It might be the most famous headline in Alberta history. A 1935 Boston Herald banner that loudly declared: "Alberta Goes Crazy". This was in response to the election of the first Social Credit government in the world. This little bit of ancient Canadiana came to mind more than once during the current Alberta election. The polling firms, which have been taking it on the chin in recent years, are predicting an NDP government. Yikes!
Admittedly the modern NDP is nowhere near as nutty as the Aberhart-era Socreds. Heck, a modern Dipper is a model of sanity compared to the chaps who drafted the Regina Manifesto. The mainstream of the party has climbed down from the socialist Ivory Tower and today wallows comfortably in the broad cesspool of pragmatic social democracy. It's a kind of progress that those on the Right often miss. If we haven't gotten everything we wanted neither has the other side.
Still the whole thing gives you a moment of shock and pause. An NDP government in Alberta was one of those Signs of the Canadian Apocalypse like Torontonians becoming humble or Montrealers learning how to drive. The never gonna happen stuff we could all bank on it. This is especially troubling for Rightists here in the Imperial Capital. If we've lost Alberta then what's left? The BC Interior? Etobicoke?
Native Albertans are confused. A mere native Torontonian such as myself is perplexed. What the hell happened? As far as I've been able to piece together, and partially discounting the possibility of witchcraft, Alberta remains the same as always it's the Albertans that have changed.
The problem with money is that it attracts people. Unfortunately not always the sort you'd like. There's a reason the phrase "more fleas than a millionaire has friends" entered common parlance. Alberta has a lot of "friends." The population of the Wild Rose province has exploded in recent decades. Since the days when Peter Lougheed was telling Pierre Trudeau to go fuddle himself Alberta's numbers have nearly doubled to just over 4.1 million. About half a million have flooded in since the last census in 2011. This is growth that no part of Canada has seen since the Laurier boom.
Where are these people coming from? Well there are the usual sources such as the Maritimes and foreigners who hop from oil boom to oil boom like Ted Cruz's Cuban exile father. A large number, however, must be coming from Ontario. There's no other way to make the math work.
People have always flocked to Alberta, barring the Depression era, but what's new in these early years of the twenty-first century is that people are fleeing Ontario. This has never happened before, excepting possibly in the 1880s, and is perhaps more of a story than what's going on in Alberta. Ontario has been engine of Confederation since the ink was drying on the BNA. It was generally assumed that this would always be the case. The largest, the most diversified and the most geographically well positioned of the provinces it would be strong when everywhere else was weak.
Sure manufacturing might take a hit, and it's taken a huge hit in recent years from higher energy costs and globalization, but Ontario has banking, marketing, professional services and it's own decent sized natural resource sector. If Ontario was a mutual fund it would be the Balanced Equity Fund. The bleeding of manufacturing jobs displaced roughly the sort of people that Albertan employers were looking to hire. Thing is that most of those people lean populist Right with a scattering of union card carrying Dippers. Their movement across the country can't really explain Alberta's Leftward Drift.
Look at the cities. Edmonton has become ever more Redmonton. Calgary is acquiring disquieting pinkish hues it certain neighbourhoods. There are rumours of tofu being consumed in Medicine Hat on Saturday nights. Where are these people coming from? The answer is Toronto.
When people talk about Canada being a Multicultural Hotel, a loathsome phrase, they're thinking of Toronto. The city is a gigantic churning machine for human beings. Sucking in immigrants before spitting them out into the sprawl lands that surround the Imperial Capital. There are very few native Torontonians. Everyone really is from somewhere else. People think I'm a bit of a freak because I've been here my whole life. I probably am.
If you're a WASP of a Leftist hue and professional income, either born in or near Toronto, why would you stay? There were until recently labour shortages in all sectors of the Alberta economy. Why not move out west young Yuppie? Per square foot it's cheaper, you'll earn more and there are mountains off in the distance. In Toronto the only thing you'll see in the distance is Mississauga. Assuming you can see it all on certain days.
What Toronto has done is export just enough of its Dippers to shift the balance of power in the Alberta Legislature. The first sign of this was the election of Mayor Nenshi in Calgary. It seems we're on the verge of a complete Toronto takeover of the province. Let me be the first to say that you're all screwed. Completely. Your only hope is to sneak into Montana before the Yanks realize what's happening.
This isn't a win for Toronto either. We didn't export enough of our Left-wing crazies to materially impact our local politics. We'll keep electing the Wynners come what may. Now transplanted Torontonians in Calgary and Edmonton will be electing their prairie equivalent. So the two richest provinces in Confederation are on the verge of forming an economic suicide pact. What took the Americans two presidential elections we have accomplished with a single province election. Who says Canada isn't a world class country?
Now all we need is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to resurrect NEP.