There is only one thing I can say with absolute certainty about the provincial election of 2015.
Jim Prentice has made a terrible, terrible mistake. After that, all bets are off.
Even if Prentice wins Tuesday’s election (and I think they will; more on that later), Prentice is a loser. Even if he squeaks out a minority victory, or wins outright, he will still end up with a vastly reduced majority, an emboldened and stronger Wildrose and NDP parties, and a pissed off party apparatus. The only reason I can offer as to why he would go to the polls a year ahead of time (saddling himself with a terrible budget that raises taxes and fees for most of us but not at all for industry) is that the PCs anticipated an even worse economy a year from now. I’ve always thought these guys were the saviest political operators, but not anymore. This election has epic gaffe written all over it.
Unquestionably, the PCs are riding for a spectacular fall, but I don’t think they’ll bottom out. The divided loyalties of Albertans — Edmonton voters going one way, Calgary voters going another, non-urban voters yet another way — makes a PC win still the most likely scenario.
Edmonton looks prepared to go NDP in a big way, but I don’t think it will be as big as the polls, the NDs, and the media-loving NDP believe. The polls show support for the NDP (actually, support for Rachel Notley) incredibly high. But each riding has its own very specific ebb and flow, and the supposedly massive support for the NDP may not translate into the sweep so many are predicting.
There are two really interesting numbers in the polls that often go unreported: the number of undecided is very high; and some polls put the number of voters who may change their minds as high at 50 per cent. The undecided could go any number of ways. There could be a fear that the NDP isn’t ready (which it isn’t), that could result in votes for the stability of the PCs. Or fears of the socialist hoards attacking the gates could swing Wildrose voters to the PCs. Or, all this NDP talk could get uninspired Tory voters off their duffs and into the ballot booths. There are any number of equations.
I would enjoy seeing the likes of Thomas Lukaszuk, Heather Klimchuk, Stephen Mandel, Steve Young, David Dorward and David Xiao go down to defeat. My preference, of course, would have been to see them fall to Liberals, but that’s not going to happen. Cleaning house of the various PC seat warmers would be a good thing. And if the PCs actually lose the election, having PCs sit on opposition benches would be glorious. Nobody deserves a stay on the opposition benches than PCs.
So, let’s assume that Edmonton goes solidly NDP. In order for the NDP to gain power, they will have to go from their current four seats to 40 or so. Outside of Edmonton, where will they gain?
They might pick up one or two in Calgary, and they might fluke off a win in rural Alberta, but I doubt it, not with the usual motley collection of U of A students running in rural ridings to fill out the roster. In order for the NDP to win the election, they will have to score big time in Calgary and Edmonton, and I just don’t see that happening.
Can the Wildrose win? Nope. There is still solid support for the party in the rural areas and some in Calgary, but (pardon the pun) the bloom is off the (wild)rose. You have to wonder how Danielle Smith feels right about now. If she hadn’t abandoned her principles, she could be on the verge of becoming premier. Oh, well.
So, despite the polls, I still think the Tories will win. A minority PC government would actually be the best outcome of this election. The NDP, despite what Notley says, is not prepared for government. Put it this way: imagine Alberta is a giant, multi-billion dollar corporation (which is basically is). One day, that giant corporation fires all of its top managers, and installs people who have never been in charge of anything more substantial than a paper route. That’s the situation we would face with an NDP government. My guess is that even the NDP quietly hopes it doesn’t win this time, because a minority NDP government would likely be a disaster. I’ll bet, in their heart of hearts, the NDP hopes for a PC minority with a powerful NDP opposition. That would give them time to find the Legislature washrooms and get some idea how government works. Then, after a couple of years, the minority would collapse and the NDP would be ready for power.
Mind you, my prediction abilities suck. Anything could happen on Tuesday; a Tory majority, a Tory minority, a Wildrose minority, an NDP minority or an NDP majority. I can safely say, however, that a Liberal minority seems, shall we say, unlikely.