However, that all changed this Tuesday when voters – rocked by the impact on the Alberta Treasury of the more than 50 per cent drop in oil prices, and dissatisfied with the government’s budgetary reaction to it – turfed the Conservative Government, which had ruled the province since 1971.
Premier Jim Prentice resigned, although in fairness to him, it was disenchantment with his predecessor, Alison Redford – who resigned last year under a cloud of controversy that most pundits believe was the primary political catalyst of the Tory trouble.
Now, having succeeded the first female Premier in province’s history, Mr. Prentice is being replaced by the second one, with a cast of newbies.
As the daughter of the long-time Spirit River-Fairview MLA Grant Notley, killed in a plane crash in 1984, New Democrat Rachel Notley has Peace Country roots.
Ironically, he first won a seat in the Alberta legislature the same year the Tory dynasty started under Peter Lougheed in the 1971 election, and the province arguably became the oil patch driven cash cow of the nation.
However his daughter, the Premier-elect, ran on a campaign of change, and while she insists that change will be a lot kinder and gentler than her critics have inferred, it did include a wealth redistribution promise based a hike in corporate taxes.
So it’s widely speculated her victory will have nation-wide ramifications, which could impact the fate of the Harper government in this fall’s federal election and also the future of the oil and gas industry in this province and in this area.
Prince George Peace River MP Bob Zimmer, adding his congratulations, talked to us about the possible implications of electing a government that has promised to raise corporate taxes in the heartland of the oil and gas industry.
“I hope for the sake of Alberta that – you know we share a lot of similar natural resources, that the new Premier-elect will carry through with the policies and will allow those resources to be developed and continue to be developed – I guess that’s my hope,” says Zimmer.
Asked about possible ramifications for the Harper government in this fall’s federal election Mr. Zimmer said, “I think we have a pretty good story with the economics” adding, “Like anything, it points to people concerned with their government.”
“I guess [voters] want to make sure they’re [government] doing what they say they’re doing,” Zimmer goes on to explain. “We have similar circumstances as Alberta and the governments over there before, but I always operate, as a Member of Parliament, doing the best for my constitutes regardless of whether it’s election time or not, and I am just going to continue on under that vein.”
The local MP also responded to the theory that the Alberta outcome could bode well for B.C. as an oil and gas industry operational base.
“I think if there’s any issues that possibly slowdown practices, such as fracking and other things that we practice in northeastern B.C., that will by nature cause our businesses in B.C. to do better, I think – and the gas development will be allowed to keep occurring, and I think that bodes well for our bigger projects,” says Zimmer. “So I think as a pure economic thing, I think that would bode well if that was the case. But that presumes that there’s going to be changes in Alberta, and again I hope that there isn’t.”