2012 Alberta Election

2012 Woman of the Year

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics, Featured Posts, Person of the Year | 3 Comments

Every December, I like to name a “Person of the Year” – the individual who left their mark on Canadian politics over the past year. The only rules are that the PM is too obvious a choice, and that lame picks (“You!”) are strictly verboten. The Person of the Year doesn’t need to be someone who used the force for the powers of good, or someone I like – just someone who made a difference. Below is a list of recent choices:

2011: Jack Layton
2010: Rob Ford and Naheed Nenshi
2009: Jim Flaherty
2008: Stephane Dion
2007: Jean Charest
2006: Michael Ignatieff
2005: Belinda Stronach
2004: Ralph Klein

Unlike 2011, when Jack Layton’s rise and death came to define the year that was in Canadian politics, no single event or person stands out in 2012. There was no federal election, and little that happened in Ottawa resonated outside the political bubble. After being warned about Harper’s “hidden agenda” for a decade, the most newsworthy item of Flaherty’s first majority budget was the death of the penny.

The robocon scandal might eventually stick, but we have no way of knowing, so selecting Pierre Poutine, or Misters McGregor and Maher is likely premature. A few people on Twitter nominated Mark Carney, but I’m not sure his flirtation with the Liberal Party or departure to England will really change much.

Rather, the focus in Ottawa this year was largely on leadership races in the opposition ranks. Thomas Mulcair deserves consideration for Person of the Year – he won a competitive race, allowing the NDP to complete their journey from protest to pragmatism. Mulcair proved himself to be a steady opposition leader, but his polling bounce has faded due to…

Justin Trudeau. I don’t doubt that Trudeaumania II will be the “Story of the Year” on a lot of recap lists, but it’s not clear to me Justin left any lasting mark on Canadian politics (other than the ones on Patrick Brazeau’s face). And being talked about isn’t enough to make you the Person of the Year, or else I’d be handing out this award to the IKEA Monkey.

If we move outside of federal politics, a couple of past winners find themselves on the short list again in 2012. Rob Ford was a headline machine this year, culminating with a judge ordering him to be removed from office. The only problem is, if we’re going to start naming troubled Mayors, it would make for one long list of co-winners, since you’d also need to include Gerard Tremblay, Gilles Vaillancourt, and Joe Fontana, among others.

It’s tempting to give my 2007 Person of the Year, Jean Charest, and fellow Liberal-on-the-way out Dalton McGuinty a lifetime achievement award for the impact they’ve had on Canadian politics over the past decade. After all, this fall’s Quebec election was a thriller, and Charest surprised everyone by nearly hanging on.

However, even more exciting and unpredictable was the Alberta election. Which brings us to our 2012 Woman of the Year:

Alison Redford poses with Daryl Katz

The PCs winning elections in Alberta is hardly news. They’ve now done that a dozen times in a row, and will soon break the record as the longest-serving government in Canadian history. Alison Redford won 61 of 87 seats which, admittedly, marks a down year for the PCs – but is still considered a rout in most functioning democracies.

But, oh, what an exciting rout that was.

Redford led by 37 points in a January Leger poll, and there were actually non-satirical articles printed citing senior Tories worried they’d win “too many” seats. Luckily for those senior Conservatives, Alison Redford quickly put those fears to rest.

The issue that landed Redford in dire straits and caused her to lose complete control of the agenda was the “money for nothing” controversy. When it came to light that MLAs were receiving $1,000 a month to sit on a committee which hadn’t met in four years, the opposition members did the sensible thing and returned the money. Redford did not. She called the gesture by the opposition MLAs a “stunt” and said there was nothing wrong with the committee – but hung her MLAs out to dry by suggesting there would be electoral consequences if they didn’t return the cash. Her caucus whip said voters were too stupid to understand the issue. Redford dithered and didn’t act until the polls went south a month after the story broke. But the damage was done. She had given the Wildrose Party all the ammunition they would need to run an “entitled to their entitlements” campaign.

In most years, Redford’s stumbles wouldn’t have been fatal, but what made this a truly great election was that the PCs were facing their strongest competition in 20 years. Smith versus Redford pitted two of the country’s strongest politicians head-to-head, in what is likely to become Canada’s most interesting political rivalry over the next few years. Contrary to what anyone reading news stories in 2010 or 2011 would believe, Danielle Smith isn’t perfect – she confusingly tried to brand herself as the “anti-change” candidate and presented voters with a gimmicky platform, offering Ralph Bucks and Doris Day petitions. But Smith is a smart, articulate, and charismatic politician, so it’s no surprise her campaign strategy of “let’s do photo-ops with cute animals” was paying off. Before long, the Wildrose Party had pulled ahead. Alison Redford was sounding more and more desperate by the day, accusing the Wildrosers of being the party of “old white men” (fun fact: Alison Redford’s Cabinet was 86% male and 95% white).

