Naheed Nenshi, the lovable freedom fighter who has become a Robin Hood-like hero for oppressed university students, recently revealed that it seems unlikely Calgary will receive federal funding for the underground tunnel to Nottingham, er, the airport. There are few, if any, prospects for another contributor to this hot-button project and it appears as if the dream of the tunnel will die in its crib. Quebec City, meanwhile, will receive federal funding to improve transportation networks for its airport. This raises a serious question: why does the government ignore the one major Canadian city that elected only Conservative members of parliament?
The term "Western alienation" was tossed around a lot in Alberta during the Liberal governments of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. Calgary, for one, has not elected a Liberal MP since the height of Trudeau-mania in 1968 and many of its residents are still bitter about the National Energy Program of 1980 (although they have been all too eager to forgive the provincial PCs, whom under Peter Lougheed agreed to the NEP and toasted it with champagne after lengthy negotiating in 1981). Given this stubborn animosity of Calgarians to the Liberals, it made sense to everyone why Alberta was seemingly being ignored: they don't care about us because we don't vote for them.
Everything was supposed to change in 2006 when Stephen Harper and his Conservative posse formed the government. Now we would finally receive the respect we deserve! Fast track to the airport tunnel debacle, however, and it appears as though nothing has changed. The logic behind Alberta's marginalization is painfully obvious: just as the Liberals ignored us because they knew they could not win, the Conservatives now ignore us because they know they cannot lose. You can hardly blame either party for this situation. They both need to appeal to other parts of the country where voters might actually change their minds. Why waste time and resources here? We've already played our hand.
We have alienated ourselves by so predictably voting Conservative in every election. If Alberta wants to feel as politically important as Quebec or Ontario, all we have to do is elect someone else. Edmonton elected one New Democrat and had elected a Liberal or two in the previous two elections, and as such it can expect to receive more attention from parties of any stripe during both elections and government sessions than Calgary. There has never been a better time to shed our Tory blue, what with historic charges of contempt of parliament plaguing a government that prefers to identify itself with "Harper" before "Canada." The typical response to such statements seems to always be, "Yes, yes, but there are no good alternatives." This, of course, is nonsense, but don't take my word for it. Go to the Liberal website, go to the NDP website, go to any of the other parties' websites and you will find platforms that are more concerned with tackling the problems of the twenty-first century than scoring cheap political points.
If you are a dyed-in-the-wool Conservative, you will probably respectfully disagree with these sentiments. However, if you are an Albertan who is sick and tired of being ignored by the federal government, a spring election will be our chance to take a stand. Calgarians have not been shy about embracing liberal-minded mayors in Naheed Nenshi and Dave Bronconnier -- we should not be shy about sending our Conservative MPs to the curb. After all, what have they done for us lately?