Alberta Votes 2008
Like most democracies Alberta does hold elections, but these are usually more for show than anything else. Yes, you do get a government change every generation or two, but there are senior citizens in this province who have only seen one in their lifetimes. Competitive elections are even rarer than government changes – Decore’s run in 1993 was the only genuine challenge which didn’t result in a new government, in the last 90 years.
The smart money, as always, is on a PC majority. They’ll outspend their opponents by a large margin and benefit from a Duplessis-esque electoral map. But I do think Alberta is in for a “real” election this time. And if you gave me good enough odds on Alberta’s first ever minority government, or even an Alberta Liberal win, I’d take that bet. There’s an indefinable restlessness in the air – even Stelmach is running on a “change” platform – whether we get a “Chinook of change” or not remains to be seen.
Here’s my election preview with some free advice for the four parties in the legislature:
The Progressive Conservative Party, led by Ed “I’m not Harry Strom” Stelmach
Hold: 62 seats
Reason for optimism: 37 years and counting…
Reason for concern: Alberta’s history of “Black Swan” elections
Unlikely ally: Pierre Trudeau, from beyond the grave
Official Slogan: “Change that works for Alberta”
Unofficial Slogan: “Who else are ya gonna vote for?”
Target Ridings: Just trying to limit the damage in Calgary, and maybe pick up Hinman’s seat or a few in the Edmonton region.
Minimize Ed’s media exposure and keep him scripted tightly as much as possible. If asked about why their leader is keeping quiet, answer, “I’m a man of action, not words”. Lower expectations for the debate as much as possible and spend a lot of time on debate prep.
Blanket the airwaves with positive messaging that make it seem like the PCs are responsible for Alberta’s wealth, but keep a few nasty “Liberals bogah bogah” ads in the can for the last week if things get dire.
The Alberta (Don’t Call Me) Liberal Party, led by Kevin Taft
Hold: 16 seats
Reason for optimism: Have you heard Ed Stelmach speak?
Reason for concern: The words “Alberta” and “Liberal” are antonyms
Unlikely ally: If Paul Hinman’s wild Alliance can crack 10% in the urban and semi-urban areas, a lot of seats are suddenly in play
Official Slogan: “It’s time”
Unofficial Slogan: “37 years? What the fuck is wrong with you people?”
Target Ridings: Calgary is ripe for the picking, but they’ll also need to win the seats outside of Edmonton, and the mid-sized cities like Red Deer, Lethbridge, and Fort Mac.
Game plan I’d run: Release a realistic platform early that stays away from too many flashy promises, and emphasize fiscal responsibility. This summer, the ALP got a quasi-endorsement from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Herald called them “Kevin Taft’s small c conservative Liberal Party” – things like that will get you elected; being the “tax and spend” Liberals who want to shut down the oilpatch will not.
Once the mandatory policy is out of the way, attack Stelmach 24/7 and promise change – not so much on the policy front, but in the way government is run. I think there’s some traction on the “no plan” angle too and I would try and paint Stelmach’s government as a bunch of farmers out of touch with the urban realities of the new Alberta (except, you know, do it more subtly than I just did).
Oh, and since it’s too late for a name change, I’d call the party the “ALP” whenever possible – the Liberal brand name is still toxic in Alberta. And if the ALP gets a chance to praise Stephen Harper or slam Stephane Dion at some point during the campaign, they should pounce on it.
The New Democratic Party, led by Brian “smarmier than Jack Layton” Mason
Hold: 4 seats
Reason for optimism: Taft has yet to capitalize on the protest vote
Reason for concern: Brutal by election results last spring
Unlikely ally: Ed Stelmach. If the PCs steal Liberal votes in Edmonton, Mason stands to benefit. If the election is actually close, expect NDP voters to jump to the Liberals en masse.
Official Slogan: "On your side"
Unofficial Slogan: “You’ll never get change…so at least get a louder opposition”
Target Ridings: They’re probably trying to hold the four they have, and hope to pick up one or two new Edmonton seats.
If the PCs are ahead, argue that the NDP are a better voice of opposition than the Liberals. If it’s looking close, start using the “m” word and argue that the NDP will have real power in a minority government.
The Wildrose (we’ll form an) Alliance (with anyone) Party, led by Paul Hinman
Hold: 1 seat
Reason for optimism: They’ve merged, ending months of vote splitting on the far right.
Reason for concern: Bringing two dysfunctional parties together does not necessarily equal one functional party.
Unlikely ally: If the Sun chain and the Rutherfords of the world start taking them seriously, people might catch on.
Official Slogan: (they don’t appear to have gotten around to that quite yet)
Unofficial Slogan: Right is Right.
Target Ridings: Hinman’s seat and Dunvegan-Central Peace were the only two ridings they were close in last time but a few other rural ones could potentially fall if they catch fire.
Labels: Alberta Election