I'm joking of course. This is not a post about the economic future of Alberta, but rather, its political future.
There are a number of things that could happen between now and the next election. I will try to list them from most likely to least likely
1 - Some sort of merger or agreement between the Liberals and Alberta Party
2 - A merger or effective take-over of the PC Party by Wildrose
3 - Some sort of merger, agreement, or take-over, of the (now 3) centrist parties (PC, AP, ALP) into one united force
However, beyond the destruction of one party and it's absorption into another, I wish to examine where things can go from here.
I have a few strong suspicions.
The PC Party is not long for this world.I really can't see the PC Party continuing to exist. In both BC and Saskatchewan, the local "tories" are all but dead. BC and Saskatchewan do share a populist streak, having voted for Reform, and having elected at least 3 NDP governments. They differ from Manitoba, where the local Progressives were not turned in to the CCF, but rather, absorbed by the Liberals. Manitoba's political history, in many ways, better matches that of Ontario than it does that of Saskatchewan or BC. However, one province with a very similar political history in some ways, to that of Saskatchewan and BC, is Alberta.
To me this suggests the local tories are doomed. There are a few ways the party could remain relevant, but they are all not very likely.
A - Wildrose takes a hard shift to the right, and the NDP governs slightly more left than many expect.
B - The Liberals fail to return in any significant way. Not impossible given Saskatchewan's history with the party. More importantly though, the Liberals actually need to fall from where they are now.
C - Corruption is found within both the NDP and Wildrose; making it a bit easier for people as they are not switching from a clean NDP/WRP to a dirty PC Party, but from a dirty NDP/WRP to a dirty PC Party.
The Liberals will return.To understand this you need to understand a bit of history. Federally, Mackenzie King was able to gobble up the Progressive MPs. I don't mean Mr. King sat there with a knife and fork and practised cannibalism, but rather, he was able to turn the federal Liberal party into something that appealed to Progressive voters. In some provinces, the Liberals followed suit, Manitoba for example, but in many provinces the Liberals did not.
For this reason, people often are surprised to hear how comparatively right-wing "Liberal" governments are in some provinces. In Ontario and PEI, during the 60s, 70s, and part of the 80s, the Liberals were seen as to the right of the local PC Party. Ontario and PEI stand out in particular in this regard, and the fact that these are the two provinces with the closest-to-even split among Protestants and Catholics is likely not a coincidence.
Historic Liberal governments acted much as the BC Liberals or Quebec Liberals do today, though perhaps not as extreme in the former case. The Alberta Liberals, especially in the 90's, were known for their right-wing streak. In fact one key reason they lost the 1993 election was that the Alberta PC's party strong move to the right under Ralph Klein moved them right on top of the Liberals, who were that right-wing the whole time. Klein himself was a former Liberal, and many (though not all) of his policies in government were things supported by the then Liberal party.
The local Liberals moved to the left since then, but there is still a strong centrist and right-wing element to the party. Due to the severe damage to the "PC" brand, and the strengthening of the "Liberal" brand (as we get further and further from the NEP) I certainly think that the party will see many PC voters move over to become Liberal voters, and would not be surprised of some MLAs took the same path as well. Nancy MacBeth, the runner-up to Klein in the leadership for the PC Party would go on to become Liberal leader. Raj Sherman, most recent permanent leader was also a former PC member. I would not be surprised if one of the sitting PC MLAs who won re-election ends up as the new leader of the Alberta Liberals.
Certain key vote patterns will shift.
When I look back though historic elections I see something strange, and I've developed my own theory on why this is.
It seems - though I could be wrong - that there are some voters, perhaps 15% of them on the whole, that can be relied on to like the incumbent government. These are not always the same 15%, but you can generally count on around 15% of the population to want to re-elect the current government for whatever reason. They go to the polls saying "I want to re-elect the government"
By the same token there seems to be a slightly smaller number, around 10%, who simply want to throw away the government. Sometimes these people get split amongst many parties, but they will frequently gather to back one party or another. This is why, sometimes, a third party can rise up and snatch government. Simply, these 10% have switched.
It is for this reason I expect the NDP will be able to rely on a larger number of voters than historically it has. There will be people who vote NDP in the next election because they like how they are governing. They might not even be left-wing, but they like what they see so they will try to re-elect them.
By the same token, some of those who went NDP to get rid of the Tories will not like what the NDP is doing. These people will switch to Wildrose (likely) and give that party a boost.
With all this in mind, I've developed a few scenarios I feel are realistic.
I'll start with the one I feel most readers of this blog would most like to see.
In this scenario, the Liberals are able to hoover up nearly all the PC and AP vote. The party will still have some serious obstacles. Both the Liberals and PC Party in the most recent election had Calgary as their hotbed of support. For this reason, electing Liberals outside Calgary will be difficult. However; these numbers do create a minority situation, something that could result in the Liberals in coalition.
We can see here that the Liberals would nearly sweep Calgary. We also have an interesting situation where though not exclusive, each of the 3 areas of Alberta has a party of it's own. Calgary becomes Liberal. Edmonton remains NDP. and the Rural areas go heavily Wildrose.
This is a milder, and therefore likely more realistic, version of the above.
In this we see the Liberals can return as a strong, but third party. We again see the Calgary strength. While more 'realistic' weather or not this happens will be determined by in large by how well the party is able to rebuild.
This scenario would presume very limited changes. Here we see what might happen if the PC Party simply disintegrates. The party would still be running candidates, but would be rather weak. Given the large share of PC vote expected to go Wildrose, it's clear to see that party makes gains, but the NDP would still retain a majority under this system, though the Cabinet would lose a number of members.
Given the large number of Cabinet members that go down in this result, I wonder if part of the cabinet-making process included some thought to shoring up the more marginal ridings.
This presumes the least change from the last election. The PC Party would fall to third, but still remain above the Liberals in the popular vote.
For determining how the PC vote share splits - which was important in all these scenarios - used past polling data on second choices, as well as my gut intuition. For that reason I gave Wildrose 45% of all "lost" voters. I gave the Liberals 27%, and the NDP 25%. The Alberta Party was assigned 3%. For the first two I clearly boosted the new total Liberal number, but these last two show what happens when you do not do that. This one in particular has the PC Party retaining two of every 3 voters it had last time.
Take Away Notes
There are a few things to take away from this.
1 - The NDP is solid in Edmonton. Anyone, even the Liberals, breaking their hold on that city will be extremely difficult and likely not happen for quite some time.
2 - Unseen, but the numbers tell me that at 44%, both Wildrose or the PC Party, can tie the NDP at 50%. This means the NDP is "wasting" around 6% of it's popular vote in Edmonton, and could lose the next election despite winning the popular vote by a few points.
3 - Calgary is the real swing area of the province, which ever party can win it in the next election will have a real shot a government.