LILLEY: Thoughts on the Alberta election

- April 26th, 2012

Now that I’ve been back home for more than a few hours I figure it is time to offer up thoughts on the Alberta election. This blog gets slow when I travel or when I’m in the middle of special broadcasts like Monday but perhaps that’s a good thing. Time can give perspective.

Alberta’s PCs, and lets not call them conservatives because they are not, won handily on Monday. Sure it may be their lowest share of the vote since 1967 but Alison Redford sees this as a full and complete endorsement of her progressive policies.

But I have to say that I agree with my colleague Lorne Gunter – the loss that Wildrose experienced is not a cue for Danielle Smith and Wildrose to take a left hand turn into REDford land.

“But if they want the people to join them in opposing a politically correct viewpoint, Wildrose has to take the time to explain its stance again and again – instead of choosing to go with the flow at the first sign of pressure.”

Gunter explains why Smith may have made those shocking comments about ditching key policies right after the election loss and maybe Lorne is on to something – read it yourself and see – but I do agree with his overall point, this loss is not a repudiation of Wildrose.

In the previous election Wildrose picked-up about 7% of the popular vote, this time 34%. By any measure that is a huge increase. Sure, Smith and her party thought they would win – even the Pcs speaking to our people in Calgary thought Wildrose would win – but going from 7% to 34% of the vote is nothing to scoff at. People voted for Wildrose for a reason and I’d bet part of it had to do with policy.

Still on the issue of Wildrose not cutting and running as soon as times get tough, commenter and guest blogger EBD over at Small Dead Animals makes some good points and a local observation.

“If Danielle Smith thinks that such twee, left-leaning urbanite media are the spokespeople for her swelling constituency she’s making a serious mistake. I was talking to some of my neighbours yesterday (I live in a traditionally very conservative, rural area), all of whom voted PC. Small sample, obviously, and anecdotal, but in each case their choice had absolutely *nothing* — nada, zip – to do with global warming, or conscience rights, or scary, homophobic Christians, or anything else the media’s post-mortem, which Smith seems to have taken to heart, has focused on. Instead, they were simply unsure about Wildrose – not unsure in the active sense of being distrustful for any particular reason, they just didn’t know a single thing about the local candidate.”

So why exactly did Wildrose lose?

There are plenty of thoughts, plenty of possibilities but no single answer.

Was it the so-called “bimbo eruptions?”

Perhaps partly. When candidates say something stupid, or in a clumsy way, or it gets distorted by the media and then repeated time and time again it can have an effect. The media did focus on a couple of Wildrose candidates in the last week of the election – while ignoring similar views or statements from PC candidates – and that coverage saturated Alberta right down to non-political coverage. DJs ranting on the radio between songs can plant that nagging seed of doubt.

As EBD said, some people had that nagging seed of doubt planted in their heads not by the media or their faux issues but by the fact that Wildrose was unknown and untested in many ways. Not being sure someone is ready to govern can scare voters off.

The folks over at Campaign Life Coalition think socially conservative voters stayed home. They say that when Smith responded to Allan Hunsperger’s comments by declaring herself “pro-choice and pro-gay marriage” it turned off many of the social conservatives that had been supporting her.

“In order to lead a small-c conservative movement to victory, you need the social conservative branch of that movement to show up at the ballot box (even if you don’t agree with them).  By alienating ‘values voters’, demoralizing them, and causing them to stay home on Election Day, it’s very difficult to win.”

This could be part of what happened but I don’t think this theory can be counted on to fully explain what happened either. Any voter that didn’t know Smith’s positions on those issues – especially if they are key vote deciding issues – wasn’t paying attention. Smith has been clear on her stand for a long time.

Still, say we granted the values voters that stayed home a full 5% of the popular vote, and I don’t think it would be that high. Even if they all showed up and voted for Wildrose, they would not have won.

Then of course there is strategic voting.

There are obviously ridings where the Liberal vote collapsed and the PC vote grew. I have no doubt that strategic voting by left-wing voters helped Redford form her progressive coalition that she will now govern with. But again, I don’t think it was enough to account for a 10 point win.

Instead I’ll just claim a little bit of all of this. Last minute jitters, fear mongering, strategic voting, values voters feeling shunned – and let’s not forget to acknowledge a good ground game on behalf of the PCs – all of this played a part in an election that pundits like myself should never forget. I gotta tell you, chewing on crow is tough.

 

Categories: Politics

Subscribe to the post

8 comments

  1. Stephen Smith says:

    If you look at the left vote, the NDP and the Liberal vote it collasped. People held their noses and voted for the PC’s rather than Wildrose.

