Alberta election: close but not touching -

Alberta election: close but not touching

Under the circumstances, the election is nearly impossible to handicap


I was chatting with Éric Grenier of Saturday about Monday’s Alberta election. Grenier’s seat projection from late polls predicts a slim Wildrose Party majority for the next Alberta legislature, with 45 seats for the insurgent WRP and 37 for the incumbent Progressive Conservatives. I don’t really know the details of how he gets from the polling numbers—which show the PCs closing somewhat in recent days—to the seat counts. But because he treats the cities as homogenous metropolitan areas, as he is forced to by his commitment to a purely numerical method (that is how they are handled by the pollsters themselves), I tend to think Éric has the WRP just a tad low. He is implicitly mixing in urban-core ridings, where there is a lot of “progressive” vote to be skimmed by the fearmongering Tories, with ones that are “urban” only in the slightly demented eyes of the census, and are straight WRP-PC fights that will be hard for the WRP to lose given the polling numbers.

Four important words there: “given the polling numbers”. This Alberta election is a case in which an educated guess that incorporates local knowledge is certainly better than a purely automated model. But the educated guess can also fail in a million ways, and that is especially true here. The Wildrose Party is going stronger with “certain to vote” survey respondents, but a late break toward an incumbent is a bad sign for the opposition. Amongst individuals, the act of voting will carry high emotional stakes, and almost nobody, it seems, will be repeating his own 2008 vote.

Liberals and New Democrats who have waited long lives to throw out the PCs are now being asked to protect that very regime, and they’re obviously considering it, given that the polls show two-thirds of the 2008 Liberal vote vanishing. I haven’t seen local news reports of any mass suicides or Raptures, so some of those people will be backing Alison Redford, who would have been their dream leader anyway. I don’t mean this as a gratuitous shot; I mean literally that if the Liberals could fashion the perfect leader of their fantasies from Frankenstein-like parts, they would certainly end up with a lady lawyer who had done loads of international development work and favours Hillary Clinton pantsuits and pearls.

Conservative voters, meanwhile, will have to decide whether they are truly ready to abandon a brand they have supported since Apollo 15 took off. But there’s a third component to the electorate here that nobody’s talking about: “progressive” switchers to the Wildrose.

Madness, you say? The PCs have been making the case that the Wildrose must be stopped at all costs because a couple of its candidates have questionably acceptable views: one is a Christian who believes in the reality of Hell, and another is a guy who’s worked amongst ethnic communities for years—a gentleman not seriously suspected of capital-R racism by anybody, as far as I can tell—who was willing to say to those groups in their own media, repeatedly and in an admittedly awkward way, that his being a white dude is probably a practical electoral advantage. (A third is Alberta Report publisher Link Byfield, whose conservative political views are so freaky and far-out that he could only amass a quarter-million votes in Alberta’s 2004 Senate election.)

Social liberals who want to vote for the Wildrose must be prepared to tolerate the possible presence of such people in a Wildrose caucus, just as social conservatives who want to vote for the Wildrose must somehow be prepared to tolerate voting for a pro-abortion, pro-gay premier. Meanwhile, anybody at all who wants to vote PC must be prepared to tolerate the perpetuation of a government that has taken, and aggressively hidden the evidence of, well-documented illegal kickbacks for party purposes from schools, municipalities, and healthcare. Indeed, they must not only tolerate it: they must accept a share of moral responsibility for it, must stand up and applaud it. Some unknown number of voters will reach the conclusion that the PCs must be humbled as the Liberal Party of Canada was humbled—their offence is objectively worse than Adscam—and that a Wildrose vote is the most effective way of doing this. If you have to hold your nose, why not at least hold your nose for change?

