10 more things you need to know about the Alberta election

NDP leader Brian Mason’s first words on reaching the podium? “The phone booth just doubled!”


Jason Franson/CP Images

1. Proportional representation just won itself a whole passel of new right-wing fans.

2. Alberta Liberal morale remained high throughout an election in which pollsters warned continually of disaster. And the pollsters proved to be almost exactly right about this (if nothing else). Yet even as the mortifying results rolled in, Alberta Liberal morale still remained high. Then their egomaniac not-really-Liberal disaster of a leader, Raj Sherman, won his seat by the skin of his teeth. This means he will not have to be replaced unless an awful lot of people smarten up fast. Alberta Liberal morale after this event? Easily, easily at its highest point in ten years. “Please, sir, may I have another?”

3. NDP leader Brian Mason’s first words on reaching the podium? “The phone booth [two seats] just doubled [four seats]!” Message: we like the phone booth. We’re never leaving it. Not us.

4. Total votes cast for Senators-in-Waiting, with complete results not quite yet in, are about 2,486,858. If everybody voted for three Senators, that implies about 829,000 ballots cast—which in turn suggests that around 458,000 eligible voters selected a candidate for the Assembly but refused or spoiled their Senate ballot. The practice was certainly widespread, and if these numbers are close to right, the Senate election has been boycotted quite significantly.

5. Those who did boycott the Senate election seem awfully proud of themselves, because it was a “meaningless” election. Why, one wonders, does it have to be meaningless? The “progressive” parties could have agreed on a single Senate candidate in advance; if they had done so, that candidate would certainly have ended up first in the queue, and provided an excellent test of Stephen Harper’s integrity, which I am told is much doubted.

The problem is that Harper might pass the test, you say? Then what’s the harm? You get some smart, popular left-wing independent speaking for Alberta in the Senate? That’s bad for “progressives” how?

6. It is not unusual for candidates to get 70%, 75%, or even 80% in Alberta provincial or federal elections. By this measure, however, the Alberta electorate is now unusually divided: the highest vote share earned by any candidate, of any party, was NDPer Rachel Notley’s 61.98% in Edmonton-Strathcona. (There was talk in advance of the vote that electoral redistricting would hurt Notley, though no one thought for a moment she would lose.)

7. Only one Conservative candidate received 60% of a riding’s votes cast: Human Services Minister David Hancock in Edmonton-Whitemud. PCs relishing their first-past-the-post “landslide” [see item 1, supra] would do well, I suppose, to realize that only 19 of the 61 victors have the approval of more than 50% of their fellow-citizens.

8. Voters don’t like turncoats much. There was a lot of floor-crossing in the 27th Legislative Assembly of Alberta: three PCs (Heather Forsyth, Rob Anderson, and Guy Boutilier) left for the Wildrose Party, one (Raj Sherman) bolted for the Liberals, and the PCs got one back from the Liberals in the person of Bridget Pastoor. Forsyth had a hideous scare in Calgary-Fish Creek, taking it by just 74 votes. Boutilier was turfed. Sherman, like Forsyth, narrowly escaped garroting. Only Anderson (in Airdrie) and Pastoor (Lethbridge West) got the usual easy ride that comes with incumbency.

9. Ted Morton’s widely anticipated whupping in Chestermere-Rocky View lived up, or down, to all expectations. His challenger, broadcaster Bruce McAllister, beat him 10,168 to 6,156; McAllister earned the highest vote share of any Wildrose candidate (58.4%) and, along with Danielle Smith, was one of only three to amass 10,000 votes.

10. There is this weird consensus among intellectuals and creatives that the progressive vote in Alberta will coalesce around the Alberta Party by 2016. All my techie and designer-y friends seem as convinced of this as if it were divine revelation (and, in truth, the Alberta Party’s election materials do look pretty badass, graphics-wise). I wouldn’t have thought anything of it, because these are the same people who were sure that a single-button mouse was a good idea ten years ago, but then the top young organizers in the Wildrose Party told me that the AP was full of smart, hustling people and that they, too, believed it would soon become Alberta’s party of the left.

Yes, there is plenty of embarrassment to go around this morning, but I still cannot understand why I was assured so often that the Alberta Party would win multiple seats; they were never above about 3% in the polls, and if there can be such a thing as a calamitous performance for a fledgling movement with not much of a platform and a kinda-fake leader, this must be it. The Alberta Party got 1.3% of the vote last night. If the NDP lives in a phone booth, what do you call this? A really tight pair of rubber underpants?