By this time, Wildrose campaign manager Tom Flanagan must have been having flashbacks to the 2004 federal election – a long time government brings in a new leader with expectations of a landslide victory, only to mismanage a scandal and see a new right wing party pull ahead. Sadly for Doctor Tom, the similarities would continue down the stretch, with voters en masse having second thoughts about what this new right wing party truly stood for.

For that, Redford can thank a pair of Wildrose candidates. Allan Hunsperger blogged that gays would burn for all eternity in a lake of fire in hell, and Danielle Smith didn’t seem too troubled. Ron Leech talked about “the white advantage”, and Danielle Smith didn’t seem too troubled, saying every candidate should put forward “their best argument for why they should be the person who can best represent the community”.

For a variety of reasons, the pundits and polls were as off the mark as Smith’s candidates, setting up one of the most stunning election nights in Canadian history. Columnists across the country were forced to madly re-write their columns on the demise of the PC dynasty. Some weren’t able to, hence Andrew Coyne’s first page Post column which beganUnless something astonishing happens, the Wildrose Party will form the next government of Alberta”. Turns out astonishing things can happen in politics every now and then – even in boring, predictable Alberta.

Redford has stayed in the news post-election, thanks mainly to two more badly mismanaged scandals. However, she’s also had an impact on the national stage, being at the centre of the Enbridge pipeline feud with Christy Clark. Although Redford has only been PC leader for a little over a year, she is quickly becoming one of the most well known and respected names on the national stage – and her prominence is likely to grow with new Premiers recently elected or on the way in Quebec, Ontario, and BC (unless something astonishing happens!). With Alberta continuing to grow, and Redford showing an eagerness to expand Alberta’s influence in Canada and around the world, expect to hear more from her in 2013.

Did the left blow it in Alberta?

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics | Leave a comment

Even though the end result was a Stephen Harper majority government, the NDP took a giant leap forward last May. In one election, the party may very well have taken the first step in killing off Canada’s natural governing party, positioning the Dippers to one day form government.

Although last Monday’s Alberta election was a battle between two conservative parties, it’s not far flung to imagine how a similar scenario could have unfolded there.

Let’s close our eyes and go back in time to the spring of 2008 – Leona Lewis topped the billboard charts, and Ed Stelmach had just stumbled his way to a crushing 70-seat majority. In our scenario, perhaps the Liberals and NDP finally decide that 50 years of fighting each other for second place has been counterproductive. They talk to some disaffected PCs and non-partisans and decide to start a new progressive party from scratch – let’s call it the “Alberta Party” for lack of a more creative name.

Since there’s general displeasure with Stelmach and no viable alternative on the right (remember, this is pre-Danielle), a few polls show this party is popular at the conceptual level. Maybe Dave Bronconnier finally has enough guts to jump to provincial politics. Or maybe the leadership goes to a little known Mount Royal professor by the name of Nenshi.

In either event, this new party is seen as credible by voters, setting up a real three-way election battle. Maybe the Alberta Party follows the federal NDP’s path and winds up as the official opposition to a Wildrose government. Maybe we get Alberta’s first minority government. Hell, maybe the PCs choose Gary Mar or Ted Morton as their leader, and all those “Redford Liberals” find a home in the new Alberta Party, sweeping them into power.

Yes, it’s all fantasy, but fantasyland is the only place the left ever comes close to power in Alberta so there’s no harm in closing our eyes and imagining it.

Now, let’s try another scenario, grounded slightly more in reality – what would have happened had the “strategic voters” been less strategic? Could progressives have made a breakthrough on Monday night?

It’s important to remember that despite being the punchline of Canadian politics, the left in Alberta is not nonexistent. Since the Liberals’ near-victory in 1993, the Liberals and NDP have combined for between 35% and 42% of the vote in each election, falling victim to the unforgiving nature of first past the post.

The Liberals’ did not bled to the Wildrose Party this election, but to Allison Redford. The final Abacus poll showed around 10% of 2008 Liberal and NDP voters jumping to the Wildrose Party, but this is off-set by the 5% of past PC voters who planned to follow Raj Sherman to the grits. Toss in the departure of the Alberta Greens from the ballot, and it’s not unreasonable to assume the Liberals and NDP could have held their 2008 vote, had things broken a little differently.

So what if they had?

