What’s an election without a couple of predictions? And to avoid any of that “I said that would happen!”/”No you didn’t!” stuff I thought I’d write down a few of mine. (And instead revel in the multiple “Boy, was that guy way off!” that will no doubt come my way.) So here are my thoughts as we head into the final hour of the Alberta provincial election every news outlet has already deemed “historic”.
Let’s start with the questions everyone will ask:
- Who will win? My bet is the Wildrose Party.
- Majority or minority? Minority.
- Seat breakdown? Your guess is probably as good as mine, but I’ll go:
- Wildrose: 40 (currently 4)
- Progressive Conservative: 38 (currently 66)
- Liberal: 5 (currently 8 ) – Some of those retiring seats won’t be replaced, many will go PC.
- NDP: 3 (currently 2) – Brian and Rachel get a new co-worker. Who? Could be a few tight races in Edmonton, but I’ll guess David Eggen squeaks this one out finally.
- Alberta Party: 1 (currently 1 who’s retiring) – I’ve got high hopes for Hinton mayor and party leader Glenn Taylor, so I’m willing to take a flyer on him.
- Yes, that shows either the Liberals OR the NDP holding the balance of power. I dream of a raucous session as you can see.
- Voter turnout? 65% (2008 was 40%, an all time low).
Now more fun predictions:
- Who ever wins my riding of Calgary-Klein will form the government.
- Win or lose Danielle Smith will take a shot at the PCs and their 41 years in government saying something like “FINALLY!” or “I’m disappointed we weren’t able to end it… yet.”
- Alison Redford will be gracious, all the while looking like she’d like to stick the knife in the Wildrose and twist it. Win or lose.
- Ron Leech doesn’t get the chance to speak for anyone other than himself.
- Allan Hunsperger won’t “suffer the rest of eternity in the lake of fire”, AKA the Legislature, as voters accept he was born this way. But it will be close.
- Tomorrow there will be a government. (A stretch, but after this campaign you’d be forgiven if you thought the opposite.)
- It will take a looooonnnnnng time before final results are in and Twitter will be lit up with whiners wanting to go to bed.
- Speaking of Twitter: someone will make a dumb mistake and click on one of the dozens of spam #abvote tweets that looks like it’s coming from a sexy lady who happens to tweet every 18 seconds.
There’s a couple of my predictions. I’ll add more if I think of them, but please add yours in the comments below. I’d love to hear them!
If a day is an eternity in politics then the past week at the Alberta legislature requires a quantum physics degree to wrap your head around.
First Dave Taylor gives the Alberta Party their first MLA, then the premier announces he’ll step down, then the finance minister quits 24 hours later, and finally this week the leader of the opposition does the same.
I may not have that quantum physics degree — and I doubt most of you do either — but that shouldn’t stop us from trying to make sense of all of this and figure out what might happen this summer.
First, we now find ourselves with three of the five parties with sitting MLAs missing a leader. This is unprecedented uncertainty that opens up a lot of possibilities for a lot of people.
Alberta Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman has indicated she is being wooed to run for the leadership of both the Liberals and the Alberta Party. Rural MLA Doug Griffiths is receiving a push to run for the Progressive Conservatives as well as the Alberta Party too.
I’m confident they are not the only ones being pulled in two directions at the same time. With this kind of potential major player shakeup, my guess is the craziest things possible at the legislature haven’t even happened yet.
So what is the craziest thing that could happen?
Ted Morton to this point is the only person to declare he is running for the leadership of the PCs. In 2006 when he ran he had the support of hundreds of people who are now members of the Wildrose Alliance — a group who know opportunity when it knocks.
It is not outside the realm of possibility that Wildrose members could join the PC party again to “hedge their bets” by making sure Morton becomes leader. This is something that makes a lot of sense for them to do.
This would be the best possible news to Liberal, NDP and Alberta Party supporters. With Morton as leader, half the PC party membership would be without an ideological home — after all, they didn’t vote for him the first time and they didn’t join the Wildrose when were asked to.
Without a home supporters would no doubt look to these parties (especially the more centrist Alberta Party) as their new banner.
Just like the Wildrose members joining the PC party, we could see other opposition party members join as well to also vote for Morton in the leadership race and thus destroy the 40-year-old party from within.
Without a strong Progressive Conservative party running in the next election you would be guaranteed to see some new blood and major change happening. Which as ever party knows, is exactly what the majority of voters are crying out for.
If this scenario ends up coming true, you read it here first. If it doesn’t, well I did say it was “crazy.” But as the past week has shown, Alberta politics does crazy very well.
