Monday, February 04, 2008

Alberta Votes 2008

It’s official – Albertans will head to the polls March 3rd, at which point the Tories will have been in power for 13,324 consecutive days.

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.

Game plan I’d run: First of all, buying giant billboards that emphasize Stelmach ahead of the Conservative brand time in Calgary is just stupid. I’d make one or two flashy promises like ending health premiums [done, as predicted] or building a bullet train and try and make the election about policy as much as possible. Emphasize what Stelmach has done over the past year since, truth be told, it’s a lot more than Ralph ever did.

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.

Game Plan I’d Run: Be realistic and focus on the few Edmonton ridings that are winnable. Spend the few available resources on having a great rapid response team so that Mason can get zingers into most news stories. Pick one or two big issues to try and get ownership of – I’d pick the environment for one of them.

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.
Game Plan I’d run: You want to sound like Preston Manning as much as possible (in content, not in voiiiiiiiiiiiiice), rather than crazy global-warming-is-a-myth-let’s-outlaw-abortion-and-separate lunatics. Find a few sane candidates to showcase and make Hinman known to as many people as possible. Make sure he puts on a show in the debate and if you have the money, get the guy in a TV commercial so that voters know who he is. If you don’t have the money, remind the oilpatch guys that you’re the only party who opposed a royalty hike.



  • Smarmier than Jack Layton?? Wow.

    I think your advice for an ALP strategy is sound - maybe they're listening.

    I'm always curious what it would be like to have seen only one government in your lifetime... must be an interesting experience.

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 8:58 p.m.  

  • Is there anywhere to find which seats are in play? WTF is wrong with you people!? is bang on!

    By Blogger A.L., at 9:22 p.m.  

  • What Seats are going to be in play in this election?

    By Blogger huffb1, at 9:40 p.m.  

  • Great coverage of what me the most exciting campaign that leads to very little change. I am predicting that the Tories have 55 seats after the next election and all the opposition parties go on a search for new leaders.
    Taft might want to hang around for 2012 when the economic winds may have changed, Mason would likely want to leave but who else is there. Ditto for George Read. Hinman could have tons of competition regardless of whether they lose/hold/add seats.
    It will give us lots to blog about for the next while so bring on the silliest of seasons - a winter campaign.

    By Blogger Bob McInnis, at 9:45 p.m.  

  • Rachel Notley is going to hold on to Pannu's seat for the NDP.

    I noticed Mason has already started bashing the liberals. That said, I do not think anyone takes the NDP seriously outside of Edmonton.

    The biggest difference these days is with Klein gone, so is the PC's complete control over the media in this province. Klein had such a hold over the media that the liberals had to practically beg the media to pay attention to them. Now, not only is the media criticizing the PC's, they are covering the opposition parties when they do so.

    In a way I feel sorry for Stelmach since he is now paying for Klein's sins.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 11:07 p.m.  

  • I'm running in Edmonton Beverly - Clairview under the Wildrose Alliance banner and two possible slogans for my campaign signs were suggested to me: "Your Choice for Change" or "Today. Tomorrow. Together." I've decided to go with "Your Choice for Change". I expect this decision will make or break my campaign.

    By Blogger Brian Dell, at 11:15 p.m.  

  • Good analysis Dan and I tend to agree. There will be new players and some seats in play where the party holding it will change but net results could be the same.

    Campaigns get a life of their own and shit always happens. The electorate is volatile so no single seat is safe except for Stalmach's. I'm not taking any bets.

    Hinman only won by 131 votes in 2004 and he might be dumped this time so we PC's could get 63 seats. That would be huge for Ed if it happened.

    By Blogger kenchapman, at 11:53 p.m.  

  • Really insightful analysis. Although I'm not sure about the part about a 'real' election this time around. I don't think we can have a normal provincial election with campaign financing so heavily skewed. It's sad to think that the Tories have millions in their war chest, and the next likeliest contender is still in debt 1/2 a million from their last campaign. I think that this whole idea that the opposition parties haven't really offered Albertans an alternative/stepped up to the plate, etc. is strongly rooted in their lack of resources. With election campaigns becoming so media centric, it seems it would be extremely difficult 'to get out the message' even if you had a great one.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:00 a.m.  

  • I've said this on another blog but this Election is nothing more then picking the lesser of the evils running, Eddy is boring and has no vision, Laughy Tafty is just that a joke, while Mason is out to lunch he looks more on the ball then Taft, which still isn't saying much for the man. Either way bring back Dinning....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:04 a.m.  

  • The best bet would be a PC minority proped up by the Alliance. Failling that, so long as the PCs lose enough seats, we should be able to get rid of Special Ed as Premier, if nothing else.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:23 a.m.  

  • al & hffb - wikipedia lists the closest seats from the last election so that's a good place to start.

    I also did up an excel sheet with the previous results where you can plug poll numbers in and project seats based on that. I'll try and get it up on google spreadsheets this weekend.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 10:27 a.m.  

  • OhOh!

    Norman Spectre is testifying today. He's going to spill the beans.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 12:37 p.m.  

  • “37 years? What the fuck is wrong with you people?”

    This may be the funniest line you have ever written

    By Blogger Anthony, at 1:39 p.m.  

  • "On Your Side"????