To find out, I moved PC voters “back” to the Liberals, until the 2012 regional totals matched the 2008 numbers. As an example, to get the Liberals back to 33% in Calgary, I needed to shift 11% of the total vote from the PCs to the Liberals in each riding. I recognize this is an inexact science but, once again, this is perfectly legitimate math for fantasyland.

Here’s what that legislature would have looked like:

WR 42
PC 26
Lib 14
NDP 5

That may not be an overly appealing outcome, but it does leave the Liberals and NDP as players in a minority government. Moreover, if you shift to 2004 levels of support, suddenly we get 23 Liberal MLAs and 13 for the PCs, with the Wildrose holding a slim majority. That’s a scenario similar to last May, and one that could eventually lead to the Liberals squeezing the PCs out of existence.

Again, we’re playing with hypotheticals in the land of make believe, but it does show that the landscape isn’t so completely barren for progressives that the only option left is assimilation by the PCs. Situations can change – even in Alberta.

Who saw it coming?

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 Alberta Election, Calgary Grit Contests and Polls | Leave a comment

The answer to that question is “not very many of us”.

More than 190 people entered the joint daveberta.ca and CalgaryGrit Great Alberta Election Pool, but like nearly all the pollsters and pundits, most entries were far away from the actual results on election night. Just 15% predicted a PC majority, and only 2 people had them winning at least 60 seats. The wisdom of the masses proved more accurate when it came to the bonus questions, successfully calling the defeat of Ted Morton and the controversial Wildrose candidates, while predicting Heather Klimchuk’s victory in the hotly contested Edmonton Glenora riding. The median prediction of the Alberta Party’s best riding showing was spot on the mark at 17%.

Each entry received 87 points minus one point for each seat you are off per party, plus two points per correct bonus question (see the questions here).

The two overall winners Marie and Tom earned 87 points each and will be contacted via email (if we’re unable to contact them, the next placing entrant will be contacted and offered the prize). Prussian Prince, who answered 9 of the 10 bonus questions correct, will also receive one of the prize packs generously donated by Robert Vollman (who himself placed a very respectable 14th).

Your top 10 are:

T1. Marie (87 points)
T1. Tom (87 points)
3. Alexis MacMillian (83 points)
T4. Blake Robert (81 points)
T4. Kyle Olsen (81 points)
6. Andrew F (75 points)
T7. Ryan (73 points)
T7. SaraEdmonton (73 points)
T9. Gwen May (71 points)
T9. Kristin Stolarz (71 points)

Thank you to everyone who entered the pool. Any entrant who is curious how they placed can ask in the comments section or send an e-mail to calgarygrit@gmail.com. Rest assured, you likely did better than the contest organizers – I placed 114th, while Dave was 177th.

Margin of Error

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics, Featured Posts, Polls | Leave a comment

I don’t think I’ve ever followed an election where the polls were as horribly off the mark as they were in Alberta.

Last May, when the media jumped on the “pollsters blew it” bandwagon for not projecting a Tory majority, most companies were still within the margin of error on the final vote intent numbers. Even during the 2004 federal election, the case study in pollsters “missing” a late swing, there wasn’t a poll the final week of the campaign that had the Liberals behind (even if seat projections did), and most only under-estimated Liberal support by 3-5 points.

But last night? This wasn’t just a case of shanking a field goal “wide right”, but booting it in the complete opposite direction of the goal posts. Here’s how the final polls stacked up with the results.

As most have commented, Forum’s Sunday afternoon poll picked up part of the late swing but, even then, to go from a 2-point Wildrose lead and 10-point PC win is under 24 hours is shocking. It wasn’t just a case of last second “strategic voting”, since most polls in the final week correctly pegged Liberal and NDP support levels.

So what went wrong? I can think of 6 possibilities:

1. The polls made little effort to screen out the 43% of Albertans who didn’t bother to vote on election day. Just asking respondents if they were absolutely certain to vote would have been a good start, even if few followed through on those intentions. But there are other attitudes and demographics that can help predict intent (i.e. older people are more likely to vote), and because of a lack of transparency in how these questions were asked or weighted, we have no way of knowing what steps were taken to screen out unlikely voters.

2. Building on the above point, the Big Blue Machine may have had a superior get out the vote operation than the relatively new Wildrose Party. I suspect this is part of the reason the federal Conservatives have “over performed” the polls on election day in recent years. Still, the best GotV operation will only bump you up a few percentage points, and it’s not like the Wildrose Party was short of former Tory organizers, money, or volunteers.

