From Where I Sit – We Decide

As I write this, we in Alberta are on the eve of a provincial election. For the second time in my memory we are on the cusp of real change. The last time this happened, Peter Lougheed’s upstart Conservatives took Alberta by storm.

Over 40 years ago.

Since then the Conservatives have governed, and voting seemed a waste of a ballot. Oh, I always voted, but the result always seemed a foregone conclusion. And it was.

This time, sweeping change is guaranteed. No one, including observers and pundits, can call it. The Wildrose party, once predicted to get a majority and overthrow Alison Redford’s party, has shot itself in the foot. A couple of candidates spouted bigoted, homophobic garbage. Rather than swiftly and decisively dealing with the issue Danielle Smith has defended their right to hold and express those beliefs, no matter how repugnant or regressive they may be. Additionally, Smith is unsure about climate change. As the world’s third-largest producer of oil, that has implications for Alberta.

The juggernaut stalled as voters got a sense of where the Wildrose stood on the issues and how the province would change under an inexperienced and untested leader and candidates. It reminds me of the federal NDPs sweeping Quebec.

Now there is talk of a minority government, floor crossers, alliances, strategic voting, and the elimination of the official opposition. It makes for exciting times. The Tories have grown smug and arrogant and need a lesson in humility. But as the four-week campaign progressed, some people got cold feet. They talked about the devil you know versus the one you don’t.

This is all good, and healthy for democracy. We need to think and talk about what our vote means. The privacy of the polling booth offers us a huge gift. We each get to decide whether we want to support the person or the party. Do we vote for someone and something or against someone or something else? We need to show up to claim the right to decide.

I’ll be on the front lines working as a Deputy Returning Officer at one of the polls in our area. The training we received and the accompanying guidebook reminded us of the privilege of voting. A lot of people, including me, will work very hard to run a good election. Protecting privacy, helping those who may need help, and doing our jobs to the best of our ability should ensure things go without a hitch.

It will be a long, hard day. I’ll do my best as quickly as I can, because I really want to get home and watch the television coverage. This is reality TV at its finest. The outcome will matter perhaps for years to come. Our reputation on the world stage is at stake. For better or worse, we decide, from where I sit.

Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.