Wednesday, May 6, 2015

#abvote Election Results: Yes, that actually happened (long, detailed post)

Well, that was wild.

If you didn't stay up to watch last night's election returns in Alberta, let me inform you what I'm sure you already know: the New Democrats formed government, a majority government. That isn't some cruel joke, it is actually real, and man, was it ever impressive to watch a political dynasty as old as my mother fall.

If you're interested in the riding by riding results, I've posted them where my projections were, along with a thematic map for visual learners like me. You can also visit Elections Alberta, which has all polls in and you can browse by riding to see which communities voted how. I may at some point in the future do a poll map of major cities of this result, but that will come later.

For now, here is a basic summary:

The uncertainty of the numbers between the NDP and PCs is in regards to the quagmire of Calgary-Glenmore, where both the NDP candidate and the PC incumbent received 7,015 votes each - a tied result. That will have to be resolved, probably through a recount but I'm not going to wait for that, especially since at the end of the day, it hardly affects the final result.

Wow, just wow. An NDP government in Alberta. That is incredible.

An NDP government and a Wildrose opposition, with the PCs falling to a definitive third in seats, despite coming in second in votes. Its going to be an interesting four years in Alberta... but before we talk about that, lets take a look around the three regions.

I would say that Edmonton saw the most dramatic change last night, but that would simply not be true. If anything the result in Edmonton was rather boring, considering that everyone expected the New Democrats to pile up numbers here like crazy - and they did not disappoint. Not one single MLA from another party survived last night's onslaught, with all 23 ridings going to the NDP and no one coming within 10% of a leading New Democratic candidate, while Notley herself managed 82% in her own constituency of Edmonton-Strathcona.

Huge names went down here - Stephen Mandel, former mayor and Health Minister, lost by a margin of over 25%; former Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk lost by a 41.4% margin; Speaker of the Legislature Gene Zwozdesky lost by a 32-point margin; Laurie Blakeman, the Liberal Party's only hope in Edmonton, lost by a 29% margin. All of them were unseated by people you would be hard pressed to recognize with a photo in front of you.

The closest riding in the region was in Strathcona-Sherwood Park, where PC incumbent Dave Quest lost by a margin of just over 12%.

However, this isn't even the first time Edmonton has been swept like this - the Liberals did it in 1993. The difference this time however was how the NDP grew in areas outside of Edmonton.

We come to Calgary, where technically the NDP's support grew even more than it did in Edmonton or the rural areas of the provinces, jumping up from a barely-registering 5% to just under a third of all voters in the city and its outlying communities (they got 34% in Calgary proper).

Again, big names went down here in Calgary, though not nearly by the same margins as in Edmonton - star PC candidate and former police chief Rick Hanson lost a squeaker in a supposedly safe riding; Gordon Dirks was soundly defeated by the Alberta Party's Greg Clark in Calgary-Elbow; Environment Minister Kyle Fawcett was handily turfed in Calgary-Klein, losing by an 18-point margin; and so many others.

However, Calgary remained the PC's best area of support, managing to barely hold on to 8 or 9 seats, including the now-former Premier's. However, Jim Prentice resigned last night as leader and as MLA for Calgary-Foothills barely four hours after polls closed - absolutely unheard of, and clearly contemptuous of the voters that did opt elect him - meaning that the NDP could get a sixteenth riding in the city by the time everything is said and done.

Some key people for the PCs who remain in caucus: former mayoral candidate, leadership contestant and cabinet minister Ric McIver was safely re-elected, as was fellow cabinet members Manmeet Bullar. Mike Ellis, a PC incumbent elected in the 2014 by-elections, had the strongest winning margin of any PC candidate (19.1% over NDP), while Richard Gotfried in Calgary-Fish Creek will be the PC's only pick-up and new face in their much-reduced caucus.

Meanwhile, as previously mentioned the Alberta Party elected their leader Greg Clark, while voters re-elected interim Liberal Leader David Swann in Calgary-Mountain View, though he will be without any colleagues this time.

The Wildrosers held on to all three "ring" ridings around Calgary that they won in 2012, though there was a close fight between new Wildrose MLA Leela Aheer and former Wildrose MLA Bruce McAllister in Chestermere-Rocky View, whose narrow loss meant that all eleven floor-crossers from before either resigned, lost nominations, or were defeated in this election - good job, guys.

The New Democrats did not stop in the cities, either, taking even rural Alberta by storm. Not only did they win all five of the "small cities" ridings (Red Deer, Lethbridge, and Medicine Hat), they also took 11 rural seats, though it isn't a coincidence than many have larger communities in them as well (i.e., Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, Wetaskiwin-Camrose, West Yellowhead). However, that should not diminish how incredibly orange many northern rural Alberta ridings became, with the NDP sweeping out previously untouchable cabinet ministers in places like Peace River and sending the dean of the Legislature to third place in Lesser Slave Lake.