Under the circumstances, the election is nearly impossible to handicap, with genuine four-way races likely in parts of Edmonton. What one notices is that the leaders are spending the last day of campaigning in outer-Calgary city ridings that would otherwise be rock-solid for the PCs. The ridings in question would, I think, be somewhere in the low 50s on a Wildrose wish list and maybe the low 30s on a PC one. That is what I expect to see in the seat counts on Monday, because I know of no stronger evidence apart from the polls, and the polls, interpreted properly, agree with this seat distribution. I can almost get to Grenier’s outcome if I assign everything close to the Conservatives, but the sum of individual voter decisions in the booth is impossible to foresee; that’s why we go ahead and have these election thingies. On this sunny Sunday, Alberta voters are writhing in the private hell of the potential parricide, and must grope their way toward peace with themselves.


Alberta election: close but not touching

  1. Thank you for this.  I was hoping we’d have a last-minute update as to how it’s going.

  2. Exactly!

    I haven’t seen local news reports of any mass suicides or Raptures, so
    some of those people will be backing Alison Redford, who would have been
    their dream leader anyway. I don’t mean this as a gratuitous shot; I
    mean literally that if the Liberals could fashion the perfect leader of
    their fantasies from Frankenstein-like parts, they would certainly end
    up with a lady lawyer who had done loads of international development
    work and favours Hillary Clinton pantsuits and pearls.

    •  I fail to see anything here as a problem, and certainly not pantsuits….the difference would be in policy.

    • God forbid you have a Premier that has left the hive. 

      • Ha!

        ‘Left’ the hive…


      •  It’s not so much that she left the hive, its that she’s forgotten that she is even a bee.

  3. Only person who will come out of this not looking like a complete idiot is nenshi.

    •  Too late.

    • Yeah Nenshi questions WildRose candidates statement and positions but convienintly forgets REDford’s cabinet minister Ted Morton’s outrageous comments on gays and PC candidate Rasheed’s comment on why he should win because he represents his riding ‘s demographic?
      Nenshi’s campaign was run by Stephen Carter who is REDford’s chief of staff. No conflict there ROALMAO

      • Quite an incestuous little group you’ve got running things, gotta say.  And you think you’re voting in a ‘new’ government.   Now I’m LMAO.

          • REDford?  Why do you need polls when you can just play games with the candidates’ names?  Will personal insults take the place of policy under the WR the way they have under the Harper Tories?

          •  But see you’re supposed to identify RED with the commies, and not RED states in the US which are Republican, or Don Cherry who self-identifies with REDnecks

            Why aren’t you living in the 50s?

          • REDford trys to pass herself off as a right wing conservative. They have run 5 consecutive deficit budgets and have 7 Billion additional in campaign promises. What should I call her when the Alberta NDP criticize the extravagance of her election promises? The next premier of BC?

          • It’s not just those two – it’s the connections between a whole bunch of them now supposedy on different sides.  And then there’s the cross pollination with them  and the feds.  I think if you want new and fresh maybe you should start electing new arrivals – just sayin’.

          • We are electing a new government. Tomorrow watch!

          •  @JanBC:disqus

            Yup, the rightwing circles the wagons and fires inward.

          •  @Keywest12:disqus

            Actually you’re re-electing the Social Credit party, but you’re probably too young to remember them

          • I remember them and NO WR is not Social Credit

          • This comment was deleted.

          •  @Keywest12:disqus

            MILF’s….the new thing on the right.

            It covers up the hate….they think

          • Yes, all right-wing people are full of hate.

            And all left-wing people are full of love.

            The world is such a simple place, really.

          •  Well… the simple-minded, I’m sure it is.

          • It’s funny the hate that comes from the left. Apaprently only their views are protected by the charter and the rest of us are haters if we disagree. Who confered the moral high ground to the left? Themselves? You might not know this but the CCF now NDP was born out of a church. So don’t get too high and mightty about your views being morally superior. 

          •  Who is the left, Keywest?

            Harp is selling oil to the Chinese.  We trade with the Russians.

            And I am an atheist….

          • What we are talking about here is one rightwing party fighting with another rightwing party.

