Sunday, May 17, 2015

Alberta 2015 VS Canada 1993

During my travels on the interwebz, I've met a good number of people from a good share of political views. One of those people is Cory Morgan, a hard-right libertarian from Alberta. Morgan recently made a blog post insisting that the right-wing is not split in Alberta.

I argue that it is. I argue that it is split, because it will be split. The best way to explain this is to compare this to Federal politics in 1993.

In the 1993 election, voters in Western Canada decided to punish the PC Party, and many voted Reform. Remember now, what I say applies only to Western Canada.

In that election the main left-wing party of choice was nearly decimated, and the traditionally weaker 'second left wing party' managed to nab the government. We also saw the PC Party get punished, and a right-wing party using the colour Green rise up to dominate the rural areas.

Now, at the time, this was not a "right-wing split" People voted Reform because they did not like the PC Party. If there was no Reform party, the majority of these people would have voted Liberal, or NDP, or stayed home. Only a small number of them had the PC Party as their second choice, they wanted to hurt the Tories and they did.

Talk of a Reform-PC merger was very low key, as well as rare, in the 1993-1997 era. Why? Well as I said, in 1993, Reform's growth was because of PC anger.

It is, however, what happened in 1997 that determined what the shape of future politics would be. We had both Reform and the PC Party being right-wing parties that most voters do not hate. In fact, by 1997, Reform and the PC Party shared a good deal of second choice voters; there were many split between Reform/PC and PC/Reform.

By 2000 this had changed, in part, because the Canadian Alliance was actually quite successful in sucking up PC voters. The fact they won only 2 seats in Ontario had more to do with the amazing Liberal strength in the province than it did with any CA weakness. In Quebec we saw both the PC Party and the CA do very poorly. Only the Atlantic was left as a real area where the Tories could win seats. By then many of the remaining PC voters had the Liberals as their second option.

So, what does this have to do with Alberta?

The point is simple: It is more important what happened in 2019, than what happened this time.

I accept that in 2015, the right wing vote was not very split. The problem is that moving forward, you still have two right-wing parties competing for the same voters.

Wildrose is not going anywhere. If Wildrose was going to die, they'd have died in their WildRump phase. We'd have seen the PC Party win 21 seats this election, and the Liberals win 10. Wildrose made it though the difficult times and come out the other end stronger.

A merger is also unlikely, at least, it seems so. This could change depending on leadership. Brian Jean has already served as MP in a merged right-wing party. With the right new leader, the PC Party could work with Wildrose to create a merged party.

Any merged party would have to be very respectful to Wildrose. No "Conservative Party of Alberta". Frankly, I expect the name to be the "Wildrose Conservatives" This would also give the new party the opportunity to recruit a quality leader, some quality Alberta MP who has become convinced he or she can not defeat Kenney for the Federal leadership whenever it comes, someone like Ambrose, Rempel, Richardson, or Rajotte.

Beyond that there are two other possibilities.

One is that the PC Party itself could fade away or die. This is a possibility, especially if they can not find a quality leader, and/or they can not convince Albertans they are worthy of returning to office. I think most in Wildrose would hope for this alternative. It would make things easy and simple, but it's also the most difficult to pull off. It will all depend on what happens in the polls in the next few years. It's quite possible that in a two-way race, NDP vs Wildrose, that enough PC voters could bleed off from both sides to end the party.

Lastly, and to be avoided, is that the PC Party can not be killed. This would see the party remain around 20% or higher in the polls, and play a spoiler effect for any Wildrose gains. This is what Wildrose would fear the most, and what could happen. If we do see this in 2019, especially if the combined PC+Wildrose vote remains higher than the NDP vote, I think we will start to see a very strong push for a merger.

As it stands it is too early to say without a doubt that there is no "split", such a split would only be visible in a few years, and until then, we can not know if it truly exists or not.

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