Reflections of an Afro-Canadian

Alberta’s Politics | An Insider’s Dilemma | Reflections From An Afro Canadian

Everyone knows I am new-ish- in town.

I have had many opportunities to talk to the two main parties that matter in Alberta's provincial elections.  The parties are the Alberta NDP and the United Conservative Party. Alberta NDP is lead by the charismatic Premier Rachel Notley. Mr Jason Kenney is the leader of the UCP. Under his leadership, the UCP has become the largest political party in Canada. The UCP's public face is the face of multiculturalism. They have embraced immigrants as candidates both here in Edmonton and in Calgary. 

There are 87 ridings or constituencies that voters need to choose candidates to represent them at the Alberta Legislature. There are a total of 14 parties with varying numbers of candidates.  Some of the parties are the Alberta Advantage Party with 28 candidates, Alberta Independence Party with 63 candidates, Alberta Liberal Party with 51 candidates, Alberta NDP 87, Alberta Party 87, Green Party of Alberta 32 candidates and the UCP has 87 candidates. 

Premier Notley's NDP is inclusive. They are accessible and helpful. In many parts of the world, leadership is inaccessible and cold. The NDP leadership do not care about the colour of your skin, they are welcoming, transparent and open.  They come to you. They listen to your ideas and you see your ideas implemented. This is affirming. They want you at their table. They listen to you, they take notes and they go and do the work. I have not seen leadership like this before. 

What do I know? I am new to Edmonton after all. 

 I have sat in meetings with NDP politicians and I have to say when I grow up, I want to be like the NDP politicians I have come to know and respect. 

What are the choices at stake for Albertans?  My introduction to the Edmonton Society was through their eyes. They pulled me in and I felt valued. Their policies make sense. Take for instance their $25 a day childcare which they have promised to roll out nationwide. 

Here are some of the key policies of the NDP. You can find more on the CBC's website. 

1. They plan to roll out $ 25 a day childcare across the province.  According to the CBC's website, this idea is just a pilot project that subsidizes 7,300 spaces across the province. They plan to build on that and phase in $25 a day childcare across the province. This will add 13,000 new spaces over the next five years. Premier Notley has said making child care affordable saving families with children under five an average of $300 a month, will help the economy by both bringing up labour force participation and closing the largest gender gap in Canada.

2. They intend to build new schools.  They estimate that it will increase employment by 43,000 people and add nearly $6 billion each year to the GDP. The plan is expected to cost $1.5 billion over the next five years and it remains the most expensive commitment in the party's platform. This party is ready for the 15,000 new intakes in school spaces this Fall. The UCP appears to be in denial about this. In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford is cutting 30% of the teaching staff across the province in savings. 

3. There is a real problem in Alberta's hospitals with waiting time. The Premier said her party will help Albertans get medical attention faster by spending an additional $90 million a year. They promise to get Calgary Cancer Centre and Edmonton's superlab built. The projection is that 40,000 Albertans will get faster cancer, open heart and cataract surgeries in the next three years.

4. In these parts, there is a certain tension around getting a pipeline built. The way I understand it, the Conservatives were in power for 44 years before the NDP came to power in 2015. Around this time, there was a world recession or slump in prices. This brought about the high rate of unemployment that Alberta is still facing. The NDP is promising that there would be 'shovels in the ground' by Fall. Premier Notley says she will continue to fight hard to get the Trans Mountain pipeline built.  She says the NDP will 'supercharge' investments in oilsands by attracting $75 billion in new investments to fund major expansions to refining and upgrading, creating 70,000 jobs over the next 10 years.

With the NDP, you get the idea that they are progressives. They want to make our lives better. But they have also accumulated a huge deficit which the UCP relentlessly taunts them about.  But, they are good people.  They have worked tirelessly: even creating a Black History Month and a Race Relations Commission. The Education Curriculum for the first time teaches their diverse population about black history. This is really important as in 2016, 36.4 % of the general population in Edmonton were visible minorities. 

I have not agreed with their campaign methods. They have been a bit too negative and aggressive for me. I wish they bragged more about their accomplishments though.

My first interaction with the Conservatives was an interview I did with an MP with a base out in Ottawa. As a newbie, when Canadians pronounce Ottawa, it feels like they have won the lottery, Ottawa rolls seamlessly off their lips. I suppose the Canadian accents also alerts you to the ding when you say Oh-tta-wa.

