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Civility can be possible in politics

Posted on April 30, 2019 by Sunny South News

On April 30, United Conservative leader Jason Kenney and his cabinet will be sworn in to form a majority government with 63 seats.

Former premier Rachel Notley will lead the NDP as the official opposition with 24 seats. Given that both parties represent opposite ends of the political session, and there is no other party with a seat in the legislature — effectively making Alberta a two-party province — we can expect some rather lively exchanges when the legislative assembly is sitting.

There is little doubt that the next four years will be abuzz with action. Kenney has promised his first bill would be to repeal the carbon tax, and plans to undo many of the NDP’s achievements over the past four years, such as stopping incentives for renewable energy projects and repealing farm safety legislation. The NDP will in turn throw up as much opposition as possible, which will be hard with a majority government, especially since the UCP control about 72 per cent of the seats in the legislature now. They can afford a little dissent and still push legislation through.

Still, it is not a matter of if shouting matches in the legislature start, but a matter of when.

While party members both blue and orange talk about cooperation and working together to better Alberta, if the election was an indication, those are just talking points. During the scant few weeks between when it was called and when the polls closed, stories such as stolen, defaced or fake signs and robocalls of supposed leaders urging voters to vote for another party were, unfortunately, not uncommon.

Mudslinging and hyper-partisanship is the new norm in politics, and if you’re not with us, you’re against us.

Or is it?

At the same time Alberta was holding its election, another province was preparing for one as well.

On April 23, voters in P.E.I. elected a minority Progressive-Conservative government, with Green Party being named the Official Opposition and the former Liberal government losing several seats. It will be first minority government in P.E.I. since 1890, and premier-elect Dennis King and Green Party leader Peter Bevan-Baker soon committed to work together.

Unlike with our premier and opposition leader, there actually seems like there is a chance that they truly mean it.

Additionally, after the tragic death of Green Party candidate Josh Underhay and his young son died in a canoeing accident on Good Friday, not only did the Green Party suspend their campaign for the scant few days before their election, all the other parties suspended campaign activities that weekend too, a move the Bevan-Baker applauded. A by-election for that seat will instead be held in a few months.

Maybe it is P.E.I.’s size. The 2018 census put the province’s population at 153,244 — much smaller than Alberta’s capital Edmonton’s population of about 981,000. Being only 5,660 square kilometres, although denser populations have been packed into smaller places — Edmonton is 825.3 square km by comparison — it is apparently easy to know everyone, as Bevan-Baker used to be a dentist and said he treated King’s family.

Still, the race was remarkably clean. According to media reports, there has been no mudslinging in this election. King and Bevan-Baker even hugged it out the day after election before appearing on CBC Radio’s Island Morning with Mitch Cormier show.

True, while that may be hamming it up for the proverbial camera, it may have been genuine given that they knew each other outside of politics.

Overall, the election in P.E.I. showed that yes, it is possible for to conduct a full-scale campaign with decency and respect to your opponents, and that you don’t need to resort to cheap tactics to get your point across. Maybe you all don’t agree on what needs to be done to make your home better, but that’s okay.

Unlike Alberta, where the last month of politics was more akin to fight club.

Yes, the political arena in Alberta is highly charged. With any outcome from this past election promising to be historic, and with a large population being so spread out, we are bound to get some very different people with passionate opinions on the future direction of this province. But how does defacing signs add to politics? How do phony robocalls contribute to the discussion? What will name-calling do to provide public services? These things do nothing but leave a bad taste in voter’s mouths and make our politicians look foolish.

The federal election will take place this fall, and for the last few months, politicians have been promising it will get nasty. Hopefully, they will take a leaf out of P.E.I.’s book, and decide that it doesn’t have to be that way.

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