After watching the carnage from the PC Party crashing and burning last night, everyone in Saskatchewan seemed to have opinions on what the Alberta election meant for Saskatchewan.
For those on the right, they predicted a wave of people from Alberta moving from the business hating Alberta to the business friendly Saskatchewan. They seem to expect that when Notley does the unthinkable and raise oil royalties, Alberta companies will flee for Saskatchewan (despite the fact that Peter Lougheed did the exact same thing decades ago. They ignore the fact that the oil is in Alberta and therefore so are the jobs. Also as Ontario proved during the Rae years, business will just stay put and vote in a new government before they move to another province. Roots are important to people, they just don’t get up and leave. So let’s cool down and ignore those idiots who have actually prediction an influx of a million people to Saskatchewan over the next couple of years and relax. No one chooses a province based on partisan politics. It is based on jobs and work.
Those on the left see this as another evidence of an orange wave. I don’t think it was a move to the NDP as much as it was a total rejection of the PC Party of Alberta. There will be some vote analysis done but I would suspect Alberta was a really frustrated electorate. If Notley governs well, then great but if she doesn’t, then she will be done. Also keep in mind that Alberta is a very progressive big government province. It is just paid for by oil royalties. It has lead the way in some of the most innovative housing, homeless, poverty reduction and education strategies in North America and do you know what, no one has cared. In fact the Wildrose Party has pushed for more of those kind of programs, especially with seniors care.
I was musing online the other night that if I was in Alberta, I may vote for the Wildrose Party because even I don’t think Alberta’s big government social contract works in the long run. They may be social conservatives in Alberta but they love to spend money.
For all of the talk of the Klein cuts, let’s put that in context, the neo-Conservative NDP under Roy Romanow made even deeper cuts to fight our deficit. Alberta may be the biggest spending government not lead by Bob Rae in history.
The big lesson from last night is that elections matter and polls this early out don’t. That doesn’t mean that Brad Wall will lose and Cam Broten (or whoever the Liberal leader is will win) but it does mean that we have no idea what will happen a year out. What looked like a political masterstroke to the chattering class five months ago didn’t survive last night. Now it is the PC Party of Alberta who could be the weaker party in a merger with the Wildrose Party and the Liberal Party may not exist by next election in Alberta.
I heard a bunch of ridiculous talk that Brad Wall is still unbeatable but at different points so was Jim Prentice or Paul Martin. I remember vote predictions saying that Martin would win over 200 seats and could challenge Brian Mulroney for the largest majority ever. How did that turn out? Back in 1994, the Liberals lead by Linda Haverstock were well ahead in the polls in Saskatchewan.
In Alberta, Notley was at 10% not that long ago. There was a feeling that the NDP would be reduced in seat count and only hold their base in Edmonton.
Last weekend I was out with some politicos. We made some arguments that Brad Wall could win some more seats from the NDP or just as likely the NDP could gain a couple of seats in Saskatoon, Regina, and Prince Albert and end up with like 17 – 19 seats. That is a fearless prediction folks, Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party will either win some more seats or lose some more seats in the next election. Take that prediction to the bank! (of course now that I have said that, things will remain the exact same)
In the end, the average voter doesn’t read this blog, doesn’t follow you and I on Twitter, doesn’t read Murray Mandryk or Andrew Coyne and is focused on getting by in their life and job. They have things like hockey games to get their kids to and they worry about the noise their car is making far more than whatever stunt has just been played in the legislature. Politicos may live and die on what is happening (and for that we have Andrew Coyne, Kady O’Malley, and Murray Mandryk) but the rest of the world doesn’t.
Before you scoff at me, in the last city election there were candidates out every night door knocking from now until the election. All of them, winner or loser told me at one point in that cycle that it didn’t really make any difference this far out from the election, people weren’t engaged.
They pay attention when the writ is dropped and the lawn signs come up. Right now the vast majority of people are going, “What happened in Alberta and how did the NDP win there? I thought that Prentice guy seemed all right.” That is the end of it. I actually read one detailed vote analysis in the United States that showed a surprising amount of people (enough to turn electoral votes) voted on how much rain they got that year and the year before. If you are a politician and you just read that last part, you need a hug right now.
So the lessons to take from the Alberta vote. Elections matter. You never know what can happen and probably never say, “look in the mirror” to someone that you need their vote in a couple of weeks. Other than that, there isn’t a lot to take away from it.