I digress. 

The interview was a big deal for me. The MP was very warm and approachable. All in all, the interview went well. He left an impression though stoking on a fear that Alberta's direction needed to change. I have since found this to be the pattern with UCP candidates. My best guess is that it is their party line.

This MP was a consummate speaker and I saw his heart for the country. It was his opinion that the Liberal Government of Justin Trudeau and the Alberta NDP were not doing right by Albertans.  Every Conservative you talk to will tell you about unemployment figures, the need for the transatlantic pipeline, the Alberta Advantage amongst other things. They do have a plan to create jobs, they are about the economy and pipelines.

If you listen to the Conservatives long enough, you will believe them. 

My partiality for this party are their candidates. The face of the UCP today is one that I can trust. The party looks more like me than the NDP.

The Nigerian candidates are Kaycee Madu (a Jason Kenney star candidate) and Tunde Obasan. It is deeply impressive that our people are not sitting on the sidelines. They are getting in the fight. They are first generation immigrants like me. They speak like me. They don't have fancy accents, they are like me. I want them to win their ridings. Naturally.

They need to get to the Provincial level. Period.

My friends are at the NDP, Nigerians are in the Conservative Caucus. Internally, there appears to be a conflict. I supported President Obama both terms because he was the first black President and all but then he turned really left. There were times I clashed with President Obama. I get the dangers of being a leftie. Is there a middle ground or a middle party? Would that be the Alberta Liberals? Just centre enough for people like me.

I love the  NDP but for the first time in Alberta, we have Nigerians who need to get to the Provincial government. 

It does not help that the UCP is embroiled in all sorts of PR mess at the moment. There appears to be a solid question mark over how Mr Kenney became the Leader of his party.

 Here is what the UCP offers:

1. The first order of business is to dismantle the carbon tax – dubbed Bill1-  which Premier Notley brought in. Mr Kenney has repeatedly said that his first duty on day one is to kill the carbon tax. If the Alberta tax is ditched, a federal carbon tax will be implemented, something Mr Kenney says his party would fight in court alongside Ontario and New Brunswick.

For Albertans, I can see why this appears attractive. 

2. A signature policy for the UCP is to slash corporate tax from 12% to 8 % over four years. That process would start with one per cent reduction this July. Mr Kenney also promised to create a Minister of Red Tape to oversee an overhaul of the province's regulations and reduce those regulations by a third. 

As an entrepreneur, this sounds like a good policy. It would make Alberta a competitive place to do business in North America. All the investment that walked out of the province will literally run back under the UCP. 

The UCP is good for business. They have campaigned on jobs, jobs and the economy. At the end of the day, you care for your bottom line. 

3. Mr Kenney plans to cancel oil by rail deal that would cost Alberta $2.2billion. This was introduced by Premier Notley to move more crude out of the province.  The cancellation is part of a larger energy strategy that would see his government create a so-called war room to fight opponents of oil and gas development and push hard for a new pipeline. 

4. On healthcare, the UCP government will cancel the 'superlab in Edmonton as it costs $590 million.  He is promising $100 million for mental health and $20 million for palliative care. He said the UCP government will commission a review of Alberta Health Services within 30 days of taking office. He says the point will be to ensure that money is spent on front line services and that he is open to more private competition for procedures like MRIs. 

The Leaders Debate showed a calm and friendly Mr Kenney. He does have a heart for Albertans. Ultimately, my position is that the NDP should get four more years to finish what they started. 

The UCP would keep Christian schools open and funded.  Christian schools have faced uncertainty by this government over their unwillingness to change their terms and conditions. By their definition, these schools are seen as possibly homophobic. Edmonton should be a place where parents can choose which schools they want their children to attend without state intervention. I disagree here with the NDP. They need to fix this.

The great news is that it is up to Albertans to vote. Record numbers have been turning out to vote. Pundits are saying already that Alberta will turn blue. Who knows?

As we cannot vote, we can only project, analyze and attempt to influence on the sidelines. Or not? Its 

 What a dilemma indeed as we root for the Nigerian candidates to win their ridings and our friends at the Centre to get four more years.

ps: Advance polls are now open. Early voting runs Tuesday, April 9 through Saturday, April 13.

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