All those things that don’t change in Alberta .. or do they, at last — blowing in the four strong winds ??

Apr 29th, 2015 | By | Category: In Brief

Canada Day at the Alberta legislature in Edmonton, 2007.

Just before midnight, at this past new year’s eve party in beautiful downtown East Toronto, who would have thought that an Alberta provincial election would suddenly be the most gripping event on the Canadian political landscape in the first half of 2015?

Remember : we’ve already been fooled once in this game. And, as George W. Bush has explained,  “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

Still, for the moment at least, the polls are quite astounding. As Kathleen Petty’s engaging CBC News piece “Alberta’s wonky election polls aside” has explained : “Jim Prentice’s PCs are getting clobbered in opinion polls that no one seems to believe.” Even so, the polls remain astounding.

Éric Grenier’s latest poll-averaging conclusions — also posted on the CBC News site at 5 AM yesterday morning — are yet another case in point : “The NDP is now leading … with 35 per cent, a gain of nine points since April 9. Wildrose has picked up two points, but has dropped into second with 32 per cent. The PCs have fallen three points to 25 per cent, while the Liberals have plummeted eight points to just 5 per cent support.”

Alberta Liberal leader Dr. David Swann.

Ms Petty, a Calgary native, has a particular view here as well : “Some recent numbers show the PCs are actually trailing the NDP and Wildrose parties. Yet, those same polls also show voters believe the Conservatives will win this election … So the people being polled don’t believe the polls. (Or more likely don’t believe their fellow Albertans will have the gumption to walk the walk.)” The PCs, after all, have been in office without interruption since 1971. (And that’s now a few years longer than our old PC dynasty in Ontario, 1943–1985.)

Ms. Petty also notes that in Alberta today the “lessons of 2012 are recounted ad nauseam.” See “we’ve already been fooled once in this game” above. Back then all the polls said Danielle Smith’s new Wildrose party would beat Alison Redford’s Progressive Conservatives. But then many voters apparently changed their minds or lost their gumption, at the very last minute.

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley.

Mr. Grenier argues “there is good reason to doubt that the same phenomenon that saved Alison Redford in 2012 will work in [current PC Premier Jim] Prentice’s favour in 2015.” More exactly, there are “now three parties in the running, and their supporters do not so easily move …”

More exactly again, the big difference between 2012 and 2015 today is that Rachel Notley’s kinder and gentler Alberta New Democrats are suddenly in play, as never before. And while most Albertans may still believe the Prentice PCs will finally win again, the media in both Calgary and Edmonton are entertaining such headlines as “Tories have only themselves to blame if the NDP wins” and “Ernest Manning’s prophecy of an NDP government may be coming true.”

* * * *

Calgary, Canada's oil capital.

Meanwhile, there are other signs through the mist that may point in ultimately more accurate directions. One thing the polling may be getting right is that no party is going to have a governing majority of seats in the legislature, after the vote on Tuesday, May 5 — a mere week away.

The problem for Ms Notley’s New Democrats here is that Premier Prentice probably was right when he urged a few days ago that Alberta is not (or at least not yet) an NDP province. Unless the Liberals suddenly astound everyone beyond all reason on May 5, there will be no obvious legislative partners of real weight and heft for an NDP minority government.

On the other hand, Danielle Smith may have begun to redeem her various recent acts of near political suicide by her consistent analysis of the 2015 election, as in, eg : “Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith says she wants the provincial election to result in a Wildrose-Progressive Conservative coalition government.”

Alberta Wildrose leader Brian Jean.

Ms. Smith went on. In happier times one thing she and Premier Prentice “spoke about, and we certainly weren’t expecting it to happen this election, is … boy, imagine a time in the future when either [Edmonton Mayor] Don Iveson or [Calgary] Mayor [Naheed] Nenshi make a jump into provincial politics, we’re going to see a uniting of the progressive movement … But I don’t think any of us expected that it would happen this soon, and that it would happen under Rachel Notley.”

Meanwhile again, Mount Royal University political analyst David Taras has been wondering why “the PC’s overall campaign is still relatively low-key …  While public polls suggest Prentice’s party is in trouble, the PCs haven’t responded with a major advertising blitz aimed at the NDP and Wildrose, despite the party’s deep pockets … That would suggest the Tories either are doing their own internal polling that shows them in solid shape or they believe they will be reduced to a minority and want to be able to work with Wildrose.”

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice addresses ranchers and farmers at an oil well site near Three Hills, Alberta, April 13, 2015. REUTERS/Todd.

Personally, as a persistent advocate of change in almost all forms, I’d like to see Rachel Notley’s New Democrats win a bare majority (or at least a slightly better than bare majority with Liberal votes — and some say Liberal leader and medical doctor David Swann would make an excellent health minister). But even though I know next to nothing about Alberta politics, I can’t quite believe that Jim Prentice is not going to carry on as Alberta premier either.

However, maybe the various natives of Calgary, Edmonton, and the beautiful lands in between and beyond, are restless enough to do something this time. And maybe a PC-Wildrose coalition, facing a strong NDP opposition, is the best realistic option for change in Alberta right now.

And then, if something like this were to happen, everyone back east would be asking what it means for  Harper, Mulcair, and Trudeau in the Canadian federal election this fall?

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  1. Thanks for the outline of this exciting election. I tend to agree – that it would be great to have an NDP in power, but it’s hard to believe that they won’t step back from a major change. This has come up so quickly, friends I talk to who have been out of the country (that is, ‘snow birds’ in sunnier/warm climes) they think I’m playing a late April Fools joke when I mention the polls… all eyes will be on the results!

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