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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

alberta election 2008: the aftermath.

Well, I'm pretty glad I didn't take any bets on last nights results.

So, what happened? Partisans and pundits can analyze this one to death, but I'm not sure it's really that easy. In the end, the Tories got their vote out to get their 11th majority government since 1971. But with a 41% voter turnout it's clear that none of the parties are connecting with Albertans on a meaningful level.

Province-wide Vote Total
PC - 501,028 (53%)
Lib - 250,862 (26%)
ND - 81,043 (9%)
WRA - 64,370 (7%)
GRN - 24,563 (5%)

Seat Total
PC - 72
Alberta Liberal - 9
NDP - 2


It's hard to call a voter turnout of 41% anything but embarrassing.

It's commonly said that elections are decided by those who show up, but with two consecutive elections with less than 50% turnout, are Albertans entering an era in which elections are decided by those who don't show up? In Edmonton, seven constituencies saw voter turnout lower than 40% and only one had turnout (barely) over 50% (Edmonton-Whitemud). It seems pretty clear that not only are none of the parties really connecting with Albertans, but that Albertans are completely disengaged from the electoral process, which is very troubling.

I'm really wondering what were the 59% of Albertans who didn't vote were doing yesterday that was more important than voting?

Here's an overview of how the election turned out in Alberta's three main political regions...


In Edmonton, welcome to 2001 + 2.

Ed Stelmach's Tories have returned Edmonton to their 2001 win with the addition of Edmonton-Decore, Edmonton-Mill Woods, and Edmonton-Ellerslie (it's +2 and not +3 because Edmonton lost a seat after the 2003 electoral redistribution).

I've always believed that Edmonton was competitive, but I didn't believe that it would be this competitive. Along with Decore, Ellerslie, and Mill Woods, close races in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview, Edmonton-Calder, Edmonton-Glenora, Edmonton-McClung, and Edmonton-Rutherford gave the Tories the large majority of the capital. The Tories swept all but five seats in Edmonton, leaving the capital city with an opposition of 5, the survivors being Alberta Liberals Kevin Taft in Edmonton-Riverview, Laurie Blakeman in Edmonton-Centre, and Hugh MacDonald in Edmonton-Gold Bar, and New Democrats Brian Mason in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood and Rachel Notley in Edmonton-Strathcona. Though most races in the capital city could be considered close, with abysmal turnout and lost support, both the Alberta Liberals and New Democrats will need to take a critical look at why they lost so much ground in their former stronghold of Edmonton.

New Edmotnon Tory faces of note include former School Board Trustee Janice Sarich and Emergency Room doctor Raj Sherman.

On a personal note, I am really disappointed to see three of the Legislature's most effective MLAs lose their seats last night. I'm talking about Rick Miller in Edmonton-Rutherford, Mo Elsalhy in Edmonton-McClung, and David Eggen in Edmonton-Calder. I've had the opportunity to work with Rick, Mo, and David on a number of issues over the past few years and I think I would have a hard time finding harder working and more genuinely good spirited people under the dome. I'm sad to that they were defeated, but wish them good luck in the next stages of their lives. Take a break, but try not to go too far.


Calgary is an interesting one. The great Liberal surge that every one was talking about never really emerged, but interestingly the Liberals actually net-gained one seat inside Calgary. While holding the seats they gained in 2004 and losing Craig Cheffins in Calgary-Elbow, the Alberta Liberals elected Kent Hehr in Calgary-Buffalo and Darshan Kang in Calgary-McCall, bringing the total to 5 opposition MLAs in Calgary. This is an emerging dynamic that could be a sign of the new face of a politically competitive Calgary.

The Tories held their ground, but faced strong challenges in Calgary-Bow, Calgary-Elbow, Calgary-Foothills, and Calgary-North Hill. The Tories also elected a swath of new MLAs including big names Teresa Woo-Paw and Alison Redford, while star candidate Arthur Kent was unable to unseat Dave Taylor in Calgary-Currie.

Also, Independent Robin Leech in Calgary-Montrose placed a very strong second against Tory Manmeet Bhullar. And after much hoopla, former-Tory Craig Chandler placed third in Calgary-Egmont behind Tory Jonathan Denis and Liberal Cathie Williams.

