Alberta Tories win, but Wildrose rise part of ominous right-wing shift

“You wake up and you realize the polls will be closing and there will be a future decided,” Alberta's premier Alison Redford said this morning, launching what some commentators predicted would be the last of the Conservatives' 41-year reign in the province – and her last day as its leader.

Those commentators, according to early media reports, were wrong about Wildrose winning the election.

A few hours later, however, Alberta's polls finally shut their doors, and BC's eastern neighbour waited on bated breath. The rest of Canada watched, too, because what happens in the oilsands-rich province affects us all – not to mention issues as diverse as human rights, national unity and climate justice.

By 8:30 p.m. in BC, the media had declared the Conservatives winners. Progressives in Alberta -- some of whom urged their fellows to vote PC to prevent the rise of Wildrose to power. 

While it is fascinating that both leadership contenders in the election were female – in fact, Canada's only female prime minister, Kim Campbell, was also a Conservative – that phenomenon should not distract us from the high stakes of Alberta lurching even further right.

A pattern of intolerance 

Wildrose candidates' views raised eyebrows during this bitter campaign – particularly those of Edmonton hopeful, Pastor Allan Hunsperger, who said gay people “will suffer the rest of eternity in the lake of fire, hell, a place of eternal suffering.” But rather than distance herself from his comments, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith defended Hunsperger as a “good man” whose “private, personal religious views” will not affect his job as MLA.

Here are the pastor's views, from his blog last year, which was an attack on Lady Gaga's pro-gay activism under the slogan “Born This Way”:

“The world is believing the lie that because you were 'born this way' you now have a right to live this way – the way you were born… You see, you can live the way you were born, and if you die the way you were born then you will suffer the rest of eternity in the lake of fire, hell, a place of eternal suffering. Now at this point I am not judging, I am just stating a fact!… For years I have warned Christian educators that you can't partner with public education because public education is godless. As far as public education is concerned, there is no God. The dictionary defines godless as profane or wicked.”

The other campaign trail gaffe was when Ron Leech, a Wildrose candidate in Calgary, suggested he was more likely to win because he, unlike his opponents, was white.

Some commentators, while condemning such views, celebrated Smith for respecting differences of opinion amongst her caucus. But those commentators were evidently not people of colour, nor were they lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). Differences of opinion are always easier to stomach when you are not the one being beaten to death or discriminated against.

Expressing doubt over climate change 

The other comment which has been widely condemned is Smith's own, in which she questioned the broad, global scientific consensus that climate change is a major ecological threat – that it even exists – and is caused by human CO2 emissions.

“We've been watching the debate in the scientific community, and there is still a debate,” she told a booing television audience. To be heckled by an entire live studio audience might, under normal circumstances, be considered a campaign gaffe, but Smith took it in stride and seems to have surged ahead regardless.

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