What ‘Albertastan’ could mean for the country

Graphic by Joshua Awolade

Graphic by Joshua Awolade

It’s official: pigs are flying and hell has frozen over.  The province of Alberta elected a bunch of socialists to form their next government. I understand few reading this care about an election in Alberta, so why does this matter? Well on Oct. 18 (barring hell freezing over again), we’re having a federal election in this country, and a New Democratic Party victory in Alberta could mean a great deal.

Up until last month there was a clear path forward.

The Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta was on the road to a majority government in their election and the federal Conservatives were confident they would maintain their hold on the province and the country this fall with their tax-cut filled budget.

Justin Trudeau-mania was still in full swing among younger and progressive Canadians and the federal Liberal party was looking to unseat current Prime Minister Stephen Harper with some confidence this fall.

NPD lead Tom Mulcair spent his entire leadership trying to look happy and shouting at the wind about progressive ideas that, he swears, won’t increase your taxes.

The federal election would end with either a Liberal or Conservative minority and everything would make sense again.

Now, none of that is clear.

To recap the past three weeks in Canadian politics, things were unusual. Outside of Alberta, Prince Edward Island elected its first openly gay premier, Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberal party voted in favour of the wildly unpopular anti-terror bill C51 and the federal budget appears to have had no effect on Harper’s polling numbers.

When you put all that together and try to look ahead to the federal election this fall, you get one of the most uncertain electoral futures in the history of Canadian politics — all because Alberta decided to lose their minds and elect the NDP.

The Alberta election was so shocking that Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay joked that the province was now the province of ‘Albertastan.’

To many university students who were fans of Jack Layton, this may seem surprising. Younger Canadians have always had a partiality for NDP and never understood why their parents didn’t. Were it not for the election in Alberta, it’s likely this batch of Canadians would fall into the same pattern as their parents.

The NDP have always been Canada’s social conscience, but Canadians that were sympathetic to their policies continued to vote Liberal because they knew the NDP could never win. Now, for the first time in Canadian history, that might not happen. With a Liberal party that’s looking more and more like conservatives-lite and a prime minister associated with scandals a-plenty, voting for the NDP doesn’t seem so crazy anymore.

We’ve seen it in Waterloo before. A place that had never, provincially or federally, voted for the NDP elected Catherine Fife when scandal-plagued Dalton McGuinty looked like he was trying electoral tricks.

The election this fall is so unpredictable because for the first time it’s not unrealistic for Canadians from Vancouver to St. John’s to think the NDP could form government. Harper and Trudeau should rightfully be scared of the implications of Alberta 2015 because when people stop being scared of voting for who they really want, that’s when the NDP thrives.

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