"Alberta's politics began cracking during the last economic boom, and will keep on cracking until there's a fundamental realignment of parties. The province is simply far too sophisticated and diverse for all of its ambitions, frustrations and fissures to be accommodated in one big, sprawling party," writes Jeffrey Simpson, The Globe and Mail's national affairs columnist and a regular visitor to Alberta, in Wednesday's column.
Mr. Simpson took reader questions about Alberta politics Wednesday afternoon. Here are some excerpts:
Question: I believe the key to changing the Alberta leadership would be to engage the 40 and below age categories. Conservatives keep getting voted in, because the same rural Albertans (over 40) are the only ones going to the polls. How do you see this changing in Alberta?
Jeffrey Simpson: It's true in politics generally than older people vote more frequently than younger voters, so what you have identified is not an Alberta problem. It is also true, however, that sometimes movements for change start or are accentuated by younger people joining a process (see Egypt today, see Obama's election campaign). The election of the mayor of Calgary clearly had something to do with younger people who had not been involved in politics before becoming engaged behind his candidacy. A party that had a vision for Alberta that was forward-looking and progressive, that wanted to do more about the environment and education, might be an attractive one to younger, urban Albertans. So would political actors who spoke in more sophisticated language than recent premiers.
Question: Jeffrey, how much of the dissatisfaction with the government do you see as being due to the effects of the economic downturn in the province, due to the decline in, particularly gas, royalties, and do you see it dissipating with the economic revival which now seems to be underway?
Jeffrey Simpson: I actually don't see the cracking that is underway as much related to the recession. After all, the recession hasn't produced a political cracking elsewhere in Canada. I think these fissures have been under the surface of Alberta politics since mid-way during the Klein years. They have been widening and deepening since then and are now more visible. But they were there for astute observers. ...
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