Calgary original: http://www.metronews.ca/calgary/local/article/762974–wrap-your-head-around-this-equation
Edmonton original: http://www.metronews.ca/edmonton/local/article/762974–wrap-your-head-around-this-equation
It is not very often you hear about a political party being willing to rethink all of its policies and principles. Somehow in the process of moulding themselves into representing what the majority of citizens want, these core ideals that formed the initial impetus for the creation of the party – sometimes decades old and potentially out of date or irrelevant – escape scrutiny. I believe in order to really affect change, we must all be willing to take a deep look inside ourselves to find what flaws may be holding us back. Without doing this, and examining our principles, we would really just be rearranging the deck chairs (policies) on an extremely poorly designed ship that runs the risk of sinking if it were to innocently graze an iceberg.
This is why I have to applaud the Alberta Party. After decades of near irrelevance, the party has lifted up its eyes and has publicly stated it is willing to temporarily suspend its policy document to entertain if there may be a better way.
In case you haven’t heard yet, the Alberta Party, which has been in existence since 1985, last month began having conversations with a group of political upstarts calling themselves Renew Alberta. The culmination of those discussions resulted in an announcement this past week of a “merger” between the two groups.
I know several of the Albertans involved in Renew Alberta. The one thing they share in common, is a passion to find a better path toward creating a better Alberta. While they, like the Liberals, Wildrose Alliance and Alberta NDP, believe we deserve a better government, what really sets them apart is their belief that there must be a more participatory form of democracy in our province. Their focus is not so much on what the other parties are doing, as it is on the 60% of Albertans that did not vote and those of the remaining 40% that felt their vote really didn’t matter. Engagement can be a powerful thing – and it something that the majority of Albertans obviously don’t feel.
The enthusiasm and work ethic of the Renew Alberta people is admirable. As is the vision of the Alberta Party to accept them into their fold to help determine if their policies really do connect with Albertans or if there is a way for them to course correct.
The Big Listen is what the Alberta Party is billing as the focus of this collaboration. And again, I think it is commendable that a political party is willing to let the public at large dictate what their policies should be, instead of a small group of members who may or may not represent the views of Albertans.
Will the Alberta Party be right wing or left wing at the end of The Big Listen? Who knows?! But that’s the thing that excites me. If done right and fair, the one thing we will know for sure, is that they represent the ‘average’ Albertan. If they can build a regular feedback loop into their governing structure, this could make them… well, dare I say it?, the perfect party. One that is not governed by petty politics or the whims of its caucus, leadership or members; but instead one that is directly governed by the average citizen.
Of course all this utopian talk is more than likely ‘pie in the sky’ dreaming. Let’s be realistic for a moment and not get too far ahead of ourselves. Many folks out there appear to be skipping over this step. Jane Morgan, the former executive director of the Wildrose Alliance has raised some very good questions about how this merger came to be within the structure of the Alberta Party’s constitution. Alberta Party board members have done a decent job of responding to her criticism, but at the end of the day it is the current Alberta Party membership who will have the final say. Either they will embrace this new way their party will operate in the future, or they re-trench and leave. I certainly hope it is the former, and that they, as well as their board, improve their governance structure down the road. They will have to to be able to control the beast they could potentially be releasing by putting policy decisions in the hands of the public.
A few people have also questioned the merger of these two groups: The Alberta Party previously dismissed as a ‘right-wing’ fringe party, and Renew Alberta as ‘lefties’. How could it be two groups of people, so different in make up, could come together so seamlessly to work for a better future? Well, if the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ can, in this instance, put aside their differences and come together in the ‘centre’ – which is by definition where the majority of Albertans reside on the political spectrum – then their may just be hope for intelligent discussion free of rhetoric after all.
(Another thing that excites me about this new party: the diversity. The Alberta Party stereotypically is seen as older and rural, while Renew Alberta, rightly or wrongly, is seen as younger and urban. How nice to see differing people getting along for once.)
I think the ground work for this partnership is laid out very well in the Alberta Party’s (now temporarily suspended) policy document entitled, “Reforming Alberta”.
From the introduction to the Alberta Party’s Policies and Procedures document we can see what the two groups may share in common when it says: “We demand accountability and responsibility from our elected officials and civil servants… [T]he Alberta Party has created a bottom up organization in which the power resides with the members…”
Even it’s mission statement could be seen as something the two groups might commonly share: “To protect and promote the freedoms and best interests of Albertans.” One of the tactics outlines for how the Alberta Party will fufill this mission is “increase citizen participation in democracy by improving the process.”
I for one, can’t wait to see where this new group may go with lofty goals such as these. Either way, it will certainly be a thrill to watch.
It seems strange to me to congratulate someone who is effectively spewing venom. But I feel proud of Rob Anderson for switching allegiance from the Alberta PCs to the Wildrose Alliance. No sooner had he made the announcement and he began immediately exposing the dark corners of the Government he had supported and loved so dearly not so long ago.
To do this takes gumption and honesty. It could not have been an easy decision, but assuming he is telling the truth, it is clearly one based on morality and I applaud him for this. We need more politicians who are willing to be open and honest with the public and who are willing to stake their career on correcting their mistakes.
