Alberta Election 2012: Post-Mortem

It’s the day after. After four long weeks of battle, the carnage is being cleared up from the latest Alberta provincial election.

The Progressive Conservatives have held on for their 12th consecutive majority, albeit with far less popular votes than they are used to. Despite many polls that showed a possible Wildrose victory, Alison Redford’s P.C.s swept back into power.

The usual media outlets are out with their own post-mortems, analysing ‘what went wrong’ for what many of them called the ‘heir apparent’ to the P.C’s. Social issues, the establishment, strategic voting, the consensus media, the collapse of the Liberal party and subsequent migration of voters to the fresh-on-the-left P.C.’s – they are all being suggested as reasons as to why the Wildrose didn’t live up to sky-high expectations, and all are correct to a degree. All of those reasons are legitimate factors in the results.

Instead of what the Wildrose didn’t get, I look at what the new party did achieve. There are some huge positives to take away from this election campaign, and some important lessons hopefully learned.

First, the positives:

  • Leader Danielle Smith won her constituency of Highwood. Criticized for not having Legislature experience during the campaign, Smith will have a term as Leader of the Official Opposition under her belt come the next vote. Albertans will be able to see her in action keeping the free-spending Redford Tories under close watch.

  • Wildrose increased their numbers. Coming into the campaign with one directly-elected MLA, the Wildrose party now has a great team of MLA’s in place. Again, experience from the next four years will be beneficial to the party, and will allow voters to become familiar with the people and policies of the party.

  • Rob Anderson re-elected in Airdrie. Perhaps the most recognizable Wildrose MLA other than leader Smith, Anderson has quickly become a force in the Legislature. Now part of the Official Opposition, Anderson’s star will only continue to rise.

  • The popular vote. A very telling truth to take away from this election was just how close some of the constituencies were. Analysts have long claimed that in order to form government in Alberta, a party needs to win the rural vote plus one of the two major cities. While the Wildrose did very well outside of the cities, they failed to capture either Edmonton or Calgary. Edmonton is a write-off, as they have long lined up behind the leftwing flavor of the day – and yesterday the flavour was Redford P.C. red. Calgary, which half way through the campaign was thought to be a Wildrose stronghold, ended up going with the P.C.’s. But if you look closer, many of those Calgary P.C. victories were razor-thin. That has to be the focus going forward.

  • Four years of Redford. Come the next election, Albertans will have experienced a full term under a leftwing Redford government. If her first six months is any indication, we will have increasingly restrictive nanny-state laws and continued budget deficit. We will have continued intimidation of doctors and other officials. We will have four more years of the Culture of Corruption. This, along with a then-experienced Wildrose team, will be a benefit.

The Lessons:

  • Vet the candidates. I am as strong a supporter of free speech as anyone in the Wildrose fold, but in the political game, words can – and did – come back to haunt you. The Wildrose must eliminate overly controversial candidates if they want to avoid handing the leftwing parties and their media an open opportunity to fear monger. Choose the next batch of candidates wisely.

  • Learn from the federal Conservatives. They, too, were victims of smear campaigns. The ‘hidden agenda’, ‘American-style’, ‘racist’, and ‘homophobic’ labels were all placed on the Tories, and it took time and a few elections for Team Harper to shed them. People eventually realised that the fear was a rouse, ignored the scare tactics and handed the Conservatives a majority. The combination of experience and the vetting of candidates eliminated the effectiveness of these weapons, as it should for the Wildrose.

  • Fill the void left by the P.C.s. As some of us know and the rest of Albertans will soon come to realize, Alison Redford’s Progressive Conservatives have moved distinctly to the left of the political spectrum. Courting (bribing?) the Labour vote in addition to their policies has planted the P.C.s firmly in liberal territory. The entire right side of the political spectrum is wide open, especially now that the one last remaining P.C. ‘conservative’, Ted Morton, lost his seat. Many conservatives, particularly in Calgary, became undecided on Election Day, and chose to stay home instead of voting for the unsure Wildrose. Capture these voters in four years and Calgary belongs to the party.

  • Learn the new dynamic of Alberta politics. It isn’t so much left vs. right as it is big government vs. small government. Redford’s P.C.’s have become an example of big, overpowering governments. The Wildrose needs to present a small, libertarian-conservative option to the general public. After enduring a full term of oversized, intrusive government, voters will be looking for an alternative. Wildrose needs to be that alternative.

  • Don’t lose the message. If the vote happened half way through the election, I have no doubt I would be writing a very different column today. The final week is what did the Wildrose in. After setting the pace for the first three weeks, suddenly the hunter became the hunted. Suddenly, non-priority issues and strawmen arguments become the prime focus. Learn from that. Assume the consensus media, leftwing groups, even the mayors of our big cities will attack. Learn how to deal with it. Learn to turn it around. Again, follow the Harper example.

It has been a hectic, exciting 28 days. The Wildrose has taken the first major step towards overthrowing the P.C. machine. They must learn from that, regroup, and focus on becoming not just an effective Opposition, but also must grow into a legitimate government-in-waiting.

In four years, Alberta will be ready.  So will the Wildrose party.

1 comment:

Candace said...

Well said. I'm extremely disappointed with the results, but do take heart from the positives. I just can't believe Albertans actually fell for the fear & smear campaign, though.

His Name Was Steven