Wildrose Problems: Liberals And Big Cities
An Unfortunate Election Prediction For Alberta
It was supposed to be a Wildrose revolution in 2012, but it turned out to be a Wildrose evolution. In 2008, Alberta's voter turnout was 40%. In 2012, fear of the Wildrose likely sent leftists to the polls in droves, spiking voter turnout to 57%. As a Wildrose member, I still have my doubts about the Wildrose ever forming a majority government in Alberta. As unfortunate as my lack of optimism might sound, the Wildrose could still form a minority government in 2016. If that happens, the Wildrose will face the same problem the Progressive Conservatives faced after the resignation of Ralph Klein. If the Wildrose dethrones the PC dynasty, liberals and socialists will start to panic just as they did in 2012. Fear will drive leftists across Alberta to not only vote against the Wildrose, but to infiltrate their ranks and attempt to transform the party from within. It happened to the Progressive Conservatives and it will happen to the Wildrose.
Liberals Can't Win As Liberals In Alberta
After their defeat, the Wildrose made a conscious and collective decision to move closer to the centre on certain issues. Members like myself supported a softer approach and a thorough purge of toxic candidates like Ron Leech and Alan Hunsperger. Their words became toxic fodder and the media fed it to Albertans like candy. It's not something the Wildrose can afford to have happen again in 2016.
In July, the Wildrose released their new “responsible energy” policy, which aims to bring Alberta's CO2 emissions to global standards and reduce tailing ponds. Climate change denial, racism and homophobia have been taken off the table for 2016, but that won't stop lefties from bursting into childish conniptions over the evils of economic freedom and fiscal austerity. Conspiracy theories about a "hidden agenda" will permeate across Alberta just as they did with the federal Conservatives.
Alberta has always been a conservative province and a 44-year-old dynasty seems almost impossible to contend with. But, after the resignation of Ralph Klein, an opportunity emerged for faux conservatives to eventually steal the throne in a quiet (but very blatant) coup d'etat.
Ed Stelmach lasted until the recession – when Alberta faced its first budget deficit in almost two decades. However, long before Ed Stelmach left office, a conservative rebellion had already manifested in the form of the Alberta Alliance and Wildrose Party of Alberta. This rebellion seemed benign at best, until the two parties merged and members of the Progressive Conservative caucus began to cross the floor in protest. This new conservative movement was a response to the Progressive Conservative Association's very blatant shift to the left.
Liberals and socialists have no chance of winning a majority in Alberta – not under their real monikers. If they want to transform Alberta to better fit their ideologies, they need to buy memberships and vote in Progressive Conservative leadership races. Flooding another party's convention and hijacking their platform isn't a new idea. It's a time tested strategy that's as old as party politics. If hijacking the conservative platform isn't the goal, it's electing a leader with the lowest potential of winning a general election. For the Wildrose to prevent this from happening, the party will need to adopt a strong constitution and a set of binding principles that would more clearly define it.
There's no need to mention and remind everyone about the disaster Alison Redford was, but it's important to remember how most conservatives viewed Alison Redford before she won the leadership race. Alison Redford was considered a Red Tory – and even a full fledged liberal – by most conservatives, well before she won the leadership. What made her victory easier to obtain was her own party's willingness to strike down the Wildrose by softening their image to appeal to more moderate and left-leaning voters. Most of the PC establishment realized that they weren't going to win back the conservatives, so they tried a different approach.
Their approach worked. The PCs won another majority with the help of leftists who would have vacated their bowels immediately upon seeing “Wildrose Majority” across their television screens.
Calgary And Edmonton
Alberta's next general election will put Jim Prentice against Danielle Smith, but the results won't be too much different than they were in 2012 – unless the Wildrose unleashes a well planned ground war in Calgary. As much as I'd like the Wildrose to defeat the PCs, I think the best they'll do is a minority. From there they might be able to grow, but it would take a few years.
Most of Alberta's rural seats will be easy wins for the Wildrose this time, so the main obstacles in the way of a Wildrose majority are Calgary and Edmonton. In 2012, Calgarians were too chicken-shit to give the Wildrose more than two seats. As a more recent poll shows, support for the Progressive Conservatives is still strong in Calgary, despite their endless scandals. There are 25 seats to be had in Calgary and – in my opinion – the Wildrose will be lucky to win 10 in the next election.