10 more things you need to know about the Alberta election

  1. if they really want to test harper’s integrity, write in a Quebec separatist.

    That’s when the foolish little dream falls apart.

    • Rahim Jaffer, rather.

      Harper has no problem with separatists.

    • You mean a Quebec separatist like Justin Trudeau or now apparently, Michael Ignatieff.

      •  nope.

      • Remember that the current prime minister of Canada, it matters not whether Canada ends up with one, two or ten national governments.

  2. “You get some smart, popular left-wing independent speaking for Alberta in the Senate? That’s bad for “progressives” how?”

    The populist, Coshian belief in the relevance of the Senate is both touching and comical.

    • If it’s irrelevant, THEN WHAT’S THE HARM? Your comment gets a big DID NOT READ stamp.

      • The harm is in providing cover for the idea that a senate should be elected – at all.

        That said I do agree with your argument, and voted for my pick of people who Mr. Harper would likely find it uncomfortable to elevate.

      • Well… I guess some people consider being deliberately obtuse some sort of virtue? LOL

        Hopefully some these so-called progressives will eventurally give up the martyr routine and realize that whining doesn’t lead to winning.

  3. Totally agree with #2. The weirdest part of the night, for me, was not the PC victory, but Raj Sherman’s speech. He looked unnaturally pleased with his four seats and also managed to suggest that the voters had made a good choice voting PC. It made the NDP look like the senior statesmen..

    • Update – Liberals have 5 seats and beat the NDP in Popular vote as well.

  4. So we’re just ignoring the pediction of a  Wildrose sweep didn’t happen?

    • The poll-driven media narrative vehicle has a reverse in its’ transmission.
      The clutch is short and smooth.

      • This is as interestig as the election result. 

    •  Ignoring?  Colby covered it in his previous two dispatches, one published late last night and one two hours before this one.  This is an addition to those, thus the “more” in “10 more things you need to know about the Alberta election”.

      • Well then, apologies to Colby, I missed those.

  5. One More Thing You Need To Know About Human Beings:

    The status quo bias is a cognitive bias which leads people to prefer that things remain the same, or that things change as little as possible, if they absolutely must be altered. This cognitive bias plays a role in a number of fields, including economics, political science, sociology, and psychology, and numerous studies have been conducted on the status quo bias to look at ways in which this bias influences human behavior. By being aware of the role that the status quo biasplays in their own lives, people can take steps to reduce the influence of this bias on their decision making.

    Several other cognitive biases play into the status quo bias, including the concept of loss aversion. Most people prioritize avoiding the potential for loss over pursuing the potential for gain. In other words, as a general rule people are conservative because they do not want to lose the gains they have made. As a result, they may view attempts to get ahead as potentially risky. In several studies, when presented with basically identical situations, subjects tend to choose the decision which is least likely to cause a loss.

    • Suddenly you believe in social science, Tony?

      • Social science is useful and interesting but most social scientists are asshats? 

        If social scientists just stuck to their knitting and observed humans, that would be ok, but majority believe in tabla rasa which is anti-science, closer to astrology.

        • Or in other words, he believes in it when it supports what he already believes.

  6. Redford won by 10% popular vote, our non democratic system gives her 71% if the seats.  Will she govern based on the dead heat 10% number or run wild like she has a 71% mandate?  No wonder people don’t vote, under this system, votes don’t really count.

    •  I was going to dispute Colby’s number one with something along the lines of people generally make long term decisions about basic political systems and wouldn’t be swayed by a single election – but I guess I would have looked a bit foolish.

      • Has proportional representation been a left-wing issue? I always thought it had adherents from all over the place.

        • The only high profile rightwing  supporter (and he’s not consistent on this) of reforming the electoral system, I’ve every heard of is Ted Morton.

          • I think there is quite a sympathetic audience for PR in BC on the center-right end of the spectrum, given what happened in 1996 (Glen Clark winning a majority while actually losing the popular vote) and what is about to happen in 2013.

          • That’s actually really disturbing. I just kind of assumed that after Chretien, PR is seen as a non-partisan issue, (it’s certainly when I started getting really concerned about FPTP) but one that can’t get any traction because of how those in power would often lose it with any sort of PR in place.

            Is it really that those on the right simply don’t agree with the benefits of PR? (I don’t agree with that point of view but I can understand that some people might hold it) or is it more like Cosh pointed out, they’re just hypocrites who will only support it if it’s going to benefit them?

