Joe McFarland: Can Albertans say ‘minority government’?

$10 million in provincial grants will go towards helping 294 projects province-wide. Shallima Maharaj, Global News

Pop quiz: name the only province not to have been governed by a minority government.

If you guessed Alberta, you would be correct.

A quick look through history would show we went from the Liberals to the United Farmers of Alberta to the Social Credit to the Progressive Conservatives to the current NDP government.

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On one hand, it does say something about Albertans knowing when a government is past its “best before date” and move on without easing into a new party at the helm.

On the other hand, Newton’s third law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. As this province went from what could have been described as centre-right for 44 years to hard left, one does wonder about what the spring election will have in store.

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While I have said I won’t be endorsing any party — as it’s not up to me to change your mind on how to vote — I will admit it concerns me that we have somehow pitted economic issues against social issues.

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Albertans have put up with a world of hurt on the economic side over the last few years and have a right to be upset. While the NDP government didn’t cause the price of oil to plummet, policy and personnel decisions have left this province’s oil and gas sector in a state of confusion.

If the NDP does win the next election, what will they do to entice the energy sector back to this province? What will they do to get the federal government to finally step up for the industry? And how do we get the economic engine of this province and arguably the country back on track?

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With the prospects of the United Conservative Party forming the next government, many are starting to question where they stand on social issues. Everyone knows where they stand fiscally, but many are wondering what kinds of decisions will be made on everything from LGBTQ issues to what kinds of cuts might be coming to the public sector, like teachers and doctors.

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I know some will claim I’m being alarmist on that last point, but let me explain.

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As a numbers guy, I know that eliminating the carbon tax and cutting corporate tax means less income coming into the province. Yes, that cut to the corporate tax may mean more businesses feel it’s worth coming to our province.

The question becomes: is it enough to offset what’s being lost? And if it’s not, then what are we replacing that lost revenue with? If it’s not being replaced, then what kinds of cuts are in the cards, especially if the expectation is that we are going to balance the books sooner rather than later?

What this all boils down to is: I have a lot of questions.

While I’m admittedly not a big fan of polls, I did find one commissioned by Ipsos for Global News back in 2015 stating that a majority of Albertans would have wanted a minority government. While they didn’t know who should lead that government, it became clear that many felt they would be holding their nose while voting.

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I have spoken to a lot of people over the last couple of months who still say they don’t know who they are going to vote for. I know staunch progressives who feel the province has been hung out to dry and realize a change is needed, while I know staunch fiscal conservatives who worry about what this province will stand for socially.

One comment that bothered me recently came following the whole Prab Gill-Jeremy Nolais video controversy when UCP MLA Jason Nixon claimed NDP staffers never made efforts to visit with UCP MLAs.

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Think about that for a second.

Even if Nixon is exaggerating the point — maybe they do meet — it’s the tone that has been prevalent in the legislature for quite some time. It’s the “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” mentality that is grating to many Albertans. If you have watched even a minute of Question Period, you would know exactly what I’m talking about.

A few people have said to me that Stephen Harper’s best work came while he was in charge of a minority government.

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While I wasn’t a fan of going to the polls every year, it forced parties to work together to avoid upsetting the electorate.

I understand that without electoral reform before the election or without super-strategic voting, we could never guarantee a minority government, but maybe it’s something that would do this province a whole lot of good.

I will admit that neither of the two perceived frontrunners — the NDP and the UCP — have impressed me in the way they have acted during the last few months. I even mused recently that maybe Albertans should be looking at other options like the Freedom Conservative Party, Alberta Party, Liberal Party or any of the others placing candidates into the mix.

I’m a fan of political chaos and breaking up the status quo, to be honest.

Failing that, a minority government would be good for this province.

It would keep both of the main parties in check and would give us a glimpse as to whether they are capable of working together and, ultimately, being worthy of forming a majority government down the road.

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