Calgary has the potential to make or break a Wildrose majority. Why? Well, there could be several reasons, but the most obvious is wealth.
Calgary is one of Canada's wealthiest cities and its residents are some of the highest earners in Canada. As the old saying goes, “Why fix what ain't broken.” To most Calgarians, nothing is really broken. The city's middle class alone earns more than average middle class Americans in all 50 states. Like Toronto, Calgary has more millionaires than any other Canadian city.
Calgary's real estate market is on fire. Homeowners who bought their homes in the 1990s have nearly tripled their equity. Homeowners who purchased their homes in the early 2000s have increased their equity by 40-50%. None of these homeowners had to do anything to earn that extra equity. A lot of this abundant equity has to do with Calgary's regressive growth and development policies, but a lot of it also has to do with Alberta's booming economy. The only way houses can sell is if there's money in circulation. All of that depends on a strong economy.
Unless the Wildrose can convince Calgarians that things need to be fixed, or that they pose no threat to the city's status quo, they won't win enough seats for a majority. Edmonton will likely be more of an opportunity for the NDP and Liberals to steal seats, while Red Deer and Lethbridge would only contribute 4 seats to the Wildrose.
Unlike Calgarians, Edmontonians think everything is broken and that only socialism can fix it.
In my opinion, there are only 6 seats in Edmonton that could swing Wildrose and they're mostly in suburban ridings. Closer toward the core of Edmonton, those who are fed up with the PC dynasty will more likely swing Liberal or NDP.
It's important for Wildrose strategists to keep in mind that their party only won 18% of Edmonton's popular vote in 2012. The NDP won 21% and the Liberals won 16%. This time around, the right-wing votes will split, the NDP and Liberals will get their lefties back and the city's electoral map will look like a collage of blue, red, orange and green.
Calgary is a different story. The Wildrose took nearly 36% of Calgary's vote share in 2012. Calgary is more winnable than Edmonton, but the city still has a tough crowd.
The magic number for a majority in Alberta is 44 seats. No party can pull that off with just rural ridings alone. Calgary, without Edmonton, could pave the way for an eventual Wildrose majority – along with most of the province's rural seats.
Mathematics, PC Momentum And Liberals
If the Wildrose keeps the 17 seats they currently hold, they'd need to add 27 more for a majority. If we add 14 more rural seats to the current 17 – and 6 Edmonton seats and 10 Calgary seats – we end up with 47 seats in total. That's more than enough for a majority, but it's also the best case scenario. In order for this to happen, the Wildrose would need to clean up in Northern Alberta's rural areas and pull off a strong ground game in Calgary.
The worst case scenario chops the numbers from the best case scenario in half. In that case, we end up with 17 current seats, plus 7 more rural seats, 3 Edmonton seats and 5 Calgary seats. This puts the Wildrose's seat total at 32. If the NDP or Liberals make absolutely no gains and keep their current seats, the PCs would still be left with a 46 seat majority.
The most likely scenario, in my opinion, is that the Progressive Conservatives will regain some momentum under Jim Prentice, making it more difficult for Smith's Wildrose to win 6 seats in Edmonton and 10 seats in Calgary. There might even be challenges in winning 14 more rural seats. The most likely scenario will give the Wildrose either 35 or 39 seats for a minority, with the PCs close behind with either 30 or 35 seats. The rest of the seats will split between the NDP and Liberals.
Alberta has a healthy population of liberals and left-leaning voters. Until now, they've never had as much faith in their true parties. Alison Redford left a dark stain on the PC dynasty not just for conservatives, but for leftists. No matter how well Jim Prentice does, the damage from the Redford era is permanent. Even with the highest possible momentum, the best the PCs could do under Jim Prentice is a slim 46 seat majority. Unfortunately, that scenario is all the PCs need to keep their dynasty intact. Another four year mandate with fewer scandals might be all they need to successfully rebuild their image and extend their longevity, making their defeat less likely over time.