As long-time readers know, when there are important elections looming, I like to do analyses of party platforms. There is such an election in Alberta next Monday. It has never before occurred to me to write about Alberta election platforms because never before has it seemed like the Alberta PCs, who have been in power since Nixon’s first term, ever seemed likely to lose their majority (for the record, I never bought the polls in 2012). And yet here we are, just a few days out, with the Conservatives in third, and the NDP running first in rural Alberta in some polls.
These are strange times. Like, Book of Revelations strange times. (“And when he opened the seventh seal, there was a silence about the space of half an hour, until the first polls began to trickle in” – Rev 8:1.)
And so, without further ado, here’s what the parties have to say:
The “Prentice Plan” (apparently the words Progressive Conservative don’t focus test well, despite the Party having been in power since Prohibition) promises a “world-class education system”. Most of it is about K-12, but PSE does receive three vague-to-the-point-of-
The Wildrose Alliance Party, of course, does not have a record on which to run. No one does, because the Tories have been in power since the late 17th century. And that lack of familiarity with power shows in the party’s PSE platform, which is called – wait for it – “World-Class Post-Secondary, Trades & Skills Training” (imaginative, huh?). They have an affordability and accessibility portfolio, which is pure Glen Murray (better transfer credit, more online delivery), a research policy that is nothing of the sort (more collaboration with industry, more tax credits for undergraduate students – yes really), and a trades/skills policy that is a mix of the good (more dual credit programs in trades in secondary schools), the banal (better information in high schools), the already-being-done (collaborate with other provinces to make trades certifications more portable), and the slightly weird (allow trades completers to choose between an oral and a written exam). Note, however: no new public money for institutions.
The New Democrats, or rather, “Alberta’s New Democrats”, presumably to distinguish them from the ravening socialists who periodically run their neighbouring provinces, make only three PSE-related commitments in their platform. One is with respect to re-installing the Summer Temporary Employment Program for youth ($10 million). The second is “stable funding for universities and colleges” – in practice, a set of guaranteed annual increases of about 5% per year, which is quite substantial. The third is to impose a total freeze on tuition, which undoes about 50% of the good of promise number two.
So if you’re in Alberta and you’re voting education in this election, the NDP would seem to be the obvious choice. That said: even if they are elected, and even if they are competent enough in government to deliver on their promises (a challenge for any non-incumbent party in a province where the government has been in power since the latter part of the Tang Dynasty), the net increase in money for institutions will still be below the rate of increase in universities’ underlying costs. Cutbacks will still happen. Sorry.