3. The PCs had better candidates and more incumbents. Even though local candidates rarely have a big impact on the results (see Quebec, 2011), it’s possible Albertans “voted” for the party and leader they wanted when asked that question on the survey, then considered the local candidates when they saw the names on the ballot. Still, once again, I can’t imagine this would translate to more than a point or two at the province-wide level.

4. With voters growing increasingly disengaged and disinterested in the political process, it’s possible many simply made up their mind in the voting booth. Since most polls only asked vote intent, there was little analysis in terms of strength of support, or where undecideds and soft voters might break before election day.

5. The most popular theory is that there was a “late swing” back to the PCs. This is born out by the Sunday Forum poll but, even then, a 20-point swing in the margin over the course of 5 days, or a single day 12-point swing is almost unheard of in politics. I don’t doubt there was a late shift, but from what I hear, the PC Party’s internal numbers showed them in much better shape than any of the media polls, suggesting that Smith’s lead was never as big as it was reported.

6. So how could all those polls have been wrong? Well, if you look at that table above, you’ll notice that Leger was one of the closest to the final mark, despite leaving field a week prior to the vote, before any “swing back” to the PCs was fully felt. The pollsters who overshot Wildrose support the most all used robo-diallers and online panels.

Both of those methodologies have inherent problems. You often need to make 50 to 100 robo calls to find one sap willing to complete the survey. So we know the Wildrose Party was popular with shut-ins, but that’s about it. Moreover, since robo calls can only ask 5 simple questions before respondents drop off, you rarely have the opportunity to collect enough demographic information to judge how representative the sample is.

You can get those demographics using online panels, but while a national panel will have hundreds of thousands of Canadians on it, you’re fishing from a much smaller pool when you get down to the Alberta level. Companies who don’t frequently conduct political polling in Alberta might not have a good understanding of the biases inherent to the panel they’re using, opening up the risk of skewed results.

If you’re looking for more background on some of the problems associated with robocalls and online polls, I’d suggest this excellent letter by Darrel Bricker and John Wright, or this article featuring blunt comments from Allan Greg and Andre Turcotte.

The blame doesn’t rest solely on the polling companies. The fact is robocalls and online polls are cheap to produce, and that’s all the media is willing to pay for. The internal Tory polls used live callers, and asked more demographic and attitudinal questions than just vote intent – this no doubt let them verify the validity of their sample, and provided direction on what levers could cause the public to swing back to the Tory fold. There’s something to be said about the old “you get what you pay for” adage, and most newspapers simply don’t have the budget to invest in getting the job done right.

We’ll probably never know which of the above factors were actually in play. And hell, this being Alberta, it could just be part of the deal with the devil the Alberta PCs signed long ago that ensures PC victory after PC victory.

Where do we go from here?

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics, Featured Posts | Leave a comment

The end result of Monday’s Alberta election may have been yet another crushing PC majority, but it’s impossible to deny Alberta’s political climate hasn’t been permanently altered. With the Wildrose Party now her majesty’s loyal opposition, each party faces unique challenges in adapting to this new political climate. Voters showed a willingness to change their vote this election, so any party failing to adapt risks extinction.

The PCs

Yes, they nearly blew it. Yes, they lost seats. But Monday was nothing short of complete triumph and total dominance by the PCs. In other words – the usual.

While the PCs have never been shy about knifing successful leaders, most of the discontents have fled to the Wildrose Party, so Redford’s leadership is likely safe…for now.

The challenge facing Redford is that she leads a very different PC Party than the one she inherited less than a year ago. Ted Morton and much of the rural caucus went down in defeat, and the PCs won their mandate from a vastly different coalition of voters than in 2008. If the polls are to be believed (ha ha ha!), half of all 2008 PC voters saddled up with Smith this campaign, while half of all 2008 Liberal voters jumped to Redford. In the process, the PC “base” has shifted considerably – Redford’s mandate was effectively given to her by liberals. If she governs like “your father’s PC Party”, there’s no way those voters will buy in to any kind of “Stop Smith” movement in 2016.

Of course, if she governs like a Liberal, she risks more bleeding to the Wildrose Party, who will now be staring her down in the legislature. In the past, the PCs have faced off against Liberal professors and doctors who cared more about policy than sound bytes. Now, they’ll be up against a well funded and media savvy libertarian. Gone are the days when elections could be won with a few simple chants of “NEP!” and by outspending their opponents by a factor of ten.

The Wildrose represent a new kind of opponent. The PCs have never had to worry about their right flank before, so Redford will have her hands full keeping everyone inside the PC tent happy.

Wildrose Party

Once the tears have dried, my advice to the Wildrose Party is to take a deep breath, take a vacation, and look at the big picture.

