you will get it home to discover it is not exactly what she promised. I wouldn’t buy anything from a shifty tradeshow salesman, and I wouldn’t buy anything from Alison Redford.

The trouble is figuring out who to trust. Certainly I don’t want Danielle Smith to be the premier or the Wildrose Party to be in power. To me, Smith is even harder to stomach than Redford and there is too much “wild” in Wildrose. Sure, Smith hasn’t broken any promises yet…. but that is only because she has never held a real political office (the board of education in Calgary does not qualify as a “real political office”). But Smith’s lack of experience is not what scares me most about her. In fact, there isn’t one thing about her that scares me; everything about her scares me.

Her attempts to bribe Albertans with “Dani Dollars.” Her intent to cut transit funding to big cities. Her threats to re-open the old Municipal Airport battle in Edmonton after we spent so many acrimonious years at war over it. Her claims that the jury is still out on global warming. Her refusal to stand up against members of her own party who are racist, anti-gay bigots, because she says those candidates’ personal views are none of her business or by extension ours (ignoring the fact that what you believe in guides everything you do, including how you vote on policy). I could go on, but I would run of steam from typing.

So, I know I don’t want a conservative or an even-more-conservative to win. So I am left with the left. Alberta Party is out of the question. I know too little about them, and they have virtually no chance of making any impact, even in a minority government situation. I am left with the NDP or the Liberals. So, who should I vote for?

Well, that is the hard question. I have read a lot this week about strategic voting, and I have been trying to determine the best way to cast a strategic vote in my riding. Unfortunately, every website or news article I read tells me that Edmonton-Glenora is the hardest riding in the province to strategically vote in. Super!

I spent hours the last few days reading poll results and commentary and listening to news about the Edmonton-Glenora candidates’ forum yesterday. And I still don’t have the answer. Ray Martin is well-known and respected and has been an MLA, leader of the NDP and leader of the Official Opposition. But he doesn’t actually live in my riding, and I have never respected that in the past. I want someone who lives in my riding to represent my riding. Bruce Miller has also been an MLA, though for fewer years than Martin. The problem is that he lost to Heather Klimchuk last time, so I am not sure whether he can beat her this time. (Having said that, I’d feel awful if he lost to Klimchuk by only a few votes again, and I voted NDP!)

The other question, of course, is which party has the best chance. Liberal fortunes seem to be on the wane, and some polls suggest they will not win any seats and will be wiped out of the legislature. The NDP surge in last year’s federal election suggests a similar trend could happen here, now. But in that surge the NDP won only one seat in Alberta, so it’s does not seem likely.

The sad truth is that the more I read, the less I know what to do. I have to do something, vote for someone. I can’t just give up and not bother. I value democracy too much for that, and, as George Jean Nathan, a writer and critic once said, “Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.”

I guess what I need, sometime between now and tomorrow, is some sort of divine insight. What do you think the chances of that are?

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