Alberta 2015 election

5 May is provincial election day in Alberta. It really is hard to exaggerate just how tectonic a shift the result of the election result will be–if there is not some major polling error or late swing.

The Conservatives have ruled since the 1971, sometimes with massive majorities. They are now clearly in third place, according to the ThreeHundredEight projection. The NDP–yes, Canada’s most leftwing major party–is poised to win. The farther-right (almost tea-partyish for you south-of-the-border folks) Wildrose is in a clear second.

Yes, an NDP government in Alberta! One of the biggest oil-producing jurisdictions of North America, and the political base of the Canadian Conservative PM, Stephen Harper.

Wildrose led polls late in the 2012 campaign, but not by as much as NDP leads now. On the late collapse and the tea-party parallel, see a Weekly Standard article from just after the 2012 election. I like how that article says, “It’s as if the Tea Party movement here in the U.S. had been more of a real revolt, with tired taxpayers and fiscal conservatives fed up with overspending by Republicans and Democrats alike forming their own party.” Yes, just like that–and then the voters saying, forget both the old and this ‘new’ right, and while we are at it, forget the old center-left, too; let’s give social democracy a try!

There has been a discussion in the comment thread to the post about the 2012 election that has been going on for a while now. But it seemed about time to start a new one related to this election.

27 thoughts on “Alberta 2015 election

    • I don’t think they’ve mentioned it in their platform, and I would say it’s highly unlikely. The only reason they’ll be in a position to form government is because of a split in the right-wing vote. The PCs and Wildrose put together are ahead of the NDP in pretty much every poll. Unlike at the federal level, in this case the vote split is on the right and helps the left.

      However, the NDP vote is heavily concentrated in Edmonton (around 60% compared to 30-35% elsewhere) and this could result in the NDPs losing two-and-three-way races outside the capital and not winning a majority despite a 40%+ vote share.


    • The NDP support PR at the federal level, or at least they have supported PR at the federal level, because traditionally they have not been the beneficiaries of FPTP. It is purely tactical, and if the NDP consistently benefited from FPTP, you can bet that they would want to keep it.

      NDP provincial governments in Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Ontario, the Yukon Nova Scotia and Manitoba have shown no interest whatsoever in PR, as they and there is no reason that the NDP in Alberta should break with that tradition.


      • That’s not quite fair to the Saskatchewan NDP government. Lorne Nystrom, despite his fervent and persistent advocacy of PR, failed to make headway in Saskatchewan until 2004, when that fall’s convention passed two PR-related resolutions: one basically endorsing PR, and the other asking the party to study it and report back to Convention 2005. Then the 2005 convention received the report “Options for Provincial Electoral Reform in Saskatchewan” and continued the discussion. Finally the 2006 convention adopted a PR policy, and the party made a pledge in the 2007 platform that, if re-elected, the government would convene a Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform — too late, since they lost power in that election.

        Provincial parties are fully autonomous in the NDP. Sadly, the Manitoba and Nova Scotia parties have never endorsed PR. The Ontario NDP now supports PR, but did not in 1990. The BC party has been divided, but currently supports PR and has done so on and off since they last lost power. As for the Alberta NDP, their policy book states they support PR, but it has not been in their 2015 platform.


      • Provincial NDP branches may be independent, but of course relative to other Canadian provincial parties, most of whom aren’t even officially affiliated with any federal party (despite the names), they have a far closer relationship to their federal counterparts.


      • How often is a change to PR at the national level preceded by such change at a lower level of government? (The Liberal Democrats in the UK seem to believe that in this general election their only realistic goal if they come to power again is electoral reform in English local elections and hoping it will bring reform to Westminster gradually.) If reform at a lower level does increase the chance of that at higher levels, perhaps the federal NDP should start exerting whatever influence it has on its provincial parties to bring about the change?


  1. Today’s EKOS poll had the NDP up 40-22-22 in Calgary. It’s true that they’re doing even better in Edmonton, but they are absolutely crushing it all over the province.


