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