Wildrose will be a tougher opponent in 2016
Troy Media – by Catherine Ford
A thank-you would have been nice. I would have been gracious in response, accepting the gratitude of Alberta voters.
But my “thanks” got lost in the election post-mortem as pundits across the country looked for the reasons behind what they saw as the stunning victory of Premier Alison Redford, despite predictions of her demise.
Most of the commentary has focused on the pollsters, largely believed to have read it dead wrong.
The problem seems to have been the daily “snap” polls done over the telephone and the percentage of undecided voters. There was also the fatigue factor: In our house, the “unavailable number” calls came so thick and fast during the campaign that we got into the habit of picking up the phone and immediately hanging up if there wasn’t an immediate answer. That 10-second delay between a “hello” and the responding disembodied robot voice was a dead giveaway.
The ignored voter
In their reading of the chicken entrails, they forgot about me.
I am the ignored voter. I am the reason the polls failed. It wasn’t just me, of course, but a phalanx of Liberal, NDP and “green” voters who took a good hard look at the possibility of a Wildrose victory and elected to choose the devil we know over the devil we fear.
I know this because we held our noses and voted Progressive Conservative (Redford was running in our Calgary Elbow riding) because of that important adjective – progressive. We weren’t alone, as we realized on election night when a group of displaced Calgarians gathered in a Vancouver hotel room to watch the live coverage on television, all of us having voted in the advance polls. We cracked open a chilled bottle of Prosecco when the tally climbed past 44 – the number of seats needed for a majority – and just kept climbing, inexorably until the Tories had a lock on 61 seats and Redford rightfully claimed her premier’s office.
The Alberta election aftermath is almost over. But all this past week, even for those of us temporarily away from Alberta, the entrails-reading has been inescapable.
Few, though, seem to be paying attention to the reality of strategic voting, albeit some pundits are grudgingly giving such voters a little credit. Meanwhile, the results of last Monday’s Alberta election is being credited – or blamed, take a choice – on bad polling, scary advertising and the so-called “bozo” factor.
Wildrose leader and now head of Alberta’s opposition, Danielle Smith, refused to criticize the intolerant attitudes of two of her candidates and late in the campaign Smith herself said she didn’t believe science on climate change was settled. All this contributed to her loss.
It is passing strange, though, that Redford herself dismissed strategic voting as a factor in her party’s win and, according to the Vancouver Sun, didn’t credit her success to “centrist and left-leaning Albertans who voted strategically to keep Danielle Smith and the Wildrose Alliance out of power.”
Redford was quoted in the Sun as saying she “wasn’t surprised by the victory.” She can be forgiven a bit of hubris, having escaped the label of being the politician who ended 41 years of a Tory dynasty.
Those of us old enough to remember Premier Harry Strom know him only as the mind-numbingly boring man without an ounce of charisma, who presided over the downfall of the 36-year Social Credit government. The man who unseated him was Peter Lougheed and the woman who inherited his kind of vision now sits, elected, in the premier’s office.
Albertans can now forget about the wasteland between Lougheed’s vision and Redford’s win this past week. There will always be those who support the men who followed Lougheed – the football player Don Getty; the folksy, under-educated Ralph Klein and the dismally inadequate Ed Stelmach – one of whom could have convinced me to vote Tory even if that was the only party on the ballot.
Redford managed that, even as Lougheed would also have convinced me to vote for his big-tent vision.
By this time next week, all of us strategic voters will have returned to our normal ways, secure in the knowledge we will find much to criticize about the provincial government in the coming years.
We strategic voters may have voted for her this time, but that doesn’t mean we’re Redford’s to ignore in the next four years.
Complacency and the status quo will be among Redford’s challenges in the next four years. Facing her across the legislature will be Smith and her Wildrose colleagues, who will spend four years sharpening tooth and claw to be ready for the next election.
At that time, the Wildrose Alliance won’t be the parvenus they were this time.