Premiere and leader of Alberta’s New Democratic Party Rachel Notley has a peculiarly favourite phrase to use when discussing her government. “We have already embarked upon a budget that is geared to giving us levers that we can pull”, she told Metro News in a December interview reflecting on her party’s progress. Discussing her party’s energy policy with The Globe and Mail in January, she explained that “we need to have as many options, as many levers, at our disposal as we can.”
It would seem that, to Mrs. Notley, the purpose of government is to create and finagle ‘levers’, to wrangle its population as one would an ancient steam engine, tweaking and fine-tuning society’s behaviour with a goal of steering it towards a destination decided upon by those behind the wheel. If the release of carbon dioxide is a bad thing, for example, the government must spare no cost in reducing it. If farmers are at risk of injury, it’s the job of the government to protect them. If a worker is at risk of being replaced while on strike, only the government can save them. The question is never ‘why?’, only ‘how?’.
In the months since their election, these levers of which Mrs. Notley spoke have taken form in new taxes, new regulations, and new reasons for the government to raid and confiscate private property. Is it coincidence that so many of the world’s ills can be solved only by a more powerful, invasive government?
The belief that the world would be a perfect utopia if only the government had sufficient control over its citizens is central to the NDP, a party which only removed references to socialism from their official constitution 3 years ago, not in response to any change in their core beliefs, but because they realized that it looked bad. The NDP is still a socialist party, they just don’t like to brag about it.
By this point in history it should go without saying that socialism doesn’t work, but even in the golden-plained, resource-rich western paradise that is Alberta, there are those who stubbornly fight against logic or reason, and strive, heads held high, towards the miasma of human suffering which socialism produces. The economic collapse of Venezuela is a stark, current example, if any more were needed, of a government that tried to control its populace through regulation and taxation. Neither noble nor effective, this philosophy slowly strangles a population while those who work the knobs insist that just a few more adjustments will solve everything (though they are of course shielded from the effects of their own failed experiments).
Parallels between Alberta and Venezuela are few, but they should not be ignored. Oil-rich and once booming, both found themselves with leaders (with similar views on climate change no less) who underestimated just how much havoc an over-bearing government can wreak. Believing that “only socialism can really create a genuine society“, Hugo Chavez was quick install his own levers, to steer his country towards his imagined utopia, with inevitable and dire consequences. Alberta is now similarly flirting with socialism, placing in power those with the same misguided philosophy that bankrupted Venezuela. Though the outcome will be depressingly predictable, one hopes it will be delayed long enough for sanity to return to the province.