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Updated: 6th January 2019 08:25


The history of Alberta, all in one convenient election campaign

Albertans were given a free trip down memory lane this week, almost 75 years of Alberta history crammed into the final week of the provincial election campaign. But in a way, says political strategist Rod Love, it was fitting.

Albertans were given a free trip down memory lane this week, the last full one of the 2012 provincial election campaign.

So many historical political personalities weighed in that both long-time Albertans and newcomers alike must have felt they were back in a high school history class, not a provincial election.

It started with the Progressive Conservatives bringing out former premiers Peter Lougheed and his sucessor Don Getty to endorse, obviously, the PC party.

It was Lougheed who founded the first PC government in 1971, and Getty, one of Lougheed's original ministers, who succeeded him in 1985.

Things, however, got complicated when Lougheed said that another former Conservative premier, my old boss Ralph Klein, took Alberta "backwards" to the old "Social Credit" days during the Klein years (1992-2006), which followed Getty's.

It was Social Credit that ruled Alberta from 1935 to 1971.

Dynasty founder Peter Lougheed, the man who did actually turn down the oil taps, weighs in on the current election. (Canadian Press)

The ailing Klein could not respond, but the attack compelled his wife, Colleen, to confirm that she had joined the Wildrose party, the one that is beating on the door and threatening to end the Conservative's long 41-year dynasty.

Not to be outdone, Conservative premier number four, Ed Stelmach, responded by endorsing his old party too.

Still with me?

With endorsement-mania at a fever pitch, another figure from the past, Connie Osterman, a much-beloved Getty-era cabinet minister, 80-years young and still working her farm north of Calgary, joined the fray.

In an op-ed piece in the Calgary Herald, she penned an eloquent lament to explain her reasons for leaving behind her 40-year association with the PCs and joining Wildrose.

Finally, after a few days of charges and countercharges on all manner of side issues, conservative icon Preston Manning delivered his own op-ed in the Herald to respond to what he called "the negative attacks and historical inaccuracies that have characterized the (Progressive Conservative) government's campaign…"

One last historical footnote: It was Preston's father, Ernest Manning, who dominated the Social Credit dynasty that was brought down by, if you've been following along, Peter Lougheed.

So in a weird kind of way, 75 years of Alberta political history played itself out in an election campaign in this 21st century, which is already fraught with its own concerns.

Think of an Ontario election focused on the Bill Davis years, or a Quebec campaign revolving around the Maurice Duplessis era.

It all reminded me of a line by former British prime minister Tony Blair who was accused by some in his party of not paying enough attention to Labour's past, to which he replied "I have nothing against the past, I just don't want to live there."

In a way, though, this week's panorama is fitting.

The political history of Alberta is the history of a people who don't change, but their political parties must.

A conservative Alberta electorate has for almost a century wanted a conservative government, and they don't really care what it's called.

Wild foes: Wildrose leader Danielle Smith (left) greets Conservative leader Alison Redford following the Alberta leaders' debate on April 12, 2012.

After the 1905-21 Liberals were ousted, they were replaced with a deeply conservative United Farmers of Alberta government, which lost its way and was replaced by a deeply conservative Social Credit government, which lost its way and was replaced by a more modern Progressive Conservative government.

The great debate in Alberta today is whether this kind of watershed moment has once again arrived.

The answer to that question comes at 8:00 pm MT on Monday, April 23. But in the meantime, it has been quite a history class these past 10 days.

Four more to go. Class dismissed.

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