Pre-election fever heating up in Alberta

| January 30, 2012 | 0 Comments

Strange things are happening, including several PC MLAs who have defected to Wildrose

Troy Media – by Phil Elder

Alberta’s political parties are tuning their engines and taking practice laps for the upcoming provincial election. With the latest poll showing the PCs at 53 per cent, Wildrose at 16 per cent, the NDP at 13 per cent, Liberals at 11 per cent and the Alberta Party at 2 per cent (with the new Evergreen Party not included), it seems all over but the shouting.

The only interesting question would seem to be which party will be a corporal’s guard Official Opposition.

PC party has sprung a few leaks

But let’s take a closer look. Strange things are happening, including several PC MLAs who have defected to Wildrose. One, former Minister of Finance Lloyd Snelgrove, no doubt unhappy about Premier Alison Redford’s excluding him from her new cabinet, first announced he will not run again, and has just peed in the pickles by deserting the PC caucus to sit as an independent. He’s also discussed some unspecified form of cooperation with Wildrose leader Danielle Smith.

Why couldn’t he have had the grace to wait two months and disappear quietly? We may hear more from him or others in the Tory caucus

So the good ship Lollipop has sprung a few leaks, even if Captain Redford doesn’t run her on the rocks.

Another possible complication for the PCs, apart from the inevitable vote-splitting with Wildrose, is foretold in the poll numbers just quoted. Adding the Green (Evergreen) Party’s loyal core vote to the above numbers, the combined centre-left vote could total 30 per cent or more.

The plot thickens. What would happen if many anti-Tories decided to vote strategically for whichever progressive candidate in their riding, regardless of party, has the best chance to knock off the two right-wing candidates? This could produce some big surprises – remember Joe Clark winning in Calgary Centre on an “anybody but Alliance” strategic vote? Or Linda Duncan receiving cross-party votes in Edmonton Strathcona?

Let us recall that, in 2008, 12 victorious Tories received fewer votes than the combined total of Green, Liberal and NDP votes in their constituency. They could be vulnerable this spring.

The Democratic Renewal Project (DRP) will soon unveil a web-based strategic voting initiative, changealberta.ca, for the provincial election. Modelling the campaign on such websites as Project Democracy in last year’s federal election, the DRP plans to recommend the most likely winner from the four centre-left parties in most of Alberta’s urban electoral districts.

Given poll and past election results, we expect that both New Democrats and Liberals will get the nod in Edmonton, and the Liberals in Calgary, but decisions will depend on continued research – there could be a few surprises.

Of course much can change during the campaign: it’s possible that PC/Wildrose gaffes could change the numbers, or that a particular issue, such as electricity deregulation that NDP leader Brian Mason is pushing, could galvanize voters. But the best bet is that if Redford’s progressive paint job wears thin, opposition candidates could get a big boost from strategic “anybody but PC/Wildrose” voters.

This election could be fun. Or it could be just a replay of the same old Tory “you’ve changed, we’ve changed” musical number.

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