"It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." – William Shakespeare, Macbeth
Shakespeare's famous soliloquy on the short, chaotic nature of life could also be applied to Alberta's political parties this past week as the United Conservatives' detractors gnashed their teeth and bemoaned a return to the conservative politics of old. At the same time, UCP attack dogs were out in force online sniffing out criticism of its methods for immediate rebuttal.
NDP accusations of cronyism and the good ol' boys club mentality so often levelled at previous conservative governments flew thick and fast as the UCP cleaned house by sweeping NDP appointees off provincial boards and replacing them with UCP ones. Some replacements had unmistakable ties to the UCP party, with several having made substantial donations and another a UCP candidate who failed to win his seat.
The NDP outrage machine really got into high gear when the government announced a panel to review minimum wages for servers, another to review supervised consumption sites, and then tore up the memorandum of agreement that gave the Alberta Teachers' Association a prime seat at the table for the province's curriculum rewrite. The fist-shaking will no doubt be forgotten next week as the news cycle turns over.
The optics for the UCP this past week were unmistakably poor, but the corresponding political hype has been – to continue with Shakespearean references – much ado about nothing. Reviews of current policies and programs do not necessarily signify the death of those policies and programs, and sounding the alarm about what the government might or might not decide to do in the future is pointless fearmongering. Others would argue that changing political appointees on a board is not indicative of a big, bad UCP wolf trying to blow down all the progressive houses. It’s simply a routine shoring up of power.
To put this in perspective, in case anyone has forgotten, all governments do this to a greater or lesser extent. The NDP did the same thing when they were in power, although they generally waited until terms were up before giving conservative appointees the boot. Governments tend to like stacking the deck with sympathetic ears for obvious reasons: it makes it easier to govern – for better or worse – when you don't have opponents yanking the bit in another direction.
The worst that can be said about the past week is that the UCP government has fallen into the age-old trap of embracing an echo chamber where dissenting voices are drowned out. That, too, is a trait parties of all stripes share, not least the NDP, and is a reflection of the high degree of partisanship and divisiveness that is all too common in politics these days.
There are many real issues in Alberta to take a stand on; from the economy to our social programs. Blustering over board appointments is little more than a waste of hot air. Imagine how much our elected leaders could get done if the politicians on both sides quit squabbling over petty issues and directed their energy toward solving Alberta's serious problems.