Commentary by Richard Froese
What a difference a year makes. May 5 marks the first anniversary that the New Democratic Party ended the 44-year reign of the Progressive Conservative party in the Alberta provincial election.
Then last October, the Liberal party won a majority government in the federal election under Justin Trudeau when Stephen Harper and the Conservative party were unseated after holding office for almost 10 years. Perhaps that explains why none of the six Canadian teams in the National Hockey League qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs. The last time that occurred was in 1970 when the prime minister was some guy named Trudeau, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, father of Justin.
That was also one year before the PC dynasty started in Alberta. So, who are the winners and the losers? When the NDP swept the provincial election last spring, party faithful were confident the so-called Orange Crush or wave would continue in the federal election. Like government and sports, momentum can drastically swing into the wrong direction.
After the NDP became the Official Opposition for the first time in the 2011 election under leader Jack Layton, the party seemed sure it would lead to bigger and better things across Canada. However, when cancer ended Layton’s life the following August, his successor Thomas Mulcair was left to carry the torch and lead the NDP forward and upward. With three years to the next election, it seemed that the party and new leader had plenty of time to gain support. But it didn’t.
From a record high of 103 seats in the 2011 election, the NDP toppled to 44 seats and back to third-place in the House of Commons. That appeared to be the start of the end for Mulcair who eventually lost the confidence of party members at a convention in Edmonton on April 9 as 52 per cent of delegates voted for a leadership review. He will remain at the helm for another two years until a new leader is chosen.
Why would a party hold on to a leader with such opposition rather that move forward sooner than later? At least former prime minister and Conservative leader Stephen Harper bowed out graciously after the election; Mulcair was pushed out. Which person departs more dignified? When you quit or when you’re fired?
Just when the NDP thought it would grow like wildfire, the flames and the spark has somewhat extinguished in the past few months. With a deficit budget and never-ending spending, the Alberta NDP government may be just a one-term show, as some experts predict. One and done is a catch phrase tossed around, one term and the NDP is out. For those who want the party out, they’ll have to wait for another three years.
But then who will want to take on the growing and massive deficit? Even the Alberta NDP is split with its national cousins. Premier Rachel Notley and her government support pipelines to transport oil, while Mulcair and the national party opposes it.
One other prairie province has already pulled the plug on the party when Manitoba voted for a majority PC government after the NDP was ousted after ruling 16 years. Now the orange is being crushed and the juice is running out. And it seems that the political wave is turning back to Conservative blue or other parties leaning to the right, like the Saskatchewan Party and the Liberals in British Columbia.
Maybe then, more Canadian teams will battle for Lord Stanley’s mug.
Commentary by Richard Froese