  2. This election reminds me of what happened to the PCs federally in 1993, with the emergence of the Bloc on the left and the Reform on the right, both siphoning votes from Mulroney’s coalition. I wouldn’t be surprised either if it takes the PCs more than a decade to merge with Wildrose.

    Also, I would not say that Alberta’s NDP is social democratic, it’s somewhere right of that.

    Despite the polls, I won’t believe that Alberta elects an NDP majority until after the votes are counted. I have to wonder about GOTV strength.

    In any case, I predict that this campaign will help dispel myths that the NDP cannot win federally. The federal Liberals should not be happy to see an Orange victory in Alberta.


    • I felt unsure of the “social democratic” label, although I did not know what else to call it for sake of tweaking the comment from the Weekly Standard (which was no doubt pretty excited about the rise of Wildrose).


      • It’s more useful to think of the Alberta NDP as occupying ground more traditionally held by most provincial Liberal parties (ex BC), than social democratic.

        jdmussel said: “Surely, not to the left of all state governments. More like to to the left of all GOP state-level administrations, somewhere between the most right-wing Democratic one and the average Democratic one.”

        Not on rhetoric, but surely how they governed overall. Alberta’s PCs governed to the left of many PC governments and even some provincial Liberal govts, and PC is generally safely described as left of Democrats. The Alberta PCs were spendthrifts to the extent that tax-and-spenders like the Liberals of Ontario appear like paragons of fiscal probity beside them.

        jdmussel said: “Provincial NDP branches may be independent, but of course relative to other Canadian provincial parties, most of whom aren’t even officially affiliated with any federal party (despite the names), they have a far closer relationship to their federal counterparts.”

        The relationship and liaison efforts between federal and provincial Liberal parties in particular were a gong show until very recently. I’m not saying this was bad, but the dysfunction was comical to watch sometimes.


  3. Provincially, Alberta’s electoral history has been of one party dominating for decades, but every so often they select a different party to dominate. The sequence is United Farmers – Social Credit -Progressive Conservatives. United Farmers, incidentally, was sort of a precursor of the NDP and later transitioned into being a private company. For this pattern to continue, you would expect the Progressive Conservatives to be replaced by Wildrose. The Wildrose leader seems to have badly mishandled the campaign.

    Alberta regularly elects solid slates of Conservative MPs federally, outside of Edmonton, and had historically provided more than its share of well known Conservative politicians, so it has a reputation in Canada as being far right. Note that this doesn’t mean right wing by American standards, and seems to have been done in expectation that federally the Conservatives are less likely than the other party’s to distribute the province’s oil revenues to other parts of Canada or to put environmental restrictions on oil production (in the US, Alaska behaves similarly). The provincial governments haven’t been particularly right-wing, and are well to the left of any state government in the US.


    • Surely, not to the left of all state governments. More like to to the left of all GOP state-level administrations, somewhere between the most right-wing Democratic one and the average Democratic one.


  4. To my surprise, the NDP won a clear majority of the seats in Alberta, including winning in many rural ridings. A majority, 55%, voted for the two parties on the right, though 41% is a very good popular vote percentage for the NDP.


  5. The election result shows exactly why the NDP would not want to pass electoral reform in Alberta. Most of the seats that the NDP won outside Edmonton were won off 30-45% in seats where the only other candidates were Wildrose or Progressive Conservatives, and under AV almost all these seats would be in the hands of one of the right-wing parties.

    The best chance for the right to recover in Alberta would be for Wildrose and the PCs to merge, similar to what happened with the Canadian Alliance/Reform Party and the PCs federally. If this does not happen, the NDP would likely become the ‘party of government’, with all opposition hopelessly divided.

    One other notable thing; the Alberta Party, a vaguely centre-left progressive outfit, won a Calgary seat for leader Greg Clark. Clark won easily, with 42.3% to 30% for his nearest opponent, cabinet minister Gordon Dirks. Clark’s vote in his district comprised one quarter of all Alberta Party votes, and seems to have been based off the Green strategy in the recent New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island elections. Of course, a classic small party strategy, but one that seems to be more common in Canada recently.


