In the old Aesop’s fable, “The Birds, the Bats, and the Beasts,” a lonely bat flits around the wildlife kingdom trying to find a place to belong.
First, he goes over to the Parliament of Birds and asks for membership and support within their ranks. He is turned down for consideration because, patently, he has fur, teeth and no beak at all, and therefore could not be a bird.
Disconsolate, the bat then wings his way over to the Gathering of Beasts, and asks for membership in their ranks. He again is declined. To the animals present, it is patently obvious the bat, who flies, belongs with the birds and is not welcome in their ranks.
The moral of the story, according to Aesop, is that, “He that is neither one thing, or another, has no friends.”
Over the past nearly four years, under Jason Kenney, the United Conservative Party was a living embodiment of this principle. His policies seemed universally unpopular with left, right, or centre, urban, suburban, or rural. Kenney pleased no one, and seemed to have no friends.
So much so that Kenney was eventually done in by his own party and “resigned” after a lukewarm leadership review.
Having turned a page and attracted a new populist base with farther-right tendencies under Danielle Smith, with Smith having done better in the polls than many predicted, the UCP had an opportunity to seal the deal with its recent provincial budget.
With Alberta riding high on the tide of booming oil prices and big surpluses coming into election (ahem, bribery) season, the UCP probably should have considered making it rain rather than saving for a rainy day. Especially when for many municipalities and families in Alberta, it has already been raining for much of the past year with record-high inflation, affordable housing shortages, and skyrocketing cost-of-living increases.
Oh, not the full $2.4 billion, but maybe $400 million in key investments in municipalities’ strategic priorities would have done the trick. Instead, somehow, the UCP budget has managed to draw criticism from almost every quarter for having done too little, or for having outright ignored the priorities of cities, towns, counties, health foundations, and local education boards.
Many had hoped for a much-needed influx of surplus dollars to help offset some of their growth pressures and social needs, and got the equivalent of glass beads instead of chests of gold.
So as the UCP continues preparing for a crucial election season, it gets no boost from its election budget. UCP candidates are going to have to go door-to-door with largely empty hands, and few municipal endorsements to speak of, to ask those who have struggled these past four years to forget about all the bats in the party’s belfry.
Once again, the Parliament of Birds and the Gathering of Beasts have assembled to judge the UCP. Will they come up bats again? I guess we’ll see.