This party rose from the ground up, and won over 34% of the electorate in their first election with Danielle Smith. That’s better than Peter Lougheed fared in his rookie campaign as PC leader, and it leaves the Wildrose well positioned to form government in 2016.

To do that, Smith need look no further than the path to power taken by another Albertan, Stephen Harper. After coming close in 2004, Harper regrouped, developed a plan, and came back with a vengeance in 2006, running one of the best campaigns in Canadian political history. He had a moderate and focused platform, took social issues completely off the table, and avoided the “bozo eruptions” that had doomed him two years earlier.

Smith’s challenge in the coming years is therefore to silence the extremists in her party, and present her caucus as a government in waiting. To do that, she will need to tone down the rhetoric in the legislature and moderate her positions – Smith’s musings on reconsidering the party’s climate change, firewall, and conscience rights positions is already a step in the right direction.

What’s Left of the Left

For a party that lost over half of its vote Monday night, the Liberals have actually got to be feeling pretty good about the outcome. They held 5 seats when many were predicting a shut-out, and stayed (barely) ahead of the NDP both in terms of seats and popular vote.

While the NDP would have liked to vault ahead of the Grits, they doubled their caucus to four seats, tying their best showing in 20 years. Brian Mason can stick around as leader if he wants to, but the NDP are usually pretty good about giving all their MLAs a turn as party leader so it wouldn’t surprise me if the torch is passed to Rachel Notley or David Eggen.

Of course, these feel good results mask the reality that the status quo isn’t working. With the PCs shifting under Redford, there simply isn’t enough room for both these parties to be viable on the left of the spectrum.

In an ideal world, the two would simply merge, take the Alberta Party’s name and Twitter handle, and recruit a charismatic leader from outside their current MLA ranks. The thing is, I just can’t see a situation where the membership of either the Liberals, NDP, or Alberta Party would agree to this type of arrangement. Such has always been the story among Alberta progressives, who value pride above power.

That’s not to say it’s a hopeless situation. If Redford falters, the opportunity for someone on the left to squeeze out the PCs could present itself. The 30-40% of Albertans who always voted Liberal or NDP before this last election are still around, even if many parked their vote with Redford. If someone comes along able to capture their imagination, it wouldn’t be unfathomable for them to move ahead of the PCs, the same way Jack Layton vaulted ahead of the Liberals federally last spring.

I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen, but when you consider how volatile Alberta’s political climate has been of late, it would be foolish to assume there won’t be a surprise or two in the coming years.

"40 more years! 40 more years!"

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2004 Federal Election, 2012 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics, Featured Posts | Leave a comment

How certain was I that Alison Redford would be dealt a humiliating blow last night? I had my “morning after” post time stamped to go up at 8 am, detailing Smith’s victory using a colourfull “Wildrose chinook of change” analogy.

It turns out that politics, like the weather, can be unpredictable.

Not that a PC win in Alberta should ever be considered unpredictable. As I mused in my National Post Full Comment article this morning, dynasties do not crumble overnight. The decline of Rome lasted hundreds of years. The Oilers won a cup after dealing Gretzky. The Empire was good for two more movies, even after the Death Star blew up.

And last night, the PC empire struck back in full force:

PC: 61 seats  (44%)
Wildrose: 17  (34%)
Liberal: 5  (10%)
NDP: 4  (10%)

Yes, the PCs who were down by 7-10 points in every poll days before the vote pulled out a crushing 10-point victory.

The comparison I would draw is to the 2004 federal election, when the dying Liberal dynasty succeeded in scaring voters into giving them one last chance. With that in mind, here’s my cautionary warning to PC supporters who might have dreams of another 40 years in power:

The situation in this election is eerily similar to the 2004 federal campaign, when 2012 Wildrose campaign manager Tom Flanagan — then working for the federal Conservatives – tried to lead an upstart right wing band of misfits to victory against the natural governing party. In both instances, the incumbent dynasties had knifed successful leaders, and had unrealistic expectations for their new leaders. Just as anonymous PC strategists lamented about winning “too many seats” in February, in 2004 Liberal strategists mused about 200 seats for Paul Martin (which in fairness, Martin got – it just took him two elections to do it).

In both instances, the incumbent badly mismanaged a scandal (Adscam for Paul, the “no meet committee” for Redford), and threw caution to the wind by calling an election in the midst of it. In both instances, Flanagan’s great right hope rose in the polls, pulled into the lead, won the debate…and then blew it in the bottom of the 9th. Both times voters stared change in the face, and decided they weren’t ready for it – yet.

