Making political predictions can be a damning business.
Writers, especially columnists should avoid the practice at all costs. If they do decide to wade into such hellish business they must be prepared for an unyielding chorus of both praise and condemnation.
And even more treacherous than making predictions is then going out on a limb with some raison d’être to bear out one’s political guesswork.
But columnists are notorious risk takers.
We thrive — survive in fact — on stumbling upon and then illuminating some faint morsel of political or social history others have either failed to notice or chosen to ignore.
So true to my calling, I sail right into rough weather.
Premier Dennis Fentie and his Yukon Party will be re-elected with an ever so slight majority government.
And the reason:
Neither the Liberals nor the New Democrats have demonstrated sufficient unambiguous rationale for voters to abandon the current government.
The key word here — and the one I hope will be remembered by both my defenders and detractors when the sailing gets really rough — is unambiguous.
I could have chosen any number of synonyms for unambiguous — definite, unequivocal, decided, instantly recognizable — but the picture ought to be clear enough: Neither opposition party has been able to unnerve enough voters to bring down the current government.
If I am right, conservative-leaning readers who support my point of view will likely praise what I have written here.
Those in the other camps will most likely demand to know – and rightly so – what I, in my seemingly self-proclaimed wisdom, saw that they did not.
And more importantly still, they will clamour to know what notions, policies or programs could the Liberals and New Democrats have unveiled that would have turned the tide.
So here is my take.
Arthur Mitchell and Todd Hardy made the mistake of choosing the timid approach toward both the economy (diversity with certainty) and the environment (protect and sustain).
But then Fentie can be justifiably accused of making the same mistake.
All three leaders, in fact, failed to adequately come to grips with the ambiguity, and therefore the long-term implications, of patronizing the notions of ‘diversified economy,’ ‘regulatory and administrative certainty’ and ‘economic and environmental sustainability.’
Given this across-the-board failure on the part of all parties to do the hard work of educating voters on these complex and ambiguous notions, voters will do what I would expect them to do: stay the course.
Neither Mitchell nor Hardy found it important to try to explain to voters (in ordinary language) just how wilderness protection, eco-tourism, travel-learning, cultural industries and the “sustainable” harvesting of trees and minerals converts to enhanced health care, full employment, social and economic equality, and innovative and worthwhile education.
Fentie didn’t have to.
For a government currently riding the wave of a rosy economy and with a wilderness that for all intents and purposes appears to be holding its own, ambiguity is not as serious a problem.
Unless and until opposition parties can better build and sell the case that undisturbed wilderness has economic value on par with resource development (which it does), and that a nonrenewable resource economy is mortal over time (which it is), Yukoners will be content with business as usual.
In order to persuade voters to change gears a party must be first willing, then capable, and eventually successful in cultivating new values among its citizenry. Not new policies or programs, but new values.
The key word here is to cultivate.
To cultivate — to foster growth, to care for or study or refine, to further encourage — takes time.
Values like carrots cannot be rushed. If they are, they will be stunted, abnormal and useless.
If the Liberals or NDP had a more thorough, thoughtful and less ambiguous approach to the economy and the environment, or if the Yukon Party had done irreparable damage to the environment or slowed the economy, this election would turn out differently.
But voters who tilt even slightly toward a conservative point of view continue to see the left as trying to impose a political correctness they don’t trust and therefore highly resent.
And those who lean slightly more liberal still see the stability and diversity of the current Yukon economy as reason enough to bite their lips and vote their paycheque.
Cultivating a brighter future is all about timing.
Dennis Fentie will be given more time – another term in which to reinforce his notion that conservatives can manage wilderness, create economy, provide for the welfare of Yukoners, and do so more efficiently than can the opposition.
The Liberals and NPD can now go back and begin the systematic and important work of cultivating serious ecological values – values that make an unambiguous and enduring link between economy and environment.