April 23, 2012

Alberta communists challenge big oil regime

Peoples Voice

Alberta has a reputation as a right-wing province, in part due to its political history. From 1935 to 1971, Alberta was governed by Social Credit, which quickly dropped its populist origins to become a mainstream pro-business party. The past 41 years have seen regular majorities for the Conservatives, closely linked to Big Oil and other corporate interests.

When voters go to the polls on April 23, the main contenders are the Conservatives led by "moderate" Premier Alison Redford, and Danielle Smith's Wildrose party, a more stridently right-wing pro-corporate party.

     But Alberta also has a story of progressive politics, in Edmonton, where the NDP has often elected sizable numbers of MLAs, but also in some eastern and northern rural areas, and in coal-mining communities such as Drumheller and Blairmore, where the Communist Party of Canada had a major influence starting in the 1920s.

     Reflecting this history and the urgent issues of the 21st century, two Communist Party-Alberta candidates are on the ballot for the April 23 election. Ten thousand copies of the party's election flyer are being delivered, featuring the slogan, "We are the 99% who demand: Put People Before Profit!"

     Running in Edmonton Mill Creek is the party's provincial leader, Naomi Rankin, a retired computer programmer who has been a political activist in peace, women's and social justice groups since the age of 15.

     Joining her in the campaign is Bonnie Devine in the working class riding of Calgary East. A telecommunications worker, Bonnie Devine is the president of her union local and a prominent anti-racist activist.

     Despite Alberta's other reputation as a "well-off" province, working people and their families are under sharp attack, says the Communist Party: "Alberta's economy is geared to uncontrolled growth with record profits for energy corporations and financial speculators in the midst of stagnation elsewhere. Contradictions abound. We are told there are plenty of jobs and a shortage of labour, but unemployment stays high. We are told that our quality of life depends on the success of oil companies, but their profits are not reinvested in us. We are told that Alberta is a land of plenty, yet food bank use soars. The Redford government will be rolling out `austerity' because the game plan is to discipline the working class and roll back the gains we made in previous decades. The Occupy movement is the most recent dramatic example of confronting this agenda. Keep popular dissent growing by voting Communist."

     The Communist election message goes on to describe the situation facing workers in Alberta:

     "Longer hours, worsening working conditions, larger debts, higher rents, underfunded reduced quality health care, increasing tuition, over-crowded classrooms, not enough schools, and lack of affordable childcare. Low paid workers working two, three and four jobs and using food banks. Students who should be studying car working more hours to pay for education. Children are entering the workplace in greater numbers to help with family living costs. All this while big oil companies continue to post record profits!

     "And what is the forty-year regime's response? More of the same `lease, dig and dump.' `Don't touch the brake' has been dressed up in a new suit - `sustainable growth' for big engineering, construction and oil companies. While the most vulnerable workers labour without union protection, oil executives and speculators are making out like bandits. Instead of representing all Albertans, Premier Redford is sent by Harper to Washington DC to assure Big Oil that their plans and profits are safe with the Progressive Conservatives in Alberta continuing in power."

     This sharp criticism is accompanied by a call to "replace the corporate agenda with a people's agenda!"

     The Communist election message and platform can be found on the Web at www.communistparty-alberta.ca.

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