We all know how things turned out federally, and therein lies the cautionary tale for all the players in Alberta. The Wildrose Party now has a base of 35% of the Alberta electorate. They have an impressive, albeit inexperienced, leader in Danielle Smith who now has four years to refine her skills and weed out the thornier candidates from her party’s ranks. If Stephen Harper could make the federal Conservatives look “non-scary”, then surely the photogenic and charismatic Smith can pull off the same trick in Alberta.

The challenge facing the PCs is now the same one that faced Martin in 2004 – they won on a campaign of fear, and won thanks to borrowed votes from the left. It was a brilliant play for which Alberta’s political mastermind Stephen Carter deserves full credit, but it leaves the PCs governing on a shaky foundation. Given the Alberta Liberal Party has received between 25% to 30% of the vote in every election since their near-victory in 1993, some quick napkin math suggests that as much as one-third of the PC vote this campaign came from former Liberal supporters. These voters were willing to look past the decades of the PCs doing everything in government they accused the Wildrose of wanting to do, but they are unlikely to be forgiving if Redford veers to the right again. To keep these voters in the PC tent will require competent, centrist government from Redford — but also a still-scary Wildrose Party come 2016, and the lack of a credible alternative on the left.

I wouldn’t discount that possibility, but holding borrowed votes on the left and preventing further bleeding to the right is a difficult balancing act for any government. While Redford was the big winner Monday, when the book is eventually written on the PC empire, its latest victory could still prove to be the beginning of the end.

Alberta Votes Live Blog

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics | Leave a comment

6 pm (mountain time!): The much anticipated downtown Toronto Alberta election night party is ready to roll: the Alberta flag has been proudly hung, the Big Rock beers have been opened, and I’m sportin’ a Supportin’ Morton button. Polls are still open for another two hours, but the room is already full with a dozen ex-Albertans – and two Ontarians curious to see who will be signing their next equalization cheque.

7:20 pm: Playing “Ted Morton is the man” and “sing a song for Jim” to get everyone pumped up. One guest – “ahhh, so that’s how Ed Stelmach became Premier“.

8:10 pm: In most Alberta elections, we’d be calling it right about now.

8:14 pm: Watching the Global TV live stream online – they have a CNN-style touch screen! Sadly, due to James Moore’s budget cuts, CBC will be announcing results via abacus tonight.

8:42 pm: Current numbers have the PCs leading in 45, Wildrose leading in 22, NDP in 2, Liberals in 1. maybe this is the Dennis Coderre bounce.

8:50 pm:  PCs now lead 55-21. And that’s the sound of pundits everywhere frantically re-writing their articles before deadline.

9:01 pm:And they call it for the PCs. Absolutely shocking. Tom Flanagan blows it in the bottom of the 9th again. Conversation at our Toronto election party:

“I thought this was supposed to be a close election”
“By Alberta standards, this IS a close election”

9:40 pm: Guess we need to give Alberta Liberals an assist on this one. The ALP vote is down 15-20 points from their usual levels, far and away the margin of victory.

10:37 pm: And the traditional chant goes up at PC headquarters: “40 more years! 40 more years!“. That’s it for tonight all – tomorrow, I’ll try to make some sense of one of the most shocking election nights in a long time.

Alberta Votes Today

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics, Featured Posts | Leave a comment

After the most only exciting election in nearly twenty years, Albertans head to the polls today, with the fate of the 41 year old Tory government hanging in the balance.

The polls all show Danielle Smith and her lovable band of bigots homophobes racists misfits up by between 7 and 10 points 2 and 10 points. It’s hard to say what that translates to in terms of seats, but the mean prediction of the 150 entries in the Great Alberta Election pool is: WR 42, PC 37, NDP 4, Lib 3, AP 1. Despite the poll numbers, over a third of all pool respondents predict a PC victory, so someone’s in for a surprise tonight – one way or the other.

I’ll be watching the results as they roll in with a dozen ex-pat Albertans. There will be Big Rock and there will be live blogging – at least until I blow .05 .08 and have my laptop taken away.

Until then, here’s a recap of the past four weeks:

Day 28: What to expect tomorrow
How I’d Vote
Day 26: Problem Solved
Election Pool
Dear Alberta PCs: Welcome to life as a Liberal
Day 25: “Fuck it, I’m voting PC”
Day 24: Sleeping arrangements at minority motel
There goes another $1,000 “good behaviour” bond
Day 23: Born this way
Day 22: Closing arguments
Day 20: Notes from Week 3
Day 19: The morning after [the debate]
Debate live blog
Day 18: Debate night in Edmonton
Day 17: Conservatives attack conservatives for being conservative
Day 15: Paging Stockwell Smith
Day 14: Party of One
Day 12: Who says a 40 year old government can’t come up with new ideas?
Day 11: A wild wave sweeps across Alberta
Day 9: Ralphbucks returns
Day 8: Losing control of the agenda
Day 5: This time when we say “it’s time”, it’s actually time
Day 4: Danielle Smith comes out as the anti-change candidate
Day 3: Time to bring back Ed?
Day 2: Polls and prostitutes
Alberta Votes Preview
Redford in Dire Straits over “Money for Nothing” controversy