However, many of the splits and fleeing Tory vote also helped the Wildrosers immensely, who despite losing votes overall were able to snag an extra six ridings, including a near sweep of southern and central Alberta's expansive rural ridings, firmly entrenching the party's base in this region.

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean was also able to win his seat handily on Fort McMurray-Conklin, and a fellow Wildroser was elected in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo - the PCs ended up third in both, including PC cabinet minister Don Scott.

The remaining two PCs in rural Alberta are Richard Starke in Vermillion-Lloydminister, who won fairly handily over the Wildrose; and Wayne Drysdale in Grande Prairie-Wapiti. Amusingly as well, the Liberals had one of their only increases in any riding last night, with Michael Dawe's somehow resilient support in Red Deer-North turning it into a strange four way race, with the winning NDP candidate only getting 29.4% of the vote.

What happens now?

Once the issues of Calgary-Glenmore and Calgary-Foothills are sorted out, we'll have a very clear picture of a new government in Alberta - one that is ostensibly supposed to be a social democratic one.

First thing is first, of course - who will be in the new cabinet? Notley has plenty of people to choose from, but finding people qualified enough, prepared enough, and regionally balanced is going to be tricky. Outside of the three Edmonton NDP incumbents - Deron Bilous, David Eggen, and former leader Brian Mason - who is there?

Some obvious inclusions are former city councillor Joe Ceci in Calgary, Shannon Phillips in Lethbridge, and Bob Wanner in Medicine Hat. I've also seen bandied about Stephanie McLean of Calgary; Rod Loyola, Bob Turner, Marlin Schmidt, and Lori Sigurdson of Edmonton; as well as Bruce Hinkley in Wetaskiwin-Camrose and Colin Piquette in Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater. I literally have no other names around to choose from that I know anything about, but that could just be my own ignorance - and that line up is definitely Edmonton-heavy.

Whenever and however the Notley cabinet is formed, then the real challenge for the NDP begins - governing the province of Alberta.

This is where things get tricky for the NDP, because remember that while they won government, they didn't exactly sweep the province. The party's 41% support is impressive when compared to its previous totals, absolutely, but it isn't anything compared to the support usually seen in this province, where totals of 50%+ and margins of 20% or more are the norm in history. There is also the tricky fact that they owe a lot of their wins to a split right, who combined took 52% of the vote; if they united again, and the NDP can only count on that 40%, they'll be Alberta's first single-term government.

That is why it is crucial the New Democrats govern very carefully. You received a mandate from the people, one that ostensibly is progressive-oriented, fantastic - but if you take it too far, or you can't get useful results by 2019, you're going to be in serious trouble.

Hence why I have a feeling that many a left-winger is going to be disappointed by the pace of change and reform initiated by the Notley government, if much of comes at all. That suits me just fine of course, as I suspect it will most Albertans.

Wildrose Opposition

One interesting thing to come out of tonight was the fact that the Wildrosers did in fact make it back to Official Opposition status, with four extra seats to boot. Brian Jean got lucky with the collapse of the PCs and he also has a chance to take advantage of the mandate handed to him. If Jean can polish his style and his messaging, he could easily convince the vast majority of Alberta's conservatives to come to his side, leaving the remaining rump of the PCs to blow away with the dust - he has four years to build momentum, and four years to allow the NDP to screw up as well. That starts now though, don't wait.

If I can give one piece of advice to the Wildrosers out there: if any of the remaining PC MLAs want to cross the floor, Wildrosers, you accept them - don't be stuck up about it, unite the forces together. But make sure they run in by-elections, so voters know that you're not just another Prentice in the making. Anyone that wants to come under the Wildrose banner must be elected under the Wildrose banner, keep your values intact.

Woe the Tories

So, Alberta PCs - welcome to my world, circa 2011-2013.

Right now the Alberta PCs are in a situation very akin to where the federal Liberals had been only a couple years ago - formerly respected party, now in third place and battling with an ideologically similar party that took up a good portion of our vote. We're doing much better now, thanks to a resurgence in popular support with Trudeau at the helm, but the only reason we survived to this point was because we had Bob Rae as our interim leader.

Make no mistake, Bob Rae saved the Liberal Party. The man had the experience and the credibility even as the third-party leader, and kept the Liberals from falling into irrelevance as went about rebuilding our party brick by brick.

If the Alberta Tories want to survive, they need someone like Rae to keep the party afloat. My guess is that person will be Ric McIver, who has the strongest credentials, the strongest following, and the strongest loyalties to the brand (so far, anyway). McIver is not perfect by any means, but I feel he could keep the PCs alive. We'll see what happens.

Liberta Party

Speaking of "keeping alive," David Swann and Greg Clark will have some, though very little, influence in the new Legislature. Barring some sort of coalition that Notley invites them into (kind of hard to see that happening, but I've heard crazier things), they'll struggle just to be heard.