          • Well Jan I think we have a very strange group here of people who love to argue. I’m off to bed so argue with yourselves to your heart’s content

          • You must be new here, lol.  Rest up, tomorrow will be a big day for you,  one way or another.

          • This comment was deleted.

          • You caught me just as I was turning off my computer to go to bed and dream of a WildRose Government. Hopefully tomorrow ! Have a goodnight! 

          •  Hey….a sexy Social Credit.

            What’s not to like, eh?

            Of course, a few years down the road, you’ll realize the world has passed you by…..but, whatever….

  4. And even if somebody is too polite/scared to call the dude out and out racist, you have to admit he’s utterly prejudiced.  To make the unqualified statement that non-white politicians “speak” only to their community whereas white politicians are above this tendency is gross, race-based mischaracterization.

    • Well, his point was that a Selkup politician representing Selkup priorities will find it less easy to reach a broader audience than a white politician representing Selkup priorities. This is probably true, and it’s not a question of capabilities, or of prejudice against Selkups. The real issue is that if that argument were taken too seriously, it would leave politics in the hands of Whitey forever; it’s the EFFECTS of the argument that are problematic.

      •  Your being generous to the point of being disingenuous.  His point was that Selkup politicans represent Selkup politicans. 

        If he wanted to bring up specific, relevant instances of non-white politicans taking positions which favour their own group to the detriment of others, and limit it specifically to certain examples, he was welcome to do so.  He didn’t.

        •  So now we are just saying random words that briefly touch on topics addressed by the actual wildrose candidate?

          • Next they’ll be comparing him to Martin Luther King. 

          • The exact words: “as a Caucasian I have an advantage that for the Punjabi community I am
            able to speak for the whole community and to lift the community up in
            our region, I believe I have a voice and I believe that the community
            has my ear” are pretty clear. They also, by the by, aren’t even implying Punjabi speakers are speaking only to their constituency. “I have a voice” in point of fact refers not to him as a speaker but to his audience as a listener.

            If your argument is “Ron Leech sucks at communicating that point” fair enough, but when answering “why should the Punjabi community vote for you instead of a Punjabi guy” his answer is certainly better than “oh geesh, you’re right, I concede!”

          •  missed the bit about ethnics ‘seen as’ only speaking for ethnics.  At best you can massage it to say he’s saying albertans are too racist to listen to a non-white, but even that’s a stretch.

            Sorry dude,but you’re lying to my face here, and i ain’t buying it.

    • Sounds like he’s saying a non-white MLA would have less influence in a Wildrose caucus.

      • Sounds like he’s saying he’s somewhat of a neutral member who can bridge the divisions between groups who wouldn’t necessarily listen to a leader from another group. I think he meant to emphasize the effectiveness of his neutrality rather than the superiority of his race.

        •  See, even if you bend over backwards to give to give the guy every possible benefit of the doubt and give his words an incredibly tortured meaning, he’s still a paternalistic little dumbass.

          And the leader is A-Ok with it.  Heck, even Tim Hudak in Ontario would have sent such a candidate packing.  If, as many suggest, she’s a good person, she’s the kind of good person who the does nothing that lets evil triumph.

          • Not particularly. As long as you’re working with identity group politics, you’re going to find situations where advocates for serious concerns about that group are risking charges of pure self-interest. That can be avoided, as Leech (clumsily) stated, by being their advocate from the outside: the neutral observer who was swayed by the force of the arguments and agreed that something must be done.

          •  You just keep telling yourself that’s all that Leech was gettin’ at, hoss.

          • What  rights are under attack in Alberta that Mr. Leech thinks he’s uniquely qualified to advocate for?

        • But his whole argument is that being a caucasian makes  him a better candidate.  At the least,  he seems ot be confusing his role as a pastor and missionary to that of an elected representative.

