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Wednesday, 29 April 2015 16:39

Alberta election has been simultaneously completely predictable and unpredictable

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The May 5 Alberta provincial election is completely intriguing and exciting with more twists and turns than in recent elections.

There has been a lot of emotion, some eyebrow-popping (mis)quotes and turn of events which lends itself to some real intrigue.
Yet, it’s completely boring.
The upcoming Alberta provincial election is almost a complete antithesis of itself.
It’s unpredictable, but still completely predictable all at the same time.
It looked like Jim Prentice’s plan of calling an early election (prior to the legislated 2016 fixed date) was going to be a no-doubt win for his team. The Conservatives were still popular despite the credibility and trust damage done by Alison Redford and the tough-love budget Prentice delivered. The opposition parties looked to be in disarray. The Liberals are led by Dr. David Swann who doesn’t want the job after Dr. Raj Sherman threw in the towel. Alberta Party’s Greg Clark is unknown as is the party and no one outside of Edmonton votes NDP and its leader Rachel Notley was relatively new in her title as well.
Yawn. Another Conservative win. It’s the New York Yankees/Montreal Canadiens of Canadian politics, right?
Yet, there has been a huge surge in popularity for the NDP across the province. While the Wildrose barely had time to make elections for new leader Brian Jean, who no one really knows, they have been gaining momentum despite the fact 11 Wildrose members crossed the floor to Prentice’s Conservatives including stalwarts such as Kerry Towle and even the leader herself Danielle Smith. This left them with five remaining MLAs.They looked to be in complete disarray.
Wildrose has so far, been able to deflect criticism they are just PC wannabes who will eventually somehow, some way cross the floor like their former colleagues.
Wow, now it’s exciting right? The polls say the Conservatives are sliding right?
Well, you wonder if the opposition peaked too early. It happens all the time. Current governments are unpopular, they let the opposition parties spew all of the vitriol and criticism early in the campaign and by the time it’s nearly voting day, the government then points out the oppositions’ flaws, reminds voters why those parties aren’t in government and says it’s important to stick with the tried and true government. No sense taking a chance now in these difficult economic times. You need experience to lead the province.
In Alberta, throw in the fact the right-wing ideology reminds voters that left-wing parties spend too much, will tax everyone and are tight with unions ... isn’t that the way they do it in those left-wing Communist countries right?
Sound like a familiar refrain in the last week or so? See? Predictable and unpredictable simultaneously.
The most interesting aspect is how many voters will actually make the trek to the polls.
There was a 54.4 per cent turn out in the last provincial election in 2012 which was up dramatically from the 2008 debacle (40.6 per cent) and 2004 (44.7 per cent).
Honestly, the biggest question in this provincial election is this: are there enough people who want to maintain the status quo who will come out and vote Progressive Conservative to overcome any vote splitting for those who want them out.
This is the first election where social media has made issues, slip-ups and widespread political views and opinions that much more overt. How significant a role it has made in the minds of the voters (and which demographics) is what will be key.
If any non-Progressive Conservative party ever wants to get into power, the time is now.
Prentice has been taking a beating over different aspects of his recent budget, his attitude and talk of an unwanted $28-million election.
All of the signs are pointing to historic change such as a minority government — which would be the first time in Alberta history that happened — or even a non-Progressive Conservative government, which would be the first since Peter Lougheed turned the province Tory in 1971.
However, for as much as there is talk of change, will this group of voters do it?
Albertans historically have embraced the status quo. Their insistence in not embracing change has taken the phrase ‘giving the benefit of the doubt’ to a whole new level. The Tories have been in power for the past 44 years. Before that it was Liberal (yes, really) from 1905-1921 and Social Credit which heavily-dominated Alberta politics from 1935-1971.
It all comes down to something very simple and predictable in any election, fairly or unfairly, what do the majority of the electorate want?
It’ll be the Progressive Conservatives in again. Or not. It’s all very predictable ... we think.
Ryan Dahlman is managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece by e-mailing him at:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor