Lessons for BC in Alberta PC majority?

A big upset in Alberta's provincial election, pollsters & TV stations #fail, and hope for BC Liberals

Anyone who has worked on an election campaign can tell you that a week is an eternity in politics. In the past week there have been two very important votes in western Canada. Last Thursday it was the pair of by-elections in southwest British Columbia. On Monday, Alberta's provincial election happened and the incumbent Progressive Conservative party won an unexpected and massive majority. Polls and media pundits had all but written off the fortunes of Premier Alison Redford and her PC party, predicting a victory for upstart conservative competitor Danielle Smith and the Wildrose Party.

From all accounts the PCs ran a terrible campaign. Smith, by comparison, seemed sure-footed and connected well with voters out on the hustings. On Tuesday morning results show WRP elected in 17 seats (PC took 62), sweeping most of Alberta's conservative rural ridings in the south. The morning of the Alberta vote, however, the headlines blared that the victory would be Smith's.

While Wildrose did not form government, they will now have a solid number of seats in the Alberta legislature to not only hold the PCs to account, but to build the credibility of their party. It's clear that Smith's biggest blunder was to dismiss the extreme social conservative views of some of her candidates. While I've been skeptical of strategic voting campaigns in the past, it's more than possible that a surge of anti-WRP votes by Liberals and possibly NDP assured Smith's loss and Redford's huge success.

Coming out with the greatest amount of egg on their face are polling companies that all gave WRP the edge run up until Election Day. The failure by pollsters like Forum Research – the company that was way off during Vancouver's election by suggesting the Vision/NPA contest would be a squeaker – is a headline grabbing setback for an industry struggling to adapt to call displays and cell phone use.

The other big embarrassment for the night was Sun TV News Network. Sun TV set about trying to give a more conservative-flavoured news and political coverage. I was one viewer who welcomed a little variety in the Canadian TV news sphere. But the station continues to ridicule itself unintentionally by doing things like broadcasting their live election coverage from Wildrose campaign headquarters, and refusing to put the Alberta Liberal party results on screen for most of the evening. Much to their disappointment, Alberta was not prepared to move as far right as Sun TV predicted.

Here in BC, you can bet that staff for Premier Christy Clark were huddled around sets and Twitter feeds watching what was coming in from our neighbouring province. The predicted extinction of the incumbent, challenged by an upstart competitor on the right, simply did not happen. Redford, like Clark, is a woman leader who took over a party that was deemed to be too scandal-ridden and tired to be worthy of another shot at government. Instead, the voters rallied around Redford, and the PCs will continue to extend a reign of power going back to the early 1970s.

The failure last week of the BC Conservatives (and their direct links to operatives working on both sides of the border) is one sign that Cummins' party may have peaked in terms of their threat, and could crawl back down to their usual sub-ten per cent support levels.

Going by today's political thermometer, the 2013 BC election would be Adrian Dix and the NDP's to lose. We're likely to see some interesting contests in Vancouver next year, such as City Councillor Geoff Meggs challenging Margaret MacDiarmid in Vancouver-Fairview, Park Commissioner Constance Barnes against Mary McNeil in Vancouver-False Creek, and a strong rumour that School Trustee Patti Bacchus will run against the Premier herself in Vancouver-Point Grey (and in turn would be a shoo-in for Minister of Education should the NDP form government—a thrilling prospect for the BCTF). However, there literally dozens of things that could affect the prospects of both the NDP and BC Liberals over the coming year.

As I said earlier, a week is an eternity in politics. If you think you can predict what will happen in May 2013, let me know because I want to buy a lottery ticket from you.

– post by Mike

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  • Karla Sofen

    It’s definitely time to start investing in Saskatchewan. We’re seeing a complete flip-flop in the economics of Alberta and Saskatchewan. SK has as much oil but doomed progress when state ownership blocked all hope of investing in SK resources. Now that SK has embraced conservative economics, economy booming there, business is setting up there budget in surplus, no unemployment, taxes lower, home prices up, people moving there. AB politics moving toward the NDP style that hamstrung SK for generations. Same thing will happen in Alberta. Invest in SK oil industry. New conventional oil and newly discovered vast oilsands in SK golden opportunity. If NDP runs BC, they will run it into the ground as PCs did in Alberta. Billions in surplus becoming billions in deficit in AB is PC’s fault. What will they do in BC? I shudder to think. Invest in SK. That’s a certain success for the foreseeable future.

  • Ike

    Bad week for Hamish Marshall…. got his BC Conservative butt kicked in Chilliwack and Port Moody and then his poll and seat projection torched in Alberta…. not to mention he was working for Wildrose….

  • Ian

    Where’s the source for the Bacchus rumour? There’s been no announcement of a candidate nomination race, and even then, they are not guaranteed for even the party favourite. I live in VPG and one thing’s for sure, we’re going to have a strong candidate to target Clark (who hasn’t even said she’ll run in the riding again).

  • Steven Forth

    Mike, can you say more about “BC Conservatives and their direct links to operatives working on both sides of the border.”

  • DB

    “While Wildrose did not form government, they will now have a solid number of seats in the Alberta legislature to not only hold the PCs to account, but to build the credibility of their party.”

    I’m looking forward to ‘lake of fire’ and ‘caucasian advantage’ comments on a weekly or monthly basis. Given the frequency of bozo eruptions over the past two weeks of campaign, and Danielle Smith’s unwillingness to condemn these remarks, I’m not sure that greater exposure is a credibility building opportunity.

  • Daniel

    Very interesting results coming out of a number of provincial elections recently.

    In Ontario the Liberals were trailing the Conservatives quite badly only a few months out from election. They ended up winning another term. The same scenario played itself out in Manitoba with the NDP.

    Also worth noting that every incumbent provincial gov’t that went to the polls got re-elected.

    The two provinces left to give to the polls are Quebec and BC. Will they confound pollsters and pundits like the Wildrose Party did Alberta? Only time will tell.

  • Karla Sofen

    The lesson from Alberta’s elections in to invest in Saskatchewan. Imagine you had the chance to buy Suncor stock in 1980? You have that chance now. Liberals and liberalism will bring Alberta down. Conservative principals are boosting Saskatchewan into prosperity. Invest in Saskatchewan resource industry. It will be like buying Microsoft, Intel and Apple in their infancy. They have as much or more natural resources there. All that stopped Saskatchewan was generations of NDP policies.