Unlike in BC, New Brunswick, or PEI, these two don't have the benefit of sitting in-between two old line parties and reaping centrist or leftist sympathies. What role do they play in this new legislature? Clark's political raison-d'ĂȘtre was destroyed by this election, so he is going to have to retool and figure out what he stands for, because frankly I think the guy was only elected because people thought he would have the best chance of beating the PCs, and no other reason; while Swann may end up like Jon Gerrard - a conscious for the Legislature on certain issues, but ultimately just going to get drowned out.

How about a merger? I don't know if it would even matter at this point if the two parties and leaders merged into a single caucus, because they would be just as ineffectual as they are now - combined they don't even match the Liberal's paltry 2012 results, and as has been shown in Manitoba, its really hard to play up a centrist angle when the electorate is so polarized, and believe me by 2019, this electorate is going to be po-lar-ized. They'd have to rely on a collapse in support for the NDP to regain any semblance of support, and that is kind of a crappy thing to bet on.

In the case of the party I actually care about, I think the Alberta Liberals need new leadership, and fast. The beauty of David Swann's win is that he can focus on keeping the party somewhat relevant in the legislature, while a new leader could focus on rebuilding the party's organization outside of it - and with a strong federal Liberal presence in Alberta organizationally, you will have an easier time of it than you think. But you need to start rebuilding now, so get on that.

Anyway, that will end my post for now. Last night was great fun, and such a remarkable result is truly stunning. I look forward to seeing how it all plays out in the weeks, months, and years to come!

Oh yes, of course - my projection model. It did very well, with incredibly accurate numbers when all was said and done. If you're interested, click through to the Alberta Results page and scroll to the bottom to see my little blurb, or just check out yesterday's post.


  1. In our political system it takes 2 - someone to move a bill and someone to second it.

    Normally this is not a problem. Dr. Herb, the PEI NDP dude, could always find someone to second his bills - usually Richard Brown - and Peter Bevan-Baker will find the same.

    However in Alberta it's quite likely that Swan and Clark will end up seconding each other's bills. Any personal animosity will have to be put aside due to practical considerations. A merger is indeed possible.

  2. They will also likely be sitting beside each other in the back corner of the Legislature. It's hard to maintain personal animosity towards someone when you have to show up to work every day and sit beside them.

  3. I don't think anybody expects a dramatic shift to the left. It will likely be incremental shifts in policy. It's going to be business as usual in Alberta.

    All this talk on businesses leaving Alberta because of a moderate social democratic government is utter BS. Really where are these businesses going to go to?

    In fact, a Notley government may even give a boost to the resource industry in Alberta. In recent years, the oil sands has gotten a lot of flack from the American and European left due to its environmental impacts. Both the federal and Alberta government were doing a poor job on boosting the environmental credibility of this industry. Perhaps the Notley government can do better.

    As for the opposition parties. Brian Jean had a really good speech on election night. If only be brought that charm during the debates. The Wildrose will be a good opposition to the NDP government. But, they really need to work on building concrete policy proposals instead of being the party of no taxes.

    Prentice deserved to lose. He does not care about the people of his province. If he did, he would not have disrespect his constituents and resigned his seat a few hours after being re-elected there.

    Ideally, I would like to see Swann and Clark serving as cabinet ministers under a Notley government. Let's be frank, the Alberta Liberal party is finished. There is no more use for this political vehicle. Progressives need to be a unified force in the province. It does not matter what the name of that party is.

  4. The Alberta Liberals have been "finished" three or four times now, as have the New Democrats. People need to stop being so definite in politics.

    1. That's true. Politics is not definite, so political entities should evolve.

      The Alberta Liberal Party as a political entity has served out its purpose. At the moment they represent a niche segment of the electorate.

      Swann is just the interim leader right now. What happens after that? Does any qualified individual even want to become leader of this party? If so, what is the point. To stake out 5-10% of the electorate that is to the right of the NDP and to the left of the PCs?

      There is no need for that party anymore. It would benefit the progressive movement in the province if Alberta Liberal veterans went to assist the NDP government in various capacities. Or some right-leaning Liberals could join other movements.

      It does not matter what the name of the political vehicle is. In the end, policy is all that matters.

    2. As you said, parties evolve. The Liberals will find a new reason to continue on and to survive, and if they aren't successful at it then someone else will find a way to be, because there are always opportunities opening and closing in politics. It is certainly do or die, though you just seem to be suggesting the "die" portion.

      I think there will be a lot of room for growth in the coming years for the Liberals, and I hope they do not saunter off into the long dark in service to a nebulously defined "progressive movement" as you have proscribed. It would be a disservice to Albertans.

  5. Word on twitter is that the tied riding is going NDP.