After four weeks of relentless campaigning, an endless barrage of partisan advertisements and arguments, and one damning ethics commissioner report, Monday’s provincial election in Alberta will come down to one question: How much anti-LGBTQ bigotry, conspiracy theorizing and American culture war nonsense will voters put up with in the name of keeping corporate taxes low?

Based on the flurry of recent polls that show Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party either in the lead or close to it, the answer will almost certainly be “too much.” This shouldn’t be too surprising given the well-documented fondness in Alberta for not paying taxes and the NDP’s curious decision to announce a tax hike as one of its key platform commitments. This fed into the pre-existing narrative — one the NDP has done almost nothing to complicate — about the party’s general hostility to business and the economy, facts be damned. To revive James Carville’s famous slogan from the 1992 Democratic presidential campaign: it’s still the economy, stupid.

This is understandably frustrating for anyone with a conception of politics that extends beyond their own bank balance. Smith has allied herself with people like Artur Pawlowski, whose long track record of anti-LGBTQ comments includes a recent sermon where he told supporters of abortion and trans rights that he would “hunt you, every step of the way.” She has attracted candidates who compare trans kids to fecal matter and insist schools are showing children pornography in classrooms. And perhaps most infamously, she has compared vaccinated Albertans to supporters of Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler.

She’s also surrounded by powerful backroom operatives and activists who push things even further than she does. David Parker, the home-schooled leader of Take Back Alberta, has said that “a small fringe minority with unacceptable views has taken over all of your institutions, your legal system, your medical system (and) your education system. They’ve taken over your churches, to some degree.” Ironically, he’s not referring to his own supporters, who believe and say things that clearly place them at the ideological margins of Alberta society. Parker, for example, thinks women who put their careers before having kids are part of a “war between the pro-humans and anti-humans.”

We’ve seen this movie before, of course, with Donald Trump. He was objectively worse than Smith, who at least believes in things like a woman’s right to choose and the LGBTQ community’s right to exist. Trump’s supporters, meanwhile, threatened (and then committed) the sort of rhetorical and literal violence that still remains — for now, at least — offside here in Canada. Americans, to their everlasting discredit, elected him once, almost re-elected him in 2020 and may well return him to office in 2024. For all the right’s self-serving mewling about cancel culture, we clearly live in a world where saying and believing objectively terrible things is not automatically disqualifying — especially if you're promising to cut taxes for rich people.

The same seems to hold true in Alberta. Some voters will try to look past that uncomfortable truth, just as millions of Republicans did with Trump’s racism, homophobia and anti-science ramblings. They’ll focus on things like the tax cuts, smaller government and other ideological hobby horses. They’ll tell themselves (as some UCP campaigners have been telling them, apparently) that Smith will be gone in short order anyways, replaced by a leader who can more reliably advance their economic interests without stirring up a shitstorm in the process.

This is, to be kind, a bit naive. To be less kind, it’s completely delusional. Once you validate this sort of casual cruelty, it only invites and endorses more of it. These voters need only watch Pawlowski’s press conference from Wednesday when he stood on the steps of the legislature and railed against the LGBTQ community and the UCP’s apparent betrayal of his interpretation of reality. They should think hard on why Smith thought it was a good idea to meet with this man, much less promise him the things he claims to have been offered. And they should ask themselves: when push comes to shove (and it always does lately with conservative leaders in Alberta), who do they think Parker and Take Back Alberta will side with?

In time, Smith may have to apologize for inviting that element into the conservative coalition and handing it the reins of power. But as we’ve seen with Trumpism’s continued destruction of America’s political landscape, by the time those apologies are made, it’s already far too late to do much about it. We have one chance to stop that from happening here in Alberta. Let’s hope the voters use it.

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I am baffled by what Albertans see in the UCP and in particular Danielle Smith. Why would anyone want a bat sh*t crazy premier that is racist, living in the past mentally and if not mentally challenged.

If not paying a tax is all that is important to Albertans, then it just shows how narrow minded the voters are and whom can't see the forest for the trees.

Good luck Alberta, you are going to need it with Danielle Smith.

Sadly, Alberta is Canada's Texas. I follow how the Republican party in the USA is destroying democracy along with social programs and the environment. The I realize things are not any better in Canada.