Alberta Votes Day 28: What to expect tomorrow

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics, Seat Projections | Leave a comment

I’ve already written about the difficulties of using seat projection models due to the unique circumstances of this Alberta election. So rather than crunch the numbers, I thought it might prove more useful to conduct a “wisdom of the masses” exercise, by looking at the predictions being made in  the Great Alberta Election pool. Here’s what the nearly 100 politicos who have entered so far are expecting tomorrow:

Seat Totals

The above graph shows the median prediction for each party, with the bars representing the first-to-third quartile range – that is, where the “middle half” of all entries fall. Looking strictly at the means, we get a “best guess” of 42 Wildrose seats, 37 PC seats, 4 NDP seats, 3 Liberal seats, and 1 for the Alberta Party. That’s a slightly narrower gap than my prediction of WR 44, PC 35, NDP 4, Lib 4, AP 0 – and it suggests there’s some skepticism out there about Smith’s ability to seal the deal. After all, three-in-ten respondents still predict a PC victory and only a minority (41%) expect Smith to win a majority.

Races to Watch

Nine-in-ten expect Redford to hold her seat, but respondents are less certain about Raj Sherman (43%) and Ted Morton’s (19%) chances. It’s a little counter intuitive for Morton to get drowned in the Wildrose wave given he’d be right at home in the party, but I have a hard time seeing any PCs left standing in southern rural Alberta.

As for the Wildrose Party’s more colourful candidates, only 36% expect Allan Hunsperger (of “gays burn in hell” fame) or Ron Leech (of “being white is an advantage” fame) to be elected Monday. I’d be shocked if Hunsperger won, but Leech took 26% of the vote running as an independent last election – add in the Wildrose boost, and he seems like the odds on favourite to find his way to Edmonton, perhaps as Danielle Smith’s Multiculturalism Minister*.

Edmonton Glenora figures to be one of the most hotly contested seats – the PCs beat the Liberals by 100 votes last time, but both the NDP and Alberta Party are running strong candidates and have targeted the riding. And with the Wildrose’s Edmonton poll numbers, even they could pull it out on the vote split. This unpredictability is born out in the pool, where 56% expect the PCs to hold the riding, 21% (myself included) see it as an NDP pick-up, 11% pick the Alberta Party, 10% pick the Liberals, and 2% pick the Wildrose.

The Alberta Party

This being their first election, it’s difficult to know what to expect from the Alberta Party. Only one-in-three predict they’ll win a seat, and the mean guess on their best riding vote is 15-20%. That’s the most I’d expect them to get anywhere, but many pool entries had them winning multiple seats, and up to 40 or 50 percent of the vote in some ridings. 

The Senate

The Wildrose Party is predicted to pick up 1.7 of the 3 Senate seats. Personally, I expect a clean sweep – given the low level attention paid to the Senate election, I expect most will vote party lines.

The Morning After

Close to half (44%) expect Liberal leader Raj Sherman to announce his resignation within 48 hours of the vote – perhaps not surprising since most expect Sherman to lose his seat and just 18% think the Liberals will win more votes than the NDP.

One-in-three expect Redford to resign after the election – presumably not the same people voting for her as “the most progressive option”. Personally, I’d be surprised if any of the four opposition leaders are around come next election – hell, I’d be surprised if all four opposition parties still exist come the next election. But my best guess is that they’ll all take a bit of time before coming to a decision…or being forced into one.

*That’s obviously a joke. We all know Danielle Smith won’t name a Multiculturalism Minister.

How I’d Vote

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics, Featured Posts | Leave a comment

Far be it for me to tell anyone in Alberta how to vote. I don’t live in the province anymore, and my biases are right there for you to see in this website url. I’m a Liberal, and voting Liberal is almost a reflex by this point.

At the same time, I fully expect my old riding to be a hotly contested PC-Wildrose showdown at the Southcentre Mall. If the Wildrose Party has a list of targeted ridings, I suspect mine is somewhere between 40th to 50th on the list, so it could very well be the one that swings the balance or gives Danielle Smith her majority. Liberals are pragmatic creatures by nature, so I can’t ignore the wild elephant in the room.

