Are you looking forward to going to the polls for the Alberta election May 5?
There seems to be little appetite for a provincial election at this time. Even though it has been nearly three years since Albertans last cast their ballots, it feels like it wasn’t that long ago.
In the newspaper world elections are an exciting time. They are fun to cover, educational and hold a type of suspense few other news events come close to.
Though in Alberta there is little uncertainty as to which party will win the election (much the same as most other provinces), there is at least some anticipation in the Banff-Cochrane riding, where the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose Party tend to race neck and neck, offering some kind of intrigue into who will come out on top.
But in the real world, many Albertans, even the majority at times, tend to avoid the voting booth for whatever reason they feel is adequate, be it a lack of interest, an assumption of who will ultimately win, a dislike of the candidates, frustration with politics, or perhaps even laziness.
The last provincial election, held in 2012, garnered 54.4 per cent voter turnout at the polls…the second highest (yes, highest) since 1993, when 60.2 per cent decided to cast a ballot.
But during a time when Albertans were handed their worse provincial budget in the province’s modern age – thanks to plummeting oil prices, or lack of political preparation on the part of the PCs (whatever you’d like to blame it on) – excitement for an election does not seem palpable.
The only contingent that has any craving for an election are the politicians themselves – the PCs to get their ‘mandate’ and to realign their cabinet and ‘clean house’, so to say; the Wildrose to take advantage of a potential vulnerability with the PCs after a dismal budget, and to perhaps regain some of the bodies they lost during the floor-crossing; and every other party to have an opportunity to gain some seats during a downtime for Alberta.
Spending millions of dollars on an election right now, given the recent budget shortfall of $4.99 billion, also seems like a bit of a bad idea.
The last election cost Alberta taxpayers $13.6 million…just what Albertans want in addition to the 59 tax increases in last week’s budget.
Prentice has said that any election costs money, whether it’s held this year or next, which is true, but didn’t there used to be an element of political timing?
There’s also a federal election coming down the pike. The 2011 federal election rang in at $291 million, so like them or not, with price tags like these, voters should feel obligated to get out to the polls come election day.
Cochranites, so far, will have a choice between the PC incumbent, Ron Casey, Wildrose challenger Scott Wagner and NDP candidate Cameron Westhead.
Last time around, Casey received 42 per cent of the vote, Tom Copithorne of the Wildrose got 37 per cent, the Liberals 14 per cent and the NDP, seven per cent – all this with no incumbent, meaning it may be more difficult for any of the candidates to unseat Casey.
The 2014 Alberta byelections last summer may be the greatest indicator of the public’s lack of enthusiasm for an election. In the riding of Fort McMurray-Athabasca, 15.2 per cent of eligible voters turned up at the polls, while in the Macleod riding, 19.6 per cent cast a ballot.
Politics is in the public’s face every day, sometimes all day. Elections should be called because it is the right thing to do for the people, not the politicians.
Fixed election dates would be a worthwhile thing to look at, both federally and provincially. With fixed elections dates, voters know what to expect and when to expect it, and it would naturally create excitement and anticipation leading up to an election. Enough of politicians calling elections for their own perceived benefit. Now prove us wrong and on May 5 get to the polls and vote!