For full disclosure, I do not support NDP in Alberta and would not vote for them if I lived there next year. Although don’t like UCP either so somewhat glad I don’t have to make the tough choice. However, I believe there is around a 90% chance Notley is victorious in next year’s Alberta election. Obviously if Kenney gets removed, that helps UCP a bit, but even then I still believe all the fundamentals point to an NDP win. I have debated many on twitter who say it won’t happen, but I think it is important to look at actual data, not our pre-conceived perceptions. Off course election is still 14.5 months away so it is possible things change, but last time any party as far back as UCP came back and won was BC Liberals in 2013. Fact none have since shows its possible but history is not on their side.
Most don’t believe this is true as Alberta is one of the most reliably conservative provinces. Federally, whatever is the most right wing party usually wins almost every seat in the province. And provincially since 1935, in all but one election its voted for a party on right and often by landslides. The one election NDP won was at least as many say was due to splits on right so as long as right is united, they are guaranteed to win. Problem is this shows a misunderstanding of province and also just because something has always happened in the past doesn’t mean it will continue indefinitely. There have been loads of cases where an area always voted a certain way until it did not. I believe Alberta is at this juncture. Now maybe next year after election, this will look silly, but I don’t think my NDP prediction is so far fetched. In fact if you are putting asides perceptions and going on actual data, anything other than NDP win is going against what data says is most likely.
Below I will rebut some of the common criticisms I hear from those who still think UCP is heavily favoured.
- WIPA vote will come back to UCP come election time: I believe that is true but even then, NDP still has a lead, this just narrows it. And not all will, some will but rarely can you add two parties together and assume new party will get sum of two.
- NDP is running up margins in Edmonton so will win popular vote but not seats: Little evidence of that as every poll shows NDP has double digit lead in Calgary and if anything UCP has wasted votes in rural Alberta. Reality is despite stereotype Calgary is fairly centrist and NDP may lean left but they are more centrist than UCP is. Calgary for last 40 years has consistently elected progressive mayors so that suggests to me they vote Conservative federally more due to habit and feeling federal Liberals are hostile to province not ideology.
- Good economy will save UCP: There are loads of premiers who have lost when economy doing well including Philippe Couillard, Christy Clark etc. Fact is once a premier’s approval falls below 30%, and Kenney’s has, people don’t care what you do anymore, they are so fed up they will vote you out no matter what.
- People remember how bad Notley was and won’t make same mistake again: Except polls show most don’t think Notley did a bad job. Yes they turfed her but before seeing alternative, people measure you against ideal but once saw alternative than against it. Its like test driving a new car. Your first one isn’t very good so you try another, but the other one is even worse so you realize maybe original wasn’t so bad and buy it. That is exactly how Albertans feel.
- Polls always overestimate NDP and underestimate right: That has generally been true but no election not even BC 2013 was that big a miss. Otherwise if NDP has a 15 point lead, they may end up winning by say only seven points, that is possible, but they are not losing.
NDP being ahead actually makes a lot of sense if you just look at demographics of Alberta and how those types vote in other parts of English speaking world. Alberta is very urbanized and asides Australia, cities as large as Calgary and Edmonton are voting for progressive parties in rest of Canada as well as US and UK. Alberta is most educated province in the most educated country and nowadays educated people tend to lean left or at best maybe go for slightly right of centre parties but never too ideological. Alberta is also very diverse and diverse places tend to lean left too. Its likewise the youngest province and we know younger people tend to lean left. Never mind with so many Albertans coming from other provinces or only coming of age in last decade, a large chunk of the electorate wasn’t eligible to vote in Alberta in most of the past elections that right dominated. Alberta is moving left for same reason Colorado and Virginia in 2000 were solid red states, now solid blue today while Georgia and Arizona were solid red a decade ago, now purple states. Only two things in right’s favour in Alberta are higher incomes and energy sector. However unlike in 80s and 90s, income plays less role in how people vote. While on energy sector, Notley is very pro-energy unlike many on left. Just she wants to use revenue for more social programs not tax cuts and with Alberta already having lowest taxes in Canada that makes some sense. Right loves to play up regionalism and pretend Alberta is some unique province but really its not that much different than rest of country. Yes rural areas still very conservative like in most provinces, but urban areas where most live are centrist or left leaning. So in summary I absolutely believe the polls and if I had to bet money, I would happily put money on Notley winning next year. Even if Kenney is dumped as leader, I believe UCP base is too far right that replacement will be as unpalatable to Albertans and with most Albertans having a positive opinion of Notley, people are not afraid of NDP winning next year. Some are, but more are not.