Even Texas now has a stunning growth in renewables, primarily wind. It's taking huge market share from fracked gas because its cheaper. Not that state Republican leaders would draw attention to that fact.

Not just coincidentally, inviting the religious element in automatically includes the crazy, always has, which then begs the question, "at what point can religion find its rightful place in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders)? It's way past due.
And it's the right wing that is disproportionately religious. That's what the Reform Party and the Tea Party both were/are, and both very effectively also used "the economy" as their Trojan horse.
But this whole "Take Back Alberta" bunch, despite being certifiable, are much more emboldened this time around, so what's changed since the "lake of fire" incident that took Smith down last time? More fear than usual and stoked by social media? Saying crazy religious stuff OUT LOUD regarding crazy biblical views toward GAY people was the line crossed there but this Parker guy's take is far worse because it also includes women, so fully half of humanity. It's why THEY took the fall first in the theocratic U.S. when the Supreme Court was overtaken by Catholics. We should be thinking of the religious as an invading army because that's what they obviously, demonstrably, manifestly ARE.
The fact that misogyny is endemic to religion is what should actually relegate ALL religion for ALL time at this point, but for the sake of being "tolerant" we clutch that millstone around our neck ever more tightly, trying to bring it ALL along. Refusing to even acknowledge our failure means the insanity will continue. What else explains the sheer AVIDITY of conservatives now, and real American gains have probably emboldened believers up here.
The quote in this article from David Parker about how a "fringe minority" has taken over society is classic bizarro brand conservative as in "I know you are but what am I" but overt crazies like him really should be fish in a barrel, marginalized automatically as was done with Artur Pawlowski. But even HE is a legend in his own mind and imagines he's head of some "solidarity" movement or other.....
There's clearly an ongoing battle behind the scenes among the conservatives (like Parker said, "even in the churches," and 'twas ever thus) but disastrously for the rest of us, they still come off as just united enough that their vote won't be split. And if they DO win, it'll be like Jim Prentice said, we'll all need to look in the mirror.

In my view Alberta became morally bankrupt long ago under Ralph Klein. I had to live outside the province for a few years to see it more clearly. UCP/Smith et al are only digging the hole another few layers deeper.

It's a matter of time before economics follow. Alberta's domestic economy is being infiltrated by Satanic solar and wind farms and climate alarmism about the small and perfiectly ignorable issue of unbreathable air, which seems to not be worthy of attention during an election campaign.

What will wake up AB conservatives is how quickly renewables will dampen the demand for AB oil in its export markets, causing a downward slide in the province's economic indeces.

I don't see AB returning to sanity until there's been a thorough lashing of its carbon hegemony, and when the public truly understands that social conservatism tainted with extremism is a distraction it can afford only as long as fossil fuel revenue allows such sidebar craziness.

You lost me at " Satanic solar and wind farms and climate alarmism".
You really still don't understand the scope of the climate emergency?

No, it's sarcasm.

It may be a good idea to add a /s at the end of one's comment to indicate such, then. Given our current political and social milieu, it understandably can no longer be considered as obvious

What Tris said.

Well interestingly, another famous Alberta example of "moral bankruptcy" was when Premier "Bible Bill" Aberhart tried to introduce a law to stop journalists from criticizing government. He was stopped by the courts, the rule of law came to the rescue. So speaking of hegemony, it's our only defence against the ongoing and pervasive hegemony of religion.
And "social conservatism" that is "tainted with extremism" is the very definition of what religion IS, except that "tainted" is very much an understatement. And the fact that weirdly, most people are completely sanguine about the whole "god" idea, despite it being the very definition of "out there" and DSM-worthy, is the elephant in the room. It's why conservatism is more cult-like than liberalism, and as their religious arm gains power in the American Supreme Court, our burgeoning human rights are at risk, with women being thrown under the bus Eve style, in lockstep with this insane, ancient doctrine, reminding us again how the whole idea came from men. Consider the flippant but telling, "if men got pregnant you'd be able to get an abortion at Jiffy Lube."
Alberta IS the bible belt remember and I live in Lethbridge, cult central. It explains more than is given credit for, to say the least. It's like the outbreak of whooping cough in the southern part of the province; even though it's strictly among the cult population who are anti-vax because, you know, god will take care of everything, THAT is never mentioned in the report. That's my point.