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:
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.
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.
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.
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'être 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.