    Has Mason decided to follow Glen Clark???

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:57 p.m.  

  • Good analysis, Calgary Grit. I have to second (third, fourth, fifth?) the compliments on the Liberal's unofficial slogan and the 'smarmier than Jack Layton.'

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:57 p.m.  

  • Good analysis--but where does Craig Chandler fit in?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:27 p.m.  

  • ace - Chandler is running as an independent in Egmont. The conventional wisdom is that he'll grab a lot of Tory votes, but he managed the Alliance campaign in Egmont last time and they already got 16% of the vote, so he may have already saturated that market. Maybe he gets 20% this time.

    The Liberals have a good candidate in Cathie Williams and ran a non-existent campaign last time so they should increase. I think Denis probably wins it when all is said and done unless the dam breaks and the ALP get a dozen seats in Calgary - then they'd probably pick it up.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 3:40 p.m.  

  • cg,
    I admire the analysis. As a PC, you're one of the few (only?) Liberal partisans I can read lately without losing my lunch.

    But I question the Liberal... sorry ALP... strategy of essentially abandoning all ridings outside of the cities. Maybe that doesn't get them seats, but there are a lot of people who grew up in the country and now live in the city. The way Taft appears to disparage the abilities of anyone who gets mail via "RR#1" or a "box number" is a turnoff to many.

    I see Taft is trying a divide-and-conquer on royalties. Lower them - temporarily - for gas producers, but raise them for oilsands. He does know that several of the biggest players on both sides are the same companies? (e.g. Suncor, EnCana, CNRL, Nexen, etc.). This may play to the industry-illiterates, but I doubt will withstand serious analysis. Especially since he can't quantify the amount needed to take from oilsands to give an appreciable amout back to gas [hint: it is a lot].

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:46 p.m.  

  • anon - I think the rural issue is really more one of resources. If the Libs had the dough to wage a province wide campaign, they certainly would. But even the PCs won't put too much effort into some of the lost cause Edmonton ridings.

    The Libs did put up a good show in the Drumheller by election when they had the time and money to do that - they had a great candidate and Kevin spent as much time there as in Elbow.

    But you are probably right that their target audience isn't the rural vote so the platform will probably be skewed to the urban centres.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 5:23 p.m.  

  • Smarmy?? Tip:

    Huge Federal Smarm committee action today. Norman really took the lid off today before the committee. Slags RCMP in both BC and Ottawa. Ouch!

    Too bad it*s during the AB elections game.

    Norman Specter was on the hot seat being grilled by the committee today..

    Did any one see that? Very dramatic!

    Norm sidelined questions by bringing up a wide variety of gripping inside information.

    ** This group should really be looking into the TEN $Million$ that Shreiver either kept or spread around to influence peddlers** he said.

    And lots more far more volotile stuff like the RCMP investigations into governments Federal as well as Provincial, like BC.

    He alluded to three major word=[coverups], and that was just BC, never mind Ottawa.

    The vein on Specter*s neck was really standing out and I thought he should have been less intense, thereby looking less *Guilty*.

    The session went for some time and was first quality CanadiaN Drama.

    Specter as much as suggested the RCMP had become corrupt and he would help in any way possible to *Get to the bottom of things*.

    This is the opening of a can of worms folks. . . unless the Aspers et all decide to give it the Canadian Smooooth Over.

    Specter mentioned dark suits of mystery who would meet with the PMO, who he mostly did not know except for one Conrad Black, that is.

    Lots more I can not recall. Wish I had taped it. = TG

    By Blogger TonyGuitar, at 7:18 p.m.  

  • Liberal Ex-Attorney General Allan Rock performed expertly in front of the Commission on CPAC after Norman Specter.

    Time limits saved Allan Rock from having to answer questions that would go beyond Schreiver and Frank Moores and onto other s like Cretien, Goodal and many others.

    Whew, that was a close one. = TG

    By Blogger TonyGuitar, at 11:42 p.m.  

  • "But I question the Liberal... sorry ALP... strategy of essentially abandoning all ridings outside of the cities. Maybe that doesn't get them seats, but there are a lot of people who grew up in the country and now live in the city. The way Taft appears to disparage the abilities of anyone who gets mail via "RR#1" or a "box number" is a turnoff to many."

    Sask Liberals got wiped out using that strategy just a few months ago. Same problem of a lack of resources. And the advice to the NDP could have been written to the Sask Liberals.

    Campaigns are an antiquated political exercise these days. Nothing changes in them, you win an election before the writ is dropped. If you aren't seen on the ground as a major party before the campaign, there's no chance of winning a seat unless you have a local celebrity candidate.

    By Blogger Saskboy, at 3:17 p.m.  

  • On February 12th, I posted on the wall of Guy Boutilier's Facebook site. He is the candidate for Wood Buffalo and the Fort McMurray area. My posting was about my negative experience working with him and my recommendation to not vote for him. On February 13th, my posting was removed. My conclusion? Guy Boutilier clearly does not support freedom of speech and it is yet another example of how he disrespects people and their opinions. Please send him and others in his riding the message "DO NOT VOTE FOR BOUTILIER". Share your disapproval with Boutilier on his wall....and show that you don't support him by joining this Facebook site

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:03 p.m.  

  • By Blogger Unknown, at 3:11 a.m.  

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