If the vote had been held a month ago, this post might actually have ended up sounding like a quasi-Wildrose endorsement. For reasons I’ll get to shortly, Alberta desperately needs a change of government, and I viewed the Wildrosers as nothing more than a slightly less experienced and slightly less corrupt version of the PCs. So why not?After all, Danielle Smith is a very impressive politician – the “Alberta Sarah Palin” meme is completely unfair to this woman who is articulate, thoughtful, and intelligent.

However, any secret longing for a Wildrose victory has quickly dissipated over the course of this campaign. Rather than presenting a creative long term plan for Alberta, Smith has attacked Redford for not loving Alberta, resorted to vote-buying gimmicks, and abandoned the notion of even pretending her math ads up. More troubling is her refusal to repudiate overtly homophobic and racist comments from her candidates. That says all I need to know about Danielle Smith’s values and her ability to represent all Albertans.

So I guess that means I’m in the “Liberals for Redford” camp, eh? I will say that Alison Redford is likely the closest thing to a Liberal Premier Alberta will ever get, but that’s simply not enough. While we’ve all been quick to criticize the words of Smith’s candidates, the actions of the PCs have been equally unsettling. As Paula Simmons brilliantly recounted this week, the PCs legislated against gay marriage and spent a decade refusing to add protection for gay Albertans to Alberta’s human rights legislation, despite a Supreme Court of Canada ruling requiring them to do so. They quietly supported Ted Morton’s private members bill on conscience rights, and loudly passed Bill 44 which “protected” children from ever having to hear about homosexuality in school.

Of course, the argument you hear is that was the past and this is not your father’s PC Party. Even though Alison Redford was Justice Minister when Bill 44 came into law, she is rightly seen as being “red” in more than just name. The thing is, if we’re going to judge Danielle Smith by the company she keeps, surely we need to apply the same rule to Redford. Ted Morton is on record supporting pretty much everything Redford has accused the Wildrose of secretly plotting, and he’s not just some fringe candidate, but is Redford’s Minister of Energy. Despite attacking Danielle Smith for leading a party of “old white men”, Redford’s Cabinet is 85% male and 95% white.

The PCs have been drifting aimlessly for years, spending more than any other government in Canada without any semblance of a long term plan. Given Alberta’s wealth, there’s no reason the province shouldn’t have the best hospitals, schools, and infrastructure in the world. Instead, we have high tuition rates, long wait times, an inquiry into the Health Care system, and accusations of doctor bullying. By Redford’s own admission, Ralph Klein’s cuts hurt Albertans and created a massive infrastructure backlog.

Sure, much of this is ancient history, but if you can’t judge a 41 year old government on its record, what can you judge them on?

Ever since Redford’s surprise ascension to the throne, the PCs have looked every bit like an arrogant empire, just waiting to get swept aside. In February, they were worried they’d win too many seats. We’ve already seen broken promises from Redford on a judicial Health Care inquiry and campaign donor disclosure. This lack of transparency shouldn’t be surprising, given an access to information study recently ranked Alberta the least transparent province in Canada, and placed it behind beacons of democracy Niger and Angola internationally.

Then there’s the saga of the money for nothing committee. When it surfaced that MLAs were receiving $1,000 a month to sit on a committee which hadn’t met in 4 years, Redford accused opposition members who returned the cash of “grandstanding”…then ordered PC MLAs to return 12% of their pay after a poll showed the public up in arms. One week into the election campaign, she finally ordered them to pay back the full amount, though there’s no indication they will. The incident shouldn’t instill voters with confidence the PCs have turned over a new leaf.

I’d be willing to look beyond all this if the PCs had offered a compelling plan in their budget or platform, but those documents ran away from doing anything even remotely bold – and why would they, when PC strategists were musing about winning 70+ seats a few months ago? The best argument for voting PC this campaign has been that “the Wildrose Party is worse“, but when the Wildrose Party is nothing more than a collection of disgruntled Progressive Conservatives, that’s not enough for me.

So if I had a vote, it would be going to the Liberals – not out of a sense of loyalty, but because they’re the only party with a “think big” platform. They offer a compelling democratic reform platform, and have used something more than wishful thinking to fund their more expensive promises, such as free tuition and Health Care investments.

That said, Brian Mason strikes me as a genuine and principled politician, so if orange is your flavour, I wouldn’t spend a lot of time trying to change your mind. Even the upstart Alberta Party strikes the right tone, and it’s possible that movement will eventually morph into a credible progressive alternative to the Wildrose and PC parties.

In any event, there are plenty of options, so there’s no excuse for another 41% turnout rate. This Monday, be sure to get out and vote.

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