There were a few surprises during the swearing in ceremony for new Alberta Premier Jim Prentice and his cabinet, but only one new ministry created by the man who promised to shake up the fading Conservative party: The Ministry of Seniors.
While at first glance the creation of this new ministry might seem like nothing more than a lessening of the load placed primarily on Alberta Health, it is actually a pretty shrewd political move from a Premier who knows that his party may be in trouble.
The many pundits who study and follow politics and who for some reason consider themselves a part of the process, despite not contributing much to political action – similar to how fans like to think they are helping their sports team by yelling at their television screen – are often quick, come election time, to discuss, analyze and judge those who simply don’t actively participate in democracy. This tends to begin the yearly process of investigating why youths are not interested in voting. According to Elections Canada, in the last federal election slightly less than 40% of Canadians aged 18-24 voted compared to 75% aged 65-74. In Alberta the gap is even greater. To the people who care about the goings-on of our politics, this ever-growing political apathy is a crisis that is facing democracy, but to the parties’ in charge it’s all part of the plan.
An important platform point of any non-ruling party is an attempt to mobilize the apathetic youths out of their video games and their box socials and whatever else the kids are in to these days because a non-dominant party, especially in Alberta, is more likely to succeed by finding new pockets of voters than by changing the dogmatic voting habits that most people have. But to the ruling party, Premier Prentice and his Conservatives who have led Alberta since 1971, the problem would not involve the apathy of the young electorate, but would involve too many new people being involved in the process.
So despite the fact that the Wild Rose party never once attempted to branch out to the youth by organizing a Wild Bros party that would gather young voters around a keg and exchange games of beer pong for voters and thus could not have been trying that hard, the last Alberta election saw the two parties with the best chance of contention, the Liberals and the Wild Rose, campaign with extensive platform points that promised to better the lives of young possible voters.
That’s why the formation of a new ministry focused solely on seniors is such a smart move by the incoming Premier. It keeps the largest voting demographic leaning towards the Conservative party while simultaneously giving the competing parties no political room for argument unless they are comfortable arguing against taking care of Alberta seniors.
The formation of this ministry, while a savvy political move, can also be viewed as a subtle acknowledgment that Premier Prentice knows that the favor that Alberta has typically showed to the Conservative party may be waning due to repeated scandals and the actions of Alison Redford. An increased amount of attention towards the Albertans who vote most reliably, rather than the youths so often described as the future of Alberta, is a nod towards the need to stave off the increasingly popular Wild Rose party, rather than an eye towards the future that the now Premier spoke about during his campaign.
Banner photo courtesy of Flickr photographer Sean Koo