Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Back to 1993 - #AbVote

In 1993, the Progressive Conservative dynasty started by Peter Lougheed in 1971 nearly came to an end. After Lougheed's resignation in 1985, Edmontonian Don Getty won the ensuing leadership election and took control of the province. Getty wasn't too different in ideology from Lougheed, serving as the former's Intergovernmental Affairs Minister and Energy Minister later on until his hiatus in 1979. Upon his ascension to the leadership in '85, he called an election for 1986 and won handily, winning 61 seats to Ray Martin's NDP winning 16, the Liberals winning 4, and a Social Credit offshoot winning 2. That still represented a massive drop for the PCs, however. And it was going to get worse.

In 1988, the Liberals, hitherto a center-to-center-right third party, elected Edmonton Mayor Laurence Decore to the leadership of their party. Decore, more or less in line with usual Liberal thought anyways, decided to shift the entire party farther to the right than the Getty PCs were on matters of fiscal responsibility and government intervention in private business. The deficit under the PCs was enourmous, and only kept growing during Getty's term, reaching a high of negative $4-billion during the '86-'87 fiscal year. Decore, who had himself eliminated Edmonton's budget deficits, had found a winning argument and started to gain momentum. In the 1989 election, the Getty PCs dropped to below 45% of the vote, with the Liberals cruising to 28.7%, the NDP third with 26.3%. However, because of the peculiarities of the first-past-the-post system, the PCs won 59 seats to the NDP's 16 and the Liberal's 8. But the seeds were sown, and in a perfect showing of this, Getty himself lost his own seat in Edmonton-Whitemud. By 1990, the Liberals were breaching the top of the polls.

Unfortunately for the Liberals, the PCs replaced Getty with former Calgary Mayor and Getty cabinet minister Ralph Klein, someone who shared Decore's views on the deficits and even went a bit farther. What ended up happening is that Decore and the Liberals were now unable to win the argument on fiscal responsibility, as Klein was taking advantage of it himself. As such, the Liberals - still not a popular brand in Alberta - lost the advantage that was going to put them over the top.

Map updated correctly thanks to Earl Washburn
Still, the argument that the PCs, even with their new leader, were a tired, old government that failed to keep up promises, plus the unpopularity of the federal PCs at the time, helped keep the Liberals afloat and give them a fighting chance. Thus, in 1993, the closest race in Alberta political history came to be. The PCs essentially managed to hold on to their vote, even gaining some votes, but the rise of the Liberals was nothing short of astounding, a full 11% and only a stone's throw away from the PCs. The seat count, though increased drastically, didn't follow as well; the PCs won 51, winning Calgary and southern Alberta, winning most of central Alberta, and faced somewhat of a fight but still winning northern Alberta. The Liberals managed to win all of Edmonton's seats - completely wiping out the NDP - plus a few rural seats in northern and central regions, plus a Lethbridge seat and Fort McMurray.

The situations are eerily similar between '93 and today. The PCs got rid of an unpopular leader who was running deficits, and they're facing a party run by an upstart who is challenging them from the right. The difference, of course, is that Redford is no Klein, and won't be running to the right of anyone this election.

But as well, Danielle Smith is hardly analogous to Laurence Decore, or to Klein, or anyone really. Smith has zero government influence, thus no record to run on. She is also weak in a way Decore wasn't - on social issues. While this campaign is about debt and deficit, it's not as huge an issue as it was in 1993. Thus, Smith, who herself may not be the most socially conservative person ever, definitely leads a party that is more or less a transplant of the Oklahoma Republican Party. We've already seen the attacks lobbied by Redford, Sherman, and Mason about the Wildrosers, and Smith hasn't done herself any favours. In this way, she may be more vulnerable than Decore was.

But we'll see. In 1993, the insurgent party lost because it was outplayed with its own strategy. In 1971, the government failed to represent change, while the challengers represented a new path. In 1935 and 1921, the challengers focused on corrupt, tired governments that failed to deliver time and time again. What will be the 2012 election's narrative?

13 comments:

  1. The average size of the Official Opposition Caucus in Alberta is 10.4 seats. Only twice has the Official Opposition had more than 20 seats.
    The average size of the Opposition in it's entirety is 14.3. Only twice has the entire Opposition had more than 25 seats.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I wonder if the PCs will get more than 10.4 seats if they end up being crushed.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What was your source map for that map?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. http://www.abheritage.ca/abpolitics/process/election_results.html

      You can click on basically any election year from 1905 to 2001, and they provide a map for the ridings of the period, including subsets for Edmonton and Calgary, as well as the results for every riding. I just printscreened then did an outline of the maps, coloured the ridings in according to how each riding went, and there it is. Took me awhile to find that source.

      Delete
    2. Unfortunately I think the '93 map may be a little off, it's missing two ridings from it, but pretty obvious ones (Sherwood Park and Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert, easy enough to add in).

      However, they disclaimer all maps they believe might be inaccurate, and as far as I can tell, that's only the '93, and that's only because of the above ridings, both won by Liberals.

      Delete
  4. Good find, will have to start making more maps. Too bad the boundaries are a bit off...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's the closest you'll get unless you go to Elections Alberta physically, I'm guessing. Just glad someone archived the webpages.

      Delete
  5. Earl: you are always welcome to use the maps I've made, so if you want to, feel free to make some free stuff for me :P

    Volkov: I do think the PC Party will take over 10 seats. There is a chance that this could see the largest opposition.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Teddy, where are your maps, again? BTW, I figured out what happened, the grey area on your map is not actually, Edmonton, that is the riding of Spruce Grove, Edmonton is actually SE of that, in the western half of the Ft Saskatchewan-Clover Bar riding. I realized this when making the map and wondering why the Ft Sask riding wasn't right next to Edmonton.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That makes an infinite amount of sense, I'll get that changed.

      Delete
    2. Sherwood Park is still missing though, hm.

      Delete
  7. My Alberta map is a few posts below this one.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you for helping people get the information they need. Great stuff as usual. Keep up the great work!!!
    Θωρακισμένες πόρτες

    ReplyDelete