Yet, that is where my applause for his and Heather Forsyth’s defection ends.
If you don’t read many Alberta political blogs then you probably haven’t seen an interesting phenomenon happening coming out of the Reboot Alberta conference. Average citizens who attended – and many who didn’t – have been taking the time to put into writing what they believe the definition of “progressive” is. “Progressive” being what Rebooters have branded themselves as. (My own thoughts on the subject will come in the near future in the form of a series of posts.)
In my mind, I find myself amazed at the number of Albertan’s taking the time, through this difficult exercise, to try and spell out what they want their province to look like – and how Alberta might get from where it is now, to that point.
I’m not seeing this kind of open idealogical and policy development happening with the Wildrose Alliance and that concerns me. Hardly anyone is talking about what it means to be a Wildrose supporter. Especially before choosing to become one.
Up until this point the majority of what the general public has seen is a party which is defining itself via negative statements: i.e. “We are not the Tories.” This was perhaps most clearly stated during the Calgary-Glenmore by-election when the slogan the Wildrose Alliance staked their claim with was “Send Ed a Message”. There was nothing in there about how their position would be any different, but that’s okay because it tapped into a societal urge to do just that: send Ed a message. (Remember the Liberals did come in second in the race, also beating out the PC candidate. Meaning many voters chose to send a message too, just via a different channel.)
The problem with defining yourself in such a way is you’ve left the power to define you in the hands of your opposition. It would be very easy for Ed Stelmach to simply illustrate ‘the message was received’ and suddenly you’re brand has dried up. To be truly effective, the Wildrose Alliance are going to have to illustrate what they are and just what they are not.
So who is the Wildrose Alliance? What do they stand for?
From the policy documents on their website and what their leader Danielle Smith has said in the media, I think they can be summed up as offering ‘change’ or ‘something different’. While this doesn’t help solve my previous point it’s not a bad horse to hitch your wagon to. After all, it worked for Barack Obama.
But the point with Obama was, he really did represent a different way of doing things. (Arguments can be made that his results so far have been the same, but his methods have been near polar opposites of his predecessor.) I’m not convinced yet that the Wildrose Alliance really does offer a different way of doing things.
Case in point the addition of Anderson and Forsyth. If you’ve staked your entire brand on the fact you are different than the PC Party, how can you accept two of their MLAs as your own? This appears to be a quick – albeit short-term helpful – abandonment of the central pillar of the brand.
Yet, I think it goes deeper than just this. From what I’ve been told, the Wildrose Alliance party was founded by former PC supporters who feel the party has lost its way over the past however many years. Anderson and Forsyth and the framing of the by-election victory illustrate this disillusion as well.
Here’s my point: if voters are looking for something new – how does the Wildrose Alliance represent anything other than simply the PC Party of the past? That’s not new, that’s simply slapping a new coat of paint on the same thing we’ve already had before. Change for the sake of change, if you will.
I’m not deluded however. This alone may be enough to hand them a majority in the next election. The Liberals – despite David Swann’s best efforts – are looking to do nothing more than change their logo, while the Alberta NDP plod along contemplating no change of any kind. When these are the options you are up against, the Wildrose’s fresh face with the same tired out plan might be more than enough.
I may be wrong, but it strikes me the public don’t just want new people doing the same thing we’ve done before. If given the option, they want Alberta politics to be done in completely different – and better – way.
So far as I can see right now, those bloggers typing out their thoughts on what the province could be are the only ones offering anything “new”. And that’s too bad they’re the only ones.
Twitter has proved to be a pretty powerful tool for democratic engagement. The Bill 44 debate cemented that belief because MLAs were having conversations on Twitter with constituents well into the night as the live debate in the Legislature continued.
I think the argument put forward by Ian Bushfield over on his blog “Terahertz” regarding the seemingly futile nature of the debate – his post is titled “Get over it: Social Media is not going to change the world” – is a good one. Twitter and social media are just tools; you still have to have a strong message that is convincing. Same as always.
But I don’t want to debate the pros and cons of social media here. Instead I just wanted to create a list of Alberta politicians on Twitter. Step one in creating a strong message – for whatever your issue or political sway is – is to listen. So I invite you to listen and then converse with the following folks. Hopefully this will create even greater understanding among us all moving forward.
This kind of direct access to politicians is something new that we should all take advantage of. I know I’ve had some great conversations with these individuals and I hope you do too.
Most of these accounts are updated regularly and are operated by the politician themselves, although the odd one is manned by a staffer. Which certainly lessens it’s impact and usefulness. No Twitter user is looking for regurgitated press releases. This is something the politicians will learn over time if they REALLY do want to be engaged with constituents. (Basically if they care. Or rather, have the time to care.)
I’ll update this post as more Alberta politicians join Twitter, but if you know of someone I missed please DM me on my Twitter or add it to the comments of the post, and I’ll update the list. Thanks in advance!