The changing face of Alberta’s political landscape may turn out to be the best image makeover and public relations campaign the province never thought of.
Many Canadians have viewed Alberta as red-necked and staunchly conservative and Albertans as gun-toting, beef eating, greenhouse gas producing cowboys. The media, and in particular the national media have worked to perpetuate this stereotype with stories focused on Alberta’s rebel and go-it-alone mentality.
Albertans themselves have by and large cared little about this caricature, safe in the knowing that it is generally not true. In fact Albertans often go out of their way to keep the Wild West image alive. World pictures from July of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge decked out in jeans and cowboy hats and watching wirery cowboys ride bulls, broncs and chuck wagons do little to dispel perceptions.
But the election of Nahid Nenshi, a Muslim, as Calgary’s mayor in 2010 and the recent victory by Allison Redford, a woman, to become Alberta premier are changing the way Canadians view the Wild Rose province. Recent articles in the Globe and Mail and National Post and stories on CBC, CTV and Global portray Alberta as coming out of the dark ages and getting in step with the rest of Canada.
It’s a PR campaign worth millions. After all, why would Alberta have a woman premier and its largest city a Muslim mayor if it wasn’t coming of age? Through these reports, Canadians see Alberta in a new light and these media “discoveries” of the true Alberta have been a boon to the province’s reputation as progressive and inclusive. The national media is deciding that Alberta has shed the chains of intolerance and it is becoming a great place to live.
Never mind that more than a decade ago, Calgary was the first major city in Canada to have a woman police chief and that minorities hold down some of the top jobs in the province, Alberta is finally in step with everyone else. The truth is people are finally finding out that Alberta is and always has been pretty much like the rest of the country. It’s a PR makeover that Albertans most willingly accept.
In the coming months, Albertans will face a provincial election where they will be asked to choose between the premier, who is now referred to by many as Red Redder Redford, or the right of centre Wild Rose party lead by Danielle Smith. While this image to Canadians may be progressive; two women fighting it out to lead the province, Albertans see it as a choice between two platforms regardless of whether it’s a woman or a man at the helm.