The last century saw the greatest revolution in this country’s history. I refer to the mass migration from country to town. At Confederation, about 80 percent of Canadians lived in rural areas, today that’s less than 20 percent, and the trend continues. We have become an urban and suburban nation.
Furthermore, the trend is even stronger in our major cities. Here in Alberta, over half the population lives in two cities, Calgary and Edmonton. As I mentioned in a previous post, our current government, the UCP, has failed to treat the two with the respect their size and importance deserves.
The recent election has further emphasized the political gap between the two levels of government. The NDP won almost 75 percent of the seats in Calgary and Edmonton (54 percent in Calgary, 100 percent in Edmonton), the UCP 90 percent of the seats in the rest of the province.
The rest, to be fair, also includes the urban areas of smaller cites such as Red Deer and Medicine Hat, but these have experienced less of the immigration and diversification of Calgary and Edmonton, and have therefore retained more of the rural connection.
The result is a largely rural-based provincial government not entirely comfortable with its two largest cities. What, one wonders, does this mean for understanding of and dealing with their issues.
We might expect that there is an opportunity here for Premier Smith to fulfil her promise that she would work for people of all political stripes. A good start would be consulting the 20 NDP MPs from Edmonton on issues that affect that city. They were, after all, the people that Edomontonians chose to represent their interests.
But Smith has proposed instead a council of the UCP candidates that lost, i.e. a council of losers, the very people Edmontonians did not want representing them. Once again Smith demonstrates her peculiar ideas about how our democratic system works. Tuning in to the defeated UCP candidates will give Smith conservative views when the voters chose progressive views—an echo chamber rather than a sounding board.
The UCP won almost half the seats in Calgary so should get some authentic local views there at least, although none of the seats are in the inner city, i.e. they are suburban rather than urban. The more serious city problems tend to arise closer to the centre.
Aside from urban/rural, the province’s two major cities have over the years become increasingly progressive—both have progressive mayors and largely progressive councils. Now they are subordinate to a provincial government and a premier that are most right-wing in recent history.
This governing party is also heavily under the influence of the fundamentalist libertarian Take Back Alberta group. This group has effectively taken over half the UCP governing board with plans to take over the other half.
Nonetheless the mayors of both cities are optimistic. Both have said they expect a good relationship with the re-elected UCP. One must hope their optimism is rewarded.