Monday, November 29, 2004

Landslide Ralphie

Only in small-c Alberta could a majority government with 75% of the seats and 48% of the popular vote be considered a bad election result. The small-l liberal and large-L Liberal chattering class crows about their great breakthrough and the imminence of a Liberal government after the next election. They crack me up.

Lorne Gunter (Edmonton Journal) and others have done some good analysis of the votes cast and I won't repeat it all here. Suffice to say that, while the Liberals increased their seat counts and percentage of popular vote, their vote totals actually decreased. Hardly the stuff of an electoral revolution or an imminent breakthrough.

What it does point out is what I heard at the door and on the phone in close to one hundred hours of volunteer time on eight different campaigns. People weren't particularly upset with their current MLA or candidate. They were particularly upset with Ralph Klein. It's obvious to anyone that Ralph has not been in top form for a while now; and his performance before and during the election cost some good people their jobs.

People couldn't bring themselves to vote Liberal or NDP; but they could bring themselves to stay home. That's exactly what happened and only 45% of Albertans bothered to go to the polls, an all-time low. We had the usual mathematicians who calculated that only about 22% of all Albertans actually voted for the government. They are probably part of the 55% who couldn't get their butts off the couch for half an hour to participate, and now they want to de-legitimize the result. Perhaps we should send them to the Ukraine for an exercise in struggling democracy.

What we saw in the Alberta election was not a cry for a new governing party, but a cry for new leadership. I appreciate, applaud and respect what Ralph Klein has done for Alberta; and he deserves all the kudos he'll get next year during Alberta's centennial celebrations. It is time, however, that we looked elsewhere for who will lead us post-2005. Anyone who has led a province or a country for more than ten years will have a tendency to get stale. It's sad to see Ralph risk becoming what thinking people hated about Jean Chretien; that is abusive, arrogant and self-entitled.

I don't think that Ralph has any intention of staying much beyond the time when the royal flight gets wheels in the well heading eastbound next year, or the centennial celebrations in September at the latest. I only hope that Rod Love and others can make our last year with Ralph a happy one. His departure needs to be an occasion of thankfulness that he was here and regret that he is leaving. It shouldn't become thankfulness that he is gone and regret that he was here. Over to you, Ralph.


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