    • Yes Leech made a stupid comment but not intended as malicious. The community support he had at Smith’s press conference supports that. REDford has Rasheed running in Calgary McCall funny no one is talking about his statement?
      And the hypocrite REDford has Ted Morton in cabinet

    • Yeah, when white power advocates get together to exclaim the superiority of their race, the ability to foster cross-cultural dialog is usually at the top of their list.

      Leech’s point is debatable, and was communicated badly, but it is hardly racist. Would you say that those arguing for greater minority or female representation in parliament are racist/sexist for doing so (after all, their argument implies that the race or gender of a candidate gives them an advantage)?

      I think your objections are an example of a kind of colour-blindness that undermines the more important goal of inter-cultural harmony (if you’ve noticed, the colour-blind model hasn’t exactly succeeded in the US). When the standard of acceptable behavior is that one can’t even acknowledge any racial (or in this case really cultural) differences people are deterred from engaging with members of other groups. Nobody wants to be branded with the scarlet letter of being racist. But the reality is that race exists, and we should be able to address it when it is relevant, without wild accusations of racism (and, obviously, without racism/hate).

  5. I had a stab at doing a district-by-district projection model – it points to a solid majority for Wildrose. My model projects Wildrose to win 55 seats, the PCs 27, the NDP 4 and Liberals 1.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how my projection compares with reality on Monday night!

    Full details on my blog here if anyone’s interested – 

    • I see you have Leech getting in  by a fraction. 

      • Yes – but just by a fraction and it was mostly a mathematical model that I didn’t want to alter after the fact based on my own hunches. If I had to put money on it, I’d say he won’t get in, and Manmeet Bhullar will win it for the PCs.

        • Well, I shall be following this riding with interest now.  Are you doing a post election analysis? 

  6. I think the people behind wiill see change, but not the change they hoped for.

  7. “Madness, you say? The PCs have been making the case that the Wildrose must be stopped at all costs because a couple of its candidates have questionably acceptable views: one is a Christian who believes in the reality of Hell, and another is a guy who’s worked amongst ethnic communities for years—a gentleman not seriously suspected of capital-R racism by anybody, as far as I can tell—who was willing to say to those groups in their own media, repeatedly and in an admittedly awkward way, that his being a white dude is probably a practical electoral advantage.”

    Twisting ourselves into the proverbial partisan pretzel aren’t we here CC? Heart on your sleeve much?
    a) Those “questionionably acceptable views” are directed at an indentifiable group of citizens who have charter protected rights – as does the speaker here – expressing your opinion is one thing, taking those views into an elected position is quite another. The man should at least respect the law as it stands, and be told so by his leader.After all i can’t run as a candidate who openly denies FNs have rights in this country. And Smith should point that out to him, not engage in sophism disguised as defence of free speech and religious rights issues.

    b) Whether the man is or is not a voluntary or involuntary racist is a little beside the point – it’s what it implies, what inferences can be drawn even if does boil down to awkward messaging or just a brave dude misguidedly trying to tell it like it is. Invert his remarks and it seems to be the inference is: as a non white you can’t speak effectively to my community, only your own. Intentional or not this at least implies a sense of you know where the puck really stops here buddy, where the real power, influenece and access lies don’t you? Sorta thing that was probably commonplace when the Brits ran the place – not on in a modern pluralitic, multi-cultural society.Don’t think this hurts people other than white guys like you and me – ask Nenshi what he thinks?   

    “Indeed, they must not only tolerate it: they must accept a share of moral responsibility for it, must stand up and applaud it”

    Why couldn’t you bring yourself to include social liberals and social conservatives in your moral sorting hat? Might they not also be expected to not only tolerate but share a sense of moral responsibility for their choices, perhaps even standing up and applauding them by their choice?  Smith’s views do not somehow absolve or immunize wildrose in any sense imo. She is merely the face of the party at this point. It’s whether rest of it is as pretty that seems to be the issue. Maybe she can be more than lipstick on a pig, but in any case it’s a cop out. She has a responsibilty to acknowledge the law of this land is the law of this land regardless of crankier opinions within her party.
    This liberal aint buying it anyway. I already seen that movie starring SH the pseudo amost but not quite neo con – until he has a majority –  and i’m not interested in an encore.

