Alberta’ 2023 Election

Who Shall Rule The Queen Elizabeth Highway By the King’s Consent?

Elections in a parliamentary democracy are much like a high school dance: sometimes there’s a core theme and often there’s fixed dates for their occurrence.  Human dates matter too, as any dance attendee knows.  It’s a reason why many students stay away from prom; on the other hand, if you had a special someone dance attendance can be about as mandatory as supporting your school’s sports teams.  Yet, whether it’s pep rallies or politics an awful lot of staged performances and trite contrivances are on offer.

Dance attendees envision possibilities of love and conquest; political nominees equally seek minds to mould and behinds in voting cubicles.  Whether change of one’s quality of life is really on offer remains a murky possibility; one might recall the 1980’s pop song One Night in Bangkok: “one town’s very much like another, when your head’s down over your pieces, brother!” For activist student bodies this rings especially true, as many a youthful idealist falls for the wiles of an, uh, conscience-tingling suitor.  Elections are typically a chance to show moral virtue and engage in assorted virtue signalling within their families and to the student body as a whole, but our better brains may yet prevail.

If you’re an Alberta AU student it matters, at least in theory, what the political parties are offering in terms of election promises in the sphere of education.  It behooves us to recall the premise of cultural hegemony summarized by Karl Marx: “the ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class.” Purse strings and tax dollars and priorities are certainly contested terrain in government just as they are in the ticky-tacky private homes of our Tim Hortons middle class, to whom most of us belong whether we admit it or not.  So we might begin a cursory assessment of Alberta’s polysci spectrum of promises and bluster with a rejoinder to our seemingly-prudent elector selves: we may feel that we must vote for someone in a position to, you know, win, and yet, somewhere in the twinkling recesses of our being, we might indulge our idealist inner Jiminy Cricket and truly vote for the society and economy we feel would most benefit our selves and our planet.  With that in our pupil mind let’s start with Alberta’s Communist party who promises to students of Alberta:

“End post-secondary tuition fees.  Access to post-secondary institutions on the basis of merit, not ability to pay”.  Boom, sounds good right?  Votes signed, sealed, and delivered but of course small parties don’t run many candidates so let’s gander at who else is promising the moon and, like the unclaimed youth at a dance who shows up with good looks and suitors aplenty, the possibility of having one’s moo while getting the rich’s milk for free.

The Green Party, who if you’ve watched their rise and fall federally are beset with the contradiction of seeking a healthier planet while still ennobling capitalism’s inborne urge to procreate profit with a minimum of labour costs, offer this educational promise: “free undergraduate education to all citizens and permanent residents”.  Sounds good too but you can still hear the echoed moo of milk for free from an un-bought cow; maybe we’d better turn to the bourgeois masters of the universe and see what they have to offer.

First there’s the erstwhile moderates, the Liberals.  To reset our mental compass and separate them from their federal comrades of the same moniker is increasingly difficult even for many of us scholars of sociological objectivity.  Here in BC the Libs are redubbed the BC United Party although their true colours have always been clear in their unofficial nickname: the Free Enterprise Party.  In 2001 they ran the table and cut public services to the quick in a manner that would make 90’s-era Federal Finance Minister Paul Martin blush.  Anyway, the Liberals, true to their Lockean roots whereby a civil society requires us to imagine an original position whereby we each realize that we’d prefer to be born with as much chance of success as possible, the party states that “true equality of opportunity requires a robust public system that does not give some students advantages at the cost of others.” Politics does begin with philosophy, after all, and specifically a conception of human nature, how it gets that way, and how conditions of life might be improved.

The Alberta Grits do offer this terse promise to students of Alberta: “guidelines do not go far enough.  We are calling for class size caps to ensure every student gets the education they deserve.” No whiff of a free lunch here, more of a policy wonk assertion that what other parties talk about (class sizes) can be made as concrete as a law can be.  Of course, as Otto Van Bismarck in 1871 purportedly stated “laws are like sausages, the less that is known about their production the better.” Would the Libs sidestep unions to enforce classroom sizes?  Or perhaps they’d close some schools to make up for the increased costs of smaller classes?  Happily, our aforementioned inner prudence can cast these wonders to the dairy-air wind as the Liberals are also not about to form a government.

That leads us to the two leading parties in Alberta.  The United Conservatives tout their accomplishments while ruling the roost at 9820 -107 NW, Edmonton: they’ve “capped domestic tuition increases beginning in the 2024-25 school year, reduced interest rates on student loans, and doubled the interest-free grace period for student loans”.  Interventionist for a free market party; capped tuitions are nothing to scoff at (capped housing costs, however, would be another matter for these parrots of industry, one suspects).  A May 19th CBC article illustrates what really has taken place, however: “Although the United Conservative Party government insists K-12 education funding has risen under their tenure and is higher than ever, school boards and other public education advocates say that funding has not kept pace with the rate of enrolment and inflation pressure.  Those advocates say less funding available for each student has led to larger class sizes where there are fewer teachers and support staff to respond to students grappling with a growing array of challenges.”

Finally, we have the party of prairie pastor and prize boxer Tommy Douglas: the NDP.  They, too, promise to freeze those usurious tuition fees and “hire 4,000 new teachers and 3,000 educational assistants and support staff over the next four years.” Of course, all these things cost money and nary a hard working person wants to hear of their taxes being raised unless they’re sure it will bring home some tangible bacon upon graduation.

And that about sums things up, give or take a terrarium of newt-sized parties.  As AU students, alumni, and fellow travellers, probably the most pressing and prescient issue at hand is the recent debacle that raged around the possibility of AU’s layer of administrators et al. being expected to move to literal Athabasca.  One pundit noted that the boondoggle, addressed in exemplary fashion elsewhere by Voice writers, shows that “second-class board members are those who cannot be counted on to do the minister’s bidding, such as representatives of students, grad students, academic staff, tutors, and so on.” So probably there’s cause to not support the UCP due to its heavy-handed tactics.

Most important, perhaps, is to cast your ballot in a way that appeases both your heart and your mind, your conscience and your cranium.  It might only be for a day, but who you dance with might matter to your future sense of self.

‘Alberta Liberals Unveil Education Platform’.  (May 16 2023).  Retrieved from
Alberta NDP.  ‘Hiring More Teachers and Educational Assistants’.  (2023).  Retrieved from
CBC News.  (May 19 2023).  Education: Find Out Where Parties Stand Before Alberta Votes.  Retrieved from
Climenhaga, D.  (Feb 4 2023).  ‘Firing at Athabasca U Suggests There Are Now Two Classes of Public Board Members in Alberta – Those Appointed By the UCP and Those Not’.  Retrieved from
Communist Party of Alberta.  (2023).  ‘Program for the 2023 Provincial Election’.  Retrieved from
Fletcher, R.  (May 1 2023).  ‘Here’s A Searchable List of Candidates in Alberta’s 2023 Election’.  CBC News.  Retrieved from
Green Party of Alberta.  (2022).  ‘Strong Public Services’.  Retrieved from
United Conservatives: Alberta Strong and Free.  (2023).  ‘Education’.  Retrieved from
United Conservatives: Alberta Strong and Free.  (2023).  ‘Post-Secondary and Skilled Trades’.  Retrieved from