    • Whether PR is good for the NDP in Alberta very much depends on what happens to the PCs and Wildrose. If they continue to carry on as parties each polling roughly the same amount, then PR is not much good for the NDP. But if they merge or the support for one of them craters, then PR actually becomes advantageous to the NDP..


  6. I think a lot of people are misappropriating a hard-right conservatism onto average AB voters, and I don’t think that’s accurate. I think given the choice of “PC-Wildrose” hybrid, at least some of that 52% would have gone NDP, either because the PCs are crooks or because the Wildrose are anti-tax absolutists.

    I think a lot of the PCs’ mass appeal prior to 2012 was based on their identification as the “sensible center.” I think the Alberta Party is uniquely positioned to fill this gap once the PCs die off.


    • Chris, I’m not suggesting that a PC-Wildrose hybrid could have saved the Prentice government, although it would have made the election closer. What I am saying is that the current arrangement, with the PCs attracting centre to centre-right urban voters and Wildrose attracting right-wing rural voters, will leave neither with any chance of government. A hybrid would be far from ideal, but the federal example shows that it is possible.


  7. The Wildrose Alliance will be the opposition with 20 seats for 23% of the vote while the Conservatives become the third party with 11 seats on 28% of the vote. In other words Alberta not only has a reversed government but also a reversed opposition.

    No doubt if the UK election also returns a reversed plurality we will see lots and lots and lots of articles singing to the glories of FPTP.


  8. Can we now safely predict an NDP victory in 2019, 2023, 2027, 2031 and 2035, or is this more likely to signal the end of dynastic politics in Alberta?


  9. The election that has everything for political junkies just keeps on giving:

    With 94 polls counted, NDP candidate Anam Kazim and Progressive Conservative incumbent Linda Johnson both had 7,015 votes, according to Elections Alberta’s unofficial results.

    With the two candidates tied, Elections Alberta will conduct an official recount of all the ballots today.

    If the outcome is still a tie, the next step would be to request a judicial review under the Alberta Election Act, in which a judge would examine rejected and spoiled ballots in an attempt to choose a winner.

    If a judicial review fails to resolve the matter, the constituency would be declared vacant and a byelection would have to be called.

    That seems a better idea for resolving ties than a random draw or selecting a preferred personal characteristic.


    • It’s definitely better in the long run, but for the next few months (I don’t know what the earliest opportunity for Notley to call the by-elections in Glenmore and Foothills would be, but she would, IMO, be a fool not to call them at the earliest opportunity) those voters will have no representative in the Legislative Assembly. It is indeed true that most voters will have voted for someone other than the eventual MLA and that PR would be a better solution, but now, unlike every other constituency, the electors of Glenmore will have no one to take care of their local casework for some time.


  10. Is the Alberta NDP social democratic? Everyone has their own definition of that term, but the federal party constitution says “Each province of Canada shall have a fully autonomous provincial Party, provided its constitution and principles are not in conflict with those of the Federal Party.” And its constitution says (among other things) “New Democrats seek a future that brings together the best of the insights and objectives of Canadians who, within the social democratic and democratic socialist traditions, have worked through farmer, labour, co-operative, feminist, human rights and environmental movements, and with First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, to build a more just, equal, and sustainable Canada within a global community dedicated to the same goals.” That’s what we call social democratic in Canada.


  11. “That [having a by-election] seems a better idea for resolving ties than a random draw or selecting a preferred personal characteristic.”

    This strikes me as terrible. I prefer the coin toss, which is used in UK and elsewhere. It’s better for the constituents to have either representative than none. And a by-election will likely have the same candidates, just take place on a different date. It treats the general election results as meaningless, as if only the date is an issue.

    Maybe I’m a romantic. I’ve loved the coin toss since reading First Among Equals.


  12. In other news, the Survivor Second Chance candidates have been announced. Viewers get to elect them. I don’t know if we’ll be allowed in to vote.

    This is where I say I’ve enjoyed both MC episodes and I approve of Matt’s pink plaid.


  13. Pingback: Alberta’s United Conservative Party leader says he stays in job to block “lunatics” | Fruits and Votes

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