    So it boils down to hold your nose on contentious social conservative issues if you perfectly reasonably think PC deserves the boot; or hold you nose on corruption and cronyism if you don’t like folks who think what they think on social issues matters more than or despite the law of the land.
     Sadly ABs don’t think it is worth looking at real alternatives, if only in meaningfull numbers in opposition. Long live the single party state eh! Can’t say i really blame ABs, after all it’s been so long they don’t know what real change looks like – poor sods.

    •  Mr. Cosh certainly looks a whole lot of the other way in this piece, doesn’t he.

    • “poor sods”

      Yes, Alberta is such a miserable, benighted dystopia.

      •  Having visited a number of times, I  can’t disagree.

        • The tolerance, lack of bigotry and open-mindedness on these comment boards never ceases to amaze me.

          • You’re joking, right?  Obviously finding Alberta a miserable place to visit is a horrible crime against tolerance, lack of bigotry and open-mindedness.   One must never find a place unpleasant!  

          •  And Alberta wonders why it can’t get workers!

          • I gathered that your dislike extended beyond merely the scenery, amenities, quality of the food and the tourist attractions, and extended to a qualitative and pejorative judgment on the inhabitants. 

          •  Wouldn’t the amenities, food and tourist attractions be reflective of the inhabitants?

      • And you’re a broken record. Or maybe you should brush up on British idioms? It doesn’t mean what you seem to think it means. It can be used in a mildly affectionate sense – one that i intended here; but you’re so much into your self appointed, knee jerk AB self defence mode, i’m not surprised you missed it. They don’t give medals for it you know.

        • Silly me.  I’m so obtuse.  It turns out that all of those comments that I was interpreting as Alberta-bashing are actually expressions of “mild affection.”  I just need to read more carefully.

          • Now you’re resorting to be intellectually dishonest. That’s not what i said and you know it.Now you are choosing to be obtuse.
            I’ve never commented for instance on you bashing E for her intemperate remarks about AB. But if you want to resort to self pity be my guest. I thought you better than that.

          • It’s true that I may have been commenting more on a general trend in the comments rather than focusing in on the specific content of your post(s) in that regard.  Certainly you’re a far more interesting, intelligent, and coherent poster than Emily.

          • thx.Back at you when you choose to be. I had meant to reduce the charge from ID to merely obtuse, but i didn’t hit the edit button at my end in time :)

            You might try to make your point about AB being far more mainstream than is commonly thought by using a little less obvious sarcasm…but if that’s your bag… or ignoring the trolls – but i know how tough that is.
            My only real point about AB is that now it is in the big leagues it and its boosters are going to have to take some criticism gracefully and just lead by example,get a thicker skin if possible. I recall when ON was national leader it mostly did that, took the rough with the smooth and led without too much complaining – proudly too! Not a bad example really when you think about it.
            I may moan a lot about the Harper govt but i’m a proud westerner myself.

  8. That polling and seat projection makes ABSOLUTELY no sense. There isn’t a single poll that shows the lead under 5 pts but this guy trots a compilation of polls showing under 5 % REDICULOUS! Globe poll today predicts 62 of 87 seats and has a 9% lead consistent with all the data

    • You were saying?

  9. Ukrainians out-perform in Alberta elections.  Laurence Decore was Ukrainian and Liberal.  Ed Stelmach was Ukrainian and PC.  Danielle Smith is Ukrainian and Wildrose.

    Kinsella likes saying that Harper was Tim Horton’s to Martin’s and Dion’s and Ignatieff’s Starbucks.

    Decore and Stelmach and Smith channelled/channel that no nonsense Ukrainian fiscal conservative common sense.

