Thursday, February 24, 2011

Budget 2011: How Time Flies...

Nation, it was roughly a year ago when, at the invitation of the Honourable Jonathan Denis, QC, I made the trek up to Edmonton for the presentation of Budget 2010.

It was the first of what were expected to be a series of budgets released by freshly-minted Finance Minister Ted Morton, a fiscal hawk who had been moved into the position to steer the government back into the black and keep the right flank of the PC Party content that their views were being represented.

There was a particularly touching moment after Question Period that day, when outgoing Finance Minister Iris Evans came into the otherwise empty chamber with Morton, and showed him where the cameras are, which galleries would house which dignitaries, the lines of sight to various ministers and MLA's...  it was very much the kind of rare moment in politics that shows that the faces and names we cast about and shout at all the time are real people - people who take pride in their work, who genuinely care about how the new guy does, and who get nervous about a big speech.

This doesn't suggest in any way that this "real-ness" is exclusively the domain of Iris and Ted, by any means...  anyone who's attended Question Period has heard the conversations on the floor before the Speaker parades into the Assembly and calls it to order...  often, the conversations are just loud, good-natured jabs and jokes back and forth...  but even among opponents, there is a camaraderie. A sense that these people, despite their political differences, genuinely like each other, and appreciate that they're all punching the clock trying to build a better Alberta in their own way.

Budget 2010 was presented shortly after the defection of 2 Tory MLA's to the Wildrose Alliance. The Alliance caucus had tripled in size as a result, and there was a sense of discomfort in the room as MLA's from the other parties tried to digest how this would affect their working environment. The Wildrose caucus now stands at 4, and their polling numbers have emboldened their MLA's as they look down the barrel of a 20+ member increase to their caucus if an election were to be held today. They will be releasing an Alternative Budget on Friday, which they say will illuminate the path back to fiscal dry land.

Ted Morton has moved on as Finance Minister, and Budget 2011 will be delivered by Lloyd Snelgrove.

Ed Stelmach, who led the PC's to a massive victory 35 months ago, has announced he will not be seeking re-election.

Opposition Leader Dr. David Swann, chosen leader of the Alberta Liberals 26 months ago, has announced that he will be stepping aside as leader of his party.

Morton, along with fellow PC leadership contenders Alison Redford, Doug Horner and Doug Griffiths, is sitting on the opposite side of the house, watching this budget from the political equivalent of the "nosebleed seats", with each contender likely imagining themselves choosing a Minister of Finance to deliver Budget 2012.

And the rest of us wait, to see what the final budget of Premier Ed Stelmach will contain.

If you had painted this picture for me while I was sitting in the gallery a year ago, I'd have told you to get your head examined.

Welcome to 2011.

No comments: