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Out with King Ralph, in with Emperor Ed

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Sifting through the papers has made it apparent that something went weird in Monday's election. Perhaps something went weird before Monday's election. In any case, something went weird.

Mar. 4 saw the crowning of a new king of Alberta--this time the much maligned Ed Stelmach. Prior to the election, this man was getting beat around like he had just argued against graham crackers at the teddy-bear picnic. His insistence on changing the royalty structure in a way viewed as unfavourable by big business led to the economic rape call being raised across the province. In any case, he took a serious pounding in the press and it was suggested that this might even contribute to the imminent downfall of the Tory regime. There was even one column that suggested that, though it was unlikely that the monarchy would fall this time around, there might be enough of a gain to make the toppling of the throne a reality in four years' time. It was said that this was a substantial election, and the most open in many, many years. Oops.

"Welcome to Alberta's century. Today, Albertans have spoken." So remarked Stelmach as the Tories won handily. Indeed, they actually gained a number of seats, putting them within wet farting distance of former-King Klein's landslide of 2001. The media, it seems, was proved wrong. The election produced an outcome precisely the opposite of the anticipated Liberal creep towards pole position. And it did so while setting a record for low voter turnout. This is what is so startling. If the Conservative party had won with a solid amount--say, half--of the voting population casting their ballots, then the fact that the media and all other rambling proved wrong in its predictions of rabble-rousing change could be blamed on the inept bungling of the other parties, or the sheer good looks of the farmer from the north. But what actually happened leads to a very different conclusion.

There are two interpretations for why the election went weird and both are pretty damn scary.

The first is that the media is so thoroughly detached from the population that it was unable to realize that nobody cared. Maybe all of the important issues that were put in print really weren't that important. This is a distinct possibility.

The second possibility is that the voters of Alberta, though recognizing the urgent issues before them, found no party of substance to support. Rather, they were confronted by a sickening array of hopeless contestants and same-old survivors. Perhaps voters were unsatisfied by Conservative policies but remained equally unconvinced of the policies or viability of all the other parties. The atrophy of electoral politics in Alberta, which has meant that we really need only vote every 30 or 40 years, has so thoroughly ravaged the people's faith in the system that when a time does come to demand change, voters have either no idea where to go or no confidence in another party delivering.

Both alternatives are sickening. Both mean that democracy here is sick. The media is an integral part of the democratic system, so if it has become disconnected in this way there must be fear as to its continued efficacy and relevance as the population's watchdog on the government. If it is a lack of parties for voters to turn to, the sickness is even worse. This cancerous lack of choice is tantamount to the pronouncement of a death sentence for democracy itself.

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