    So even if I might agree that on substance, the Wildrose policies are a little out there, to your average Albertan Ukrainian, and there are a lot of them, particularly in and about Edmonton, Danielle  Smith has really does sell better on this identity level.

    Redford would have to have done a much better sales job that her policies are better for Alberta right now, and that case could be made, if she were a more experience campaigner, but she is losing on the appearance of authenticity.

    I don’t think the substance matters that much.

    Klein realized the extreme danger he was in when Decore challenged him, and went the full monty in   PC contrition.  Redford hasn’t done that.

    **The deficit and debt revolution that straightened out Canada’s finances began with Laurence Decore in Edmonton in the eighties.  Edmonton was in a fiscal mess because of the National Energy Program.  That generation of Alberta Ukrainians are authentic small-c hard core fiscal conservatives.

    •  Kindly don’t confuse local Alberta politics with Canada.

      • You seem to miss my point.

        The only time the Liberals came close to beating the PC’s in Alberta was when they ran on the fiscal right of the PC’s and with a Ukrainian at the head of the ticketi…i.e Laurence Decore.

        •  And why the hell would anyone care about such a local matter? No one has even heard of Decore outside Alberta…or probably even Edmonton.

          • “I’m ignorant and proud of it”, apparently.

            Maybe if progressives want to win votes in Alberta, they should actually spend some time understanding Alberta.

          •  Yes, you are

            Maybe if Albertans ever want to get anywhere they should understand progress

          • That’s right, Emily: it’s not the fault of federal Liberals that they don’t get elected in Alberta.  It’s the fault of Albertans for being too stupid and backwards to realize how awesome federal Liberals are.  Keep on telling yourself that.

        • Decore only lost because he didn’t have the southern Alberta rural social conservatives on board.

          Danielle Smith has the rural social conservative south, most of the oil industry, and she’s talks like an authentic fiscally conservative small-c Ukrainian.

          How can she lose?

          • For the record, if I were living back home instead of amidst the “enermy” (many smilies) in Toronto, I think Redford’s actual policies are probably better for Alberta than Smith’s at this point in time, but I don’t think the policies really matter.  Wildrose has nailed the identity politics, and have built/found the perfect candidate to bring the PC’s down.  This is a tribal vote, not an intellectual one.

            Redford made the mistake of not going immediately to an election like Klein basically did against Decore.

          •  Yes, Alberta is tribal.

            At a time when the planet is going global


          • Yes, Albertans are drooling, slack-jawed rubes.  After all, Emily says so.

    • Poor Ted Morton, he never stood a chance.  Why didn’t somebody tell him?

  10. Edmonton was in a fiscal mess because of the National Energy Program
    Maybe, but AB was principally a mess because Klein couldn’t balance a teeter totter, let alone a provincial ledger – remember his telus scandal i think it was; that or some other telecom name that’s lost in this mist of history and mythology of tory fiscal prudence. Kleins the guy who fiddled away all those hard earned pennys that Lougheed had put aside for a rainy day – no PC premier has seriously tried to top the fund up since. If a liberal govt behaved so cavarlierly with the provinces finances they would have marched on the legislature with fire and pitch forks.

    • Can’t help but point out that a teeter totter is actually quite tricky to balance.

      • fair point.

  11. I’m not writhing at all – I’m positively gleeful and totally at peace.

  12. BTW Cosh – assuming your next piece will be about the coronation and in the spirit of the grit election pool, I propose you sign a copy of the above pic and send it to the poster who correctly predicts the timing of first comment to your first post election piece that offers the sage observation “most Albertans didn’t vote for Smith”.

    • Yes, and that you can add the Progressive Conservative, Liberal, NDP and Alberta Party votes together to claim that there is a unified “progressive majority” in Alberta etc. etc.

    • At this point, I’m guessing that’ll go to CTV news..

  13. And then that happened.

  14. Two tips for future election predictions: Be less confident in your predictions and delete this article.