Tuesday evening I sat quietly in the ballroom at the Radisson hotel, glued to the television with an ever-changing cast of fellow political junkies and people I call friends. We watched together as the election results rolled in, a history-making, history-breaking kind of election that changed our province. I sat there, not speaking for the most part, not tweeting or Facebooking, but just being in the moment and letting it all wash over me.
When I got home I got several messages from friends - ones asking if I was still alive, as I had been so silent, and others trying to initiate conversations about the results - but I wasn't ready to discuss it yet as I needed to sort it out in my own head first, one of the things I have learned over the past four years when I leapt too fast into something before I stopped to think first and lived to regret my haste.
I think I slept for about two hours, still wired on the events of the night and trying to sort out my thoughts and feelings on it all. Finally I realized the only way to do it was to break it down into categories, and my reaction on each one. These are my thoughts from a long night, and you may or may not agree with them. Undoubtedly you have own, just as this province is made up of individual stories, viewpoints and perspectives. These are mine.
My reaction as the president of the newly formed Alberta Party Constituency Association for Fort McMurray - Wood Buffalo:
What can I say? I am so proud and pleased to see Greg Clark elected into office, as he has worked hard and long to be there. I have had the privilege of speaking to Greg on a few occasions, and he, the others in the Alberta Party and my knowledge of what it stands for are why I agreed to help build the party in our region.Yes, there are challenges to starting a new party, but we would do well to remember that every single party in existence was once new, and that's simply not reason enough to doubt it, and with this win the Alberta Party has gained a toehold in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. We did not run a candidate here this time, a conscious choice based on wanting to find a candidate that was local, credible and electable, but I have no doubt that when the next election is called we will be ready, with Greg leading the way. Wanna learn more about the Alberta Party? Fire me an email and let's talk, because now is the time to begin to build.
My reaction as a former resident of Saskatchewan:
Cut me deep enough and I suspect I bleed orange, the residue of a childhood and young adult life spent in the province where the NDP has long been an important player. I have no fear of the vibrant orange and instead a genuine weakness for it, and so the election of an NDP majority government in the province I now consider my home might have been a surprise, but did not throw me into any sort of panic.
My reaction as a political junkie:
I worked on the 2012 campaign for Don Scott, serving as his communications manager. I was proud of it then and I am proud of it now, as regardless of what anyone else may suggest I know that Don and Mike Allen worked incredibly hard to represent the people of this region. They spent three years of their lives serving us in a job that is often thankless and always open to scrutiny, and I doubt many of their critics could achieve even a fraction of the things they accomplished in that period of time. They not only did the large things but the small ones too, like coming to speak at schools and inspiring students to get engaged in politics, and answering emails and phone calls from pestering constituents like me. I am so grateful to them for their service, but it is no secret that I had a "falling out" with the PC party this year when they went in entirely the wrong direction on an issue the Intrepid Junior Blogger holds dear: GSAs. My rift with the party, one that began months before, was fundamentally sealed with their treatment of the issue of student run organizations for LGBTQ students and their allies, and it was irreparable. Add to that the IJB's evaluation of our Premier ("I don't like him and he has weird eyebrows" she said), and I realized that while I supported Don and Mike I could not and did not support their leader and the path he was choosing. It was a difficult place to be for me, as I saw two good men tied to one broken party.
I knew in my heart it was time for the PC party to go, a decades-old dynasty that had become filled with hubris and almost entirely deaf to the people shouting at them with pleas to be listened to, but I was saddened to see many very good people, both in our region and across our province, go with the party. And Prentice's resignation on the heels of his crushing loss? Indefensible, and, as the IJB pointed out, cowardly. I thank Don and Mike for their service, as I am so grateful for all they have done for us, but as for Jim Prentice? Thanks for nuttin', pal.
My reaction as a resident of Fort McMurray:
While we lost Don and Mike in provincial government we gained two members of the official opposition in Tany Yao and Brian Jean. I suspect they will have a tough time ahead of them, as they are a small minority in a sea of orange. I have no doubt they will do their best to represent us, and for Brian it will be even more challenging as he will need to be leader of the Official Opposition as well as represent the people of Fort McMurray-Conklin. I don't know Tany Yao, but it is no secret that in the past I have not always been fond of Jean's strategies for communicating with his constituents. Hopefully though we can now move into a future free of crossword puzzles of dubious value and instead into open, honest and frank dialogue with the people of this region, discussing our needs and our expectations. I congratulate them on their win, and I truly hope they are successful in their representation of us as when they are able to represent us well we all win in this place we call home.
My reaction as an Albertan:
The sky is not falling, Chicken Littles. We have a group of novice MLAs moving into office who will take some time to find where the bathrooms are, let alone understand how caucus and cabinet work. They have a steep learning curve ahead of them, and I hope we can grant them some leeway as they get their feet under them. I also hope our new government chooses to implement any changes slowly as opposed to doing anything of a sweeping nature right away, as you don't get a second chance to make a first impression, and we have just given them one helluva chance to make a first impression on the people of this province. I don't think our province is going to go bankrupt, I don't believe they are going to turn us into the haven of hippies and I have zero plans to pack up the Ford Explorer to get outta Dodge - in fact I want to see what they can do, because what we learned in the last three years is if you always do what you've always done you will always get what you've always gotten. I think we are ready to get something new, don't you?
My reaction as a parent:
This is the most complex and yet the most simple, perhaps. The IJB has known for some time that she leans left, much like her left-leaning mom, and the election of the NDP in Alberta in her lifetime is undoubtedly a remarkable thing. We were texting back and forth as the results rolled in, her texts revealing both excitement and surprise as even she did not expect the outcome. After watching our next Premier's victory speech with her quip about math the IJB turned to me and said: "I like her, she's sassy!", and I could see a new hardcore member of Notley Crue had just been born. You see the IJB has dealt with some serious political disappointment over the last three years, particularly in the case of a Premier that she had admired and saw as a strong female role model but who failed her (and all of us, too). The IJB firmly believes we should drop the voting age to 16, as it is the future of our youth we are deciding. I think it only dawned on her today that should this new government fulfill their entire mandate she will in fact be old enough to vote in the next provincial election, a prospect that makes her practically giddy as she often expresses her desire to have "us people" get out of the way and allow her generation to take over and get it right already. Her reaction to this election has been perhaps the most incredible moment of all for me, as it was a confirmation for her that democracy is real and it works, hopefully restoring some of the faith she lost over three very tumultuous years in our province, the one that will always be the place where she grew up.
After categorizing them all late into the night as I lay in bed I began to realize why it was taking me so long to sort out my feelings on this. There were so many angles, so many nuances and so many facets to consider and explore. There were highlights and low points, moments of pride and moments of sadness. It is no wonder I lay there staring into the dark for hours, working it all through but finally falling into a deep and sound sleep, content that the world, while it might have shifted slightly, was still spinning just fine. The phrase that kept coming to me was that we are now in a brave new world, one that we can fight or embrace, one we can avoid or one we can explore. I am, at the end of day, one of those people who always chooses exploration and as such I am thrilled that I woke up in a different Alberta, one every bit as wonderful as it has always been but this time with a fresh start and a new beginning for all of us. I don't know about you, but I like new beginnings and so I welcome this brave new world of ours, one that I think will at the very least be interesting and has the potential to be truly quite remarkable. I have never been one to reject an adventure, and friends, we are on one now.
It all comes down to this, I guess: Bring it on, Alberta. I'm ready.