Lethbridge and wildcards

Not much has changed as Lethbridge remains split between the Tories and the Liberals. Bridget Pastoor held Lethbridge-East for the Liberals. Lethbridge-West went to the Tory Greg Weadick over Liberal Bal Boora.

In Cardston-Taber-Warner, Wildrose Alliance Leader Paul Hinman apparently lost his seat to Tory Broyce Jacobs by 39 votes. I'd expect a recount at this point, but only a reversal of the results could save Hinman's leadership in his now seatless party.

For the Alberta Greens, their big hope in Lacombe-Ponoka wasn't able to overcome Tory Ray Prins. In the end, Green Joe Anglin netted 22% of the vote to Prins 58%.

What's next?

Well, congratulations to everyone who ran, volunteered, and voted in this election. Democracy only works if citizens participate, and we now have to figure out how to get that 59% of voters to opt-in to the democratic system (in its current or a different form).

Tomorrow, I'm going to be posting on what the results mean for each of Alberta's political parties.


Monkey Loves to Fight said...

I was not surprised the Tories gained seats in Edmonton, but I figured any gains in Edmonton would be offset by losses in Calgary. That being said the pollsters number wise were pretty accurate, they only messed up seat projections. Part of this could be in the past the Tories have always done significantly better in Calgary than Edmonton (20% higher under Klein) while this time around the Liberals and Tories both got roughly the same share of the popular vote in both cities. In fact Stelmach's popular vote was more in line with Klein's in 1997 than Klein in 2001, but he seat wise got closer to what Klein got in 2001 in large part because Klein racked up massive majorities in Calgary, while Stelmach won by much smaller margins in Calgary.

Robert McBean. said...

But Stelmach said the low turnout was because people are happy. If Stelmach said it and it was quoted in the Sun it must be true.

Were all breathing a sigh of relief now that we won't lose those 300,000 jobs.

Anonymous said...

Yup, Albertans are exactly as the PC Party wants them: blissfully apathetic and/or disenfranchised. Short of a coup-d'etat, perhaps the only key to representative government for worldly, progressive Albertans is to heed Craig Chandler's advice and move on. That's a very, very sad thought.

Anonymous said...

I think these are the numbers that reflect what is really going on:

22% of eligible Albertans voted PC
11% voted Liberal
4% voted NDP
3% voted WRA
2% voted Green

22% = 87% PC seats
11% = 11% Liberal seats
4% = 2% NDP seats
3% = 0% WRA seats
2% = 0% Green seats

The problem is clear. It's up to us to fix this, because those who benefit from the status quo will not, and they are the ones in power. Referendums on electoral reform have failed in Ontario, and B.C. before that. How then can we effect real change?

Sean Cummings said...

>>I'm really wondering what were the 58% of Albertans who didn't vote were doing yesterday that was more important than voting?<<

They were watching the season finale of Terminator: The Sarah Connors Chronicles.

Anonymous said...

In his post victory celebration, Stelmach stated "..the election win shows Tories are in tune with Albertans..". Give me a break.

The tories can be elated that they are in tune with approx. 22% of Albertans (42% turnout x 53% pop. vote). Hey, but at least that 22% votes.

Also, the Alberta Liberals need a fresh face. Nothing against Kevin Taft but he obviously hasn't been able to inspire voters. The Liberals need someone with charisma.

Anonymous said...

When elections are competitive the electoral process yields proportionate results regardless of turnout. When one party is so out of touch with Albertans that they muster only 26% of the popular vote, they lose an exaggerated number of seats. The process isn't flawed, the party is.

Unknown said...

"I'm really wondering what were the 59% of Albertans who didn't vote were doing yesterday that was more important than voting?"

I was at work, up in the oilsands, where thousands of us were too disconnected from society to know that it was election day. At any rate we couldn't return to our home ridings to vote, and there's no mail service up here for mail-in ballots, which we would have had to register for and send away a while ago.

Anonymous said...

How about this? Barak Obama uses the phrase "we are the change that we have been waiting for." What if Ed Stelmach made the same comment. It wouldn't be any less true. Unfortunately for a lot of progressive Albertans - Ed is exactly the kind of change that Albertans have been waiting for. Go figure!

Anonymous said...

How about this? Barak Obama uses the phrase "we are the change that we have been waiting for." What if Ed Stelmach used the same phrase? It be just as true for him. Unfortunately for a lot of progressive Albertans - Ed is exactly the kind of change that Albertans have been waiting for. Go figure!