The ever shifting political landscape of Alberta

The recent by-elections in Alberta were quite revealing not only by results but by the campaigning and the reactions after the vote.

The Progressive Conservatives won all four by-elections, under a new leader and a significant move to a more centre-right positioning with 44% of the vote.

While they were accustomed to larger majorities, they still won.

The Wildrose Party came in second in two races and finished third in the other two races while garnering 28% of the vote.

There is talk that Wildrose and its right wing positioning peaked on the eve of the last provincial election, when it was considered a safe bet on them forming government.

Remember almost all federal Conservative MPs were supporting Wildrose.

Many of Harper’s Alberta organizers and advisors were said to be working for the Wildrose Party. It was the Wildrose Party that was being accused of using attack ads, (major part of Harper’s arsenal).

Perhaps it is the right wing political position and campaign tactics that have seen their best-before-date expire.

The Alberta Party came in second in one race and the NDP came in second in the fourth race.

The Liberals and the Green Party were non-contenders in all four races.

Wildrose failed to live up to expectations, using the federal Conservative tried and true strategies and tactics and the leader is calling for a leadership review and said she needs at least 77% support to stay on.

I am not sure a leadership change is as necessary as a change in electoral positioning, strategies and practices is.

The Alberta Party and the NDP exceeded expectations, their positioning may need fine tuning and perhaps their communication and fundraising arms may require some help but no leadership change should be demanded.

The Alberta Liberals have once again slid into oblivion as they concentrate on messages that are not resonating with the electorate and could be ripe for a leadership change, a revised communications strategy, a name change or perhaps a merger is the answer.

The Green Party has a limited but strong base but they are unable to appeal to the right wing as much as their policies should, so perhaps a leadership question is needed but without strong fundraising and a strong communications arm would it make any difference?

In my opinion it seems that the pendulum is swinging back from the extreme right and heading back to the centre but has not quite hit it yet.

The PCs are building in the centre right taking votes from the Wildrose, Liberals, Alberta Party and the Greens with the hopes that the pendulum does not pass them for a more centre political voice before the next election.

The NDP are building in the urban centers, taking votes from the Liberals and the Greens and waiting for the pendulum to swing to the left in the next few elections.

The Alberta Progressive Conservatives won the by-elections with 44% of the vote so that means that 56% of the population voted against them so it is obvious there is a desire for change.

But there were five options per change if you discount the changes already implemented by the current government.

Of the 44% who voted for the PCs a good portion wanted change but were hopeful or satisfied with the changes being made under a new leader.

At one time the status quo would have received overwhelming support but those days are long gone.

The next election likely a year away and will probably see some changes.

The PCs have made a leadership change and altered their strategies, tactics and governing styles with the hopes that they can overcome the desire for change.

Many federal Conservatives are looking for silver linings in the provincial by-elections. The general consensus is that the Harper government has peaked, and the smoke and mirror tactics have lost their strength, attack ads have become distasteful and their leader a liability and the next election will at best produce a Conservative minority government or at worst finishing in third place and being just an Alberta party.

They are thinking a new leader and his/her honeymoon bounce could produce a Conservative majority.

The by-elections would likely have been dismal for the Alberta Conservatives under Premier Redford.

Everyone except perhaps the former premier and her staff knew the party was on life support and the voters were willing to pull the plug, but a few courageous people created a leadership change and the results speak for themselves.

Could this be the scenario for the federal Conservatives?

Do they have a few courageous people? Is it at all possible to elect a new leader and move more towards the centre right, or is it as they say – just a one-man, my-way-or-the-highway party?

The Alberta by-elections brought out a desire for change, a real distaste for negative tactics and attack ads, a desire for a more moderate governing style and a willingness to give the benefit of the doubt to those who appear willing to listen and change.

Are the political leaders listening? I hope so.

Garfield Marks

Red Deer

Most Read