Commentary – Change is the law of life

Tom Henihan

Sometimes we discover we have changed, that the persona we trusted as authentic and with which we presented ourselves to others no longer fits and needs adjustment.

Change, especially personal change is often discomfiting at first but when it represents real development, it ultimately proves to be a good thing.

Collective social change, the discovery and acceptance that we are no longer exactly who we used to be as a society is experienced collectively roughly with the same level of alarm and reckoning as it is individually.

A recent poll done on behalf of CBC News revealed that Albertans are no longer the entrenched conservatives they used to be.

The poll conducted by Trend Research and Janet Brown Opinion Research, questioned 1,200 Albertans and supplemented the questionnaire with a number of focus groups.

The outcome of the poll suggests that the standard conservative archetype with which Albertans identified or the stereotypical conservative Albertan label imposed from outside the province no longer apply.

Of course, much of this should come as no surprise as the province elected an NDP government in the last election, something deemed unthinkable at one time.

Regardless of whether Albertans now approve or disapprove with this government’s performance, that bold move for change represented a fundamental shift in social and political attitudes.

However, it is not as if Albertans now identify as being on the extreme left of the political spectrum but more reassuringly and more constructive I believe, the change in social and political attitudes is more incremental and nuanced.

According to the CBC poll, Albertans identify themselves as centrist: 30 percent say they are in the centre of the spectrum with 37 percent moving in varying degrees to the right and 23 percent in varying degrees to the left.

Interestingly, only 5 percent identified as being on the extreme right and 3 percent on the extreme left.

Collectively, Albertans are socially progressive while leaning to the right on fiscal matters, with economic concerns taking precedence over social issues

Typically, societies change but political representatives, absorbed in the petty abstractions of political partisanship fail to recognize that the people they want to represent have moved on from the archaic edicts of the parties.

As a result, old political parties need to reinvent themselves if they want to offer true political representation.

While parties on the left tend to go too far engaging in social engineering by implementing social trends too rapidly, parties on the right react by pulling their supporters backwards, stoking fear and championing regressive ideas.

People are always more, much more, than their political views and the social demographic to which they belong.

Although this province has evidently changed and the old conservative archetype needs some modifications, the archetype of the cooperative yet self-reliant Albertan will endure beyond the vagaries of political and social attitudes.

Alberta itself, the sheer scale of the landscape from the prairie to the mountains and the means by which many Albertans wrest a living from that landscape, all of this influences and tempers the character of the people in a way that no statistician or pollster could possibility measure.


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