  2. Bill Elder says:

    Having been involved in provincial politics for much of the 28 years I spent in Alberta, I must admit the results of this election were a shock to me. In my time in Wild Rose country, the last two terms of the Ralph Klein PCs people were pretty much disgusted with the expansion of government and free spending going on – things Ralph was against. Then there was Ralph’s “retirement” where many long time PCs felt he was forced out by a growing Red tory faction. The Stelmach regime mimicked eastern liberal economic and social policies – this made land owners and the energy patch nervous. Alberta was ripe for change – they just needed a viable alternative.

    Now here we are in an era where the Alberta PCs were hollowed out from within by real conservatives abandoning the party and a coalition of red Tories, liberals and public sector unionists running a party of the so-called center (it really leans left of center). Albertans are aware and negative towards this shift in ideology/policy. Daniel Smith need not change WRP policy, she need not “turn left” she has a party which stands for small unintrusive government, civil liberty, true equality, free markets, accountability, transparency and responsiveness – the WRP is now the only true libertarian-democratic populist party with seats in Canada – and it got 30 plus percent of the vote its first time out – impressive.

    What has me vexed is that Albertans by and large are fair-minded live and let live folks who wish to be left alone to succeed independent of government meddling in their business and lives. Private enterprise, Agra and resource workers are natural born populists and more libertarian than conservative – if only they knew it. Wild Rose policy is a perfect match for the ideals of the average Albertan. But Alberta’s closet libertarians went with conservative instinct in last minute decesions while staring at the ballot. As Smith’s populists perform well in the legislature and people see the contrast between traditional Alberta populist/libertarian politics and the dystopic policy fallout of Radford’s eastern-styled leftist coalition, the next election will see them pick up the votes they lost to voters last minute doubts at the polling booths.

  3. Jeremy Swanson says:

    Admitting one is Libertarian and also pro choice on a Conservative Platform as a leader is a sure-way to lose an election.

  4. Bill Elder says:

    Jeremy: How did WR “lose” with Libertarian policy? Thy made a 300% increase in seat count! Smith has stated that controversial issue, issues that have the public devided (I assume abortion pot legalization and gender issues are included in that) are a matter for the majority population to petition government to address – not the other way around.

    I think you don’t have a grasp on what populist libertarianism is – it isn’t textbook, Lew Rockwell styled ideology – it’s highly modified by democratic input.

  5. Dan says:

    i think there was big damage running away from their principles. the same thing happens to all conservative groups. They often seem unwilling to defend the truth, and morality.

  6. Dan says:

    ….in the face of irational liberal groupthink

  7. Constantin Draghici-Vasilescu says:

    In times of relative abundance, Canadians tend not to mind too much left of centre politics. I believe I am discerning a pattern where small c conservatives get a fair shot in times of economic crisis and downturn. The Wild Rose is replicating the lomg and arduous journey of the Reform Party and has gained recognition and support accross Canada, let alone in Alberta. No way should the Wild Rosey change course or capitulate in the context of a significant victory only perceived as a defeat. Nanny state policies are the cancer of liberal democracies and recent history proved that economies collapse fast as a result. The world is, hopefully, starting to respond to this reality and the wheel started to turn around. Danielle Smith did a fantastic job, would have had my vote without question, and needs to regain her balance and posture after the ridiculous pressure of the campain weeks.
    If social conservatives are so dumb as to suport statists over disagreement on the abortion issue, in a context where no one is obligated to have an abortion against her conscience, they will live the day when the last church in Canada will be turned into a museum.
    As to the choice made by Albertans: Vox populi, vox dei! – but one always deserves the results of his or her choices.

  8. alycia jansson says:

    ok, 17 mlsa for the protest movement is more than they got way back when , when gordon kesler won in a by-election for the western canada concept.
    it did not take long for them to be wiped off the map.
    ditto for the wildrose which has its support mainly in the james river bridge region of central alberta (as did the wcc)
    it’s the quad-driving, gun-toting, beer-bellied, foul-mouthed alberta rednecks – you know, the very stereotypes we are trying to erase from the image the rest of canada has of alberta.
    and it does not gel with that image for these guys who walk with their arms out in their typical pit-bull gait, to stand behind a woman.
    wildrose will NEVER form the government in alberta – maybe in montana, but not here.
    and yes, i too, was angry at the culture of entitlement displayed by the cons. those who voted in the wildrose tea party were right in that.
    that line of thinking also was what got the harper reformers their majority they clamored for for so long.
    bottom line?
    the canadian people are basically left-of-centre “live-and-let-live” people. and thank goodness for that

Comments are closed.