          • Aren’t the people on the left, by definition, the ones who are passionate about equality and progress and skeptical of supposedly obstreperous traditional institutions like first-past-the-post? That’s what a left is, unless I am facing backwards.

          • Perhaps, but if, as you intimate, there’ll be a bunch of folks supporting it from the right now, because FPTP has proven inconvenient specifically to them this election, that’s just.. well.. disturbing. I’ve always sort of thought that the right tends to stick to their ideals regardless of the evidence. Which is bad enough, but if instead it’s they stick to their ideals regardless of the evidence unless that evidence keeps them out of power, that’s even worse than I thought.

            Personally, I’d rather not believe that. I can accept that folks can have closed minds. Don’t like it, but whatever. But that it’s not just that their closed, it’s that they’re simply selfish? I don’t want to accept that. Maybe of those in power, but of the general supporters? I simply prefer to believe in ignorance over malice.

          • I would have thought you’d have heard of them–Stephen Harper and Tom Flanagan. http://www.scribd.com/doc/51938443/Stephen-Harper-and-Tom-Flanagan-Our-Benign-Dictatorship-Next-City-Winter-1996-97

            My favourite part: “In today’s democratic societies, organizations share power. Corporations, churches, universities, hospitals, even public sector bureaucracies make decisions through consultation, committees and consensus-building techniques. Only in politics do we still entrust power to a single faction expected to prevail every time over the opposition by sheer force of numbers. Even more anachronistically, we persist instructuring the governing team like a military regiment under a single commander with almost total power to appoint, discipline and expel subordinates.”

        • It does, depending on who is in power. The one in power hates it. Whether that’s Conservative, NDP or Liberal, every party who gains power under FPTP suddenly loves FPTP–even if they campaigned on how much they hate it. But as a voter, I’d rather my vote be counted every time I cast it–not just when my neighbours happen to agree with my choice.

    • Wouldn’t it be more honest, based on the available data — PC-61 (44%), W[K]RP-17 (34%), LIB-5 (10%), NDP- 4 (10%) — to say that a 10% difference in the popular vote resulted in 50% more seats? And again, wouldn’t it be more honest to ask if she will govern based on the 44% of the popular vote the party received or the 70% of the seats? As for votes really counting, whatever happened to the old amateur sports mantra: its not winning or losing that is important, its how you play the game that counts. 

  7. “It was money, and the ethnic vote.”

    (just tryin’ to pull the pure laine over your eyes)

    • Michael Coren is blaming the – cough ‘-consensus’ media. 

      • That’s so gay!

        • He’s feeling the vibe of a new era.

          • I was joking. Now I see Calgary Editorial writer and Danielle Smith wannabe basically says the same thing:

            It’s true that Wildrose was beaten, says the Herald‘s Licia Corbella, but by what? By money and the liberal vote, essentially. In other words, the PCs won thanks to strategic public support (and donations and advertising) from the unions, and to an apparently foulmouthed population of young, strategic-voting progressives. It’s still an extraordinary accomplishment, in Corbella’s view, for “an upstart party with a leader who has never sat in the legislature [to give] the oldest political dynasty in Canada’s history a real fright.”

            She should move back to BC where she’s from.

          • Yes, apparently it’s an amazing win for Wildrose,  Not quite the win we  were told to expect but,nevermind.  Sorry, but I don’t see her returning here, we’re churning out vulgar, progressive young people by the thousands to be unleashed at a future election. 

  8. Re: #5 – this was essentially why I cast a ballot of Ian Uruquart in the Senate election. I think it would be good to have someone like him win whether the result was putting Harper in awkward position or if Uruquart was appointed.

    I was actually suprised to see Doug Black do the best out of the PC Senate candidates. That guy has the most poorly-designed, difficult to read signs I’d ever seen. I could read his name on the sign when on my bicycle, but if I’d tried to from my car, I’d have probably caused an accident. I guess this is one of those instances where the campaign doesn’t matter so much. I’d have thought that being to read the name properly would be the first things you’d want to ensure in a race that’s all about name recognition.

  9. Fair Vote Alberta’s meetings tended to have a very high proportion of lefties and centre-lefties in the past. (If you’re a PC-er, would you really find anything wrong with FPTP?) Although Ted Morton has shown on and off support in the past (sometimes advocating a bizarre hybrid system where the cities would have PR with their boundaries, but the rural areas would remain FPTP.)