Canada is a largely liberal nation that is currently ruled by Stephen Harper's minority Conservative government (currently 33% to 29% ahead in national polls). Harper has tacked to the centre in order to stay in power according to many libertarians and small 'c' conservatives. Occasionally the conservatives rebel - as they did one week ago in scuppering plans to gender neutralise Canada's national anthem.
The wealthy province of Alberta, however, is very conservative and the Conservative Party has ruled there since 1971. Over that time it has drifted from its ideological roots. The National Post newspaper has attacked the Albertan Conservative leader Ed Stelmach as a big spender.
The Albertan Conservative leadership now faces a new rival from the right, The Wildrose Alliance.
Although Alberta is up to three years away from provincial elections the Alliance is leading polls. It is ahead by 42% to 27% in the latest Angus-Reid survey. Wildrose's popularity forced Stelmach to abandon higher royalty taxes on the province's hugely important oil and gas industries. This U-turn may only embolden Wildrose.
The Wildrose's policies include:
- Have the lowest Provincial personal and corporate tax rates to encourage investment and growth;
- Implement innovative new ideas that deliver health care more efficiently such as funding following the patient;
- Implementing “School Choice” legislation;
Introduce standardized annual testing of students, teacher quality, and monitor graduation rates;
- Support Truth in Sentencing provisions for incarcerating of criminals;
- Recognize that families are a cornerstone of society and must be maintained;
Provide support and care to those unable to help themselves.
The Alliance also focuses on democratic reform:
- Constantly work to reduce waste, duplication, and red tape.
- Put the power back in the hands of Albertans through meaningful electoral reform including MLA recall, fixed election dates and citizen initiated referenda.
- Limit the size of Cabinet to 16 members.
- Eliminate pork-barrel politics through stable, predictable and non-partisan municipal funding.