Progress in Canada’s Texas

Emily Dyer


After 20 years of utter domination, the Alberta conservative party was finally challenged this year. Just days before the election, the new, very conservative Wildrose Party, led by Danielle Smith, seemed poised to beat Alison Redford’s Conservative party. The
polls, however, were way off; the Conservative government won a new majority,
and the Wildrose Party came out of the election with only 17 seats.

While this election did not see the defeat of the Conservative Party, which has governed Alberta for the past 31 years, it showed the mark of another new trend in Alberta politics: the remarkable diversity of Albertan political leaders.

We often think of Alberta as “theTexas of Canada,” as an oil-rich province that drives the economy but quakes in fear of social progress. But if you look just at the political leaders, it seems that that is a gross misrepresentation. The leaders of the two major
parties in the election were both women, and the Liberal leader, Raj Sherman,
emigrated from India as a child. Moving away from the provincial election, the
mayors of both of Alberta’s major cities are members of religious or cultural
minority groups: Edmonton’s mayor, Stephan Mandel, is Jewish, and Calgary’s Mayor,
Naheed Nenshi, is a South-Asian Muslim.

Now look our Ontarian political leaders. Ontario likes to consider itself very progressive, but of the three parties in Ontario, only one – the NDP –  is lead by a woman, Andrea Horwath, while the other two are lead by white Christian males, Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty and Conservative leader Tim Hudak.  The two largest cities, Toronto and Ottawa, are both lead by Protestant white men, Rob Ford and Tim Watson, respectively.

Ontario is Canada’s second most culturally diverse province, behind
only British Colombia, and yet our political leadership is sill entirely
dominated by white Christian males. Even with all the talk about social
progress and equality, our politics seem to be stuck in the past. Maybe we
should take some lessons on diversity from Alberta.