It’s early days yet, but here are some thoughts from Janet on how the new NDP government is doing.
1. I am still very pleased about the change of government: I had hoped I would live long enough to see the end of the PCs’ domination of our political culture and government, and I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. It did – I am so happy about that.
2. And I love the reaching out to Liberal MLA David Swann to co-chair a committee to review Alberta’s mental health services and to Wildrose Leader Brian Jean to work on as yet to be defined ethics-in-government issues. Even though Greens don’t yet have any seats in the Legislature, I hope there will be issues on which the NDP will seek our input.
3. It’s wonderful that corporate and union donations have been prohibited by the NDPs’ Bill 1. This change was long overdue and enhances the fairness of our electoral system. But we need other changes to be made as well. For example, maximum donation amounts should come down and we need the provincial government to enact just as strict rules for the municipal electoral system as well.
4. I applaud the moves to follow through on other issues that the NDP ran on, for example, the promised hike in corporate taxes and the increase in income tax for individuals with incomes of over $ 125,000 per year. Income taxation is probably going to have to be even more progressive but at least the new government has made a start on reform – moving away from the flat tax – in this area.
5. I worry that the NDP won’t be strong enough to counteract the pressure being brought to bear on them from the oil and gas industry. There is so much progressive policy and legal work to be done on this front. The challenges presented by climate change continue to grow. The Alberta government has to move in a considered way on seriously pricing carbon in order that emissions in the province are forced down, but it must not allow itself to be rushed to judgment by an industry that can make it sound as if reducing uncertainty is the only thing that matters. And the NDPs’ commitment to reviewing royalties is an important one. It is imperative that the NDP remain strong in the face of self-serving intimidation from the industry in respect of royalties.
6. I worry too that the NDP will not handle the need for flood prevention and mitigation in a sufficiently rigorous way. I empathize, as I think NDP is right in saying that the PCs “dragged their feet” on the problem. But to rush to action in the absence of a full understanding of the causes of the 2013 flooding would be foolish – a great deal of money might be spent on measures that are not what needs most to be done. All government action must be evidence-based and there is not yet any reason to think we have the evidence we need to best manage the flood-prone watersheds of southwest Alberta.
In all I’d say the new government has performed as well as could be expected under the very difficult circumstances they face. But the going will get rougher.