Alberta campaign at halfway point

Tomorrow the Alberta campaign will reach the halfway point. While still lots can happen, I definitely think NDP has upper hand here and if we are betting man, I would put money on NDP winning, but not a lot as still only narrow advantage so far. Below are my thoughts on each of the parties.

UCP starts off with promise to introduce a new bracket for those under 60K at 8%. I think as long as affordable, that is a good idea since while for low income and high income, Alberta has lowest income tax rate; for middle income, BC and Ontario are lower. That being said it should probably be something that is conditional on being fiscally sustainable. If Alberta would only implement a PST, they could easily do this and much more, but with that option out, I would proceed with caution here. At same time whatever benefit UCP hoped to get, that has been sidetracked by more videos of Smith making stupid comments. Whether it be her comparison of vaccinated to Nazis or talk of privatizing health care, Smith has shown she is unhinged. Elections are like job interviews and in job interviews having right character for job plays a big role and many see Smith as not having right character to be premier irrespective of policies. Never mind, Take Back Alberta is just downright scary and many people rightly don’t want that group anywhere near power. In fact Smith is so unpopular in Calgary that many candidates distancing themselves from her and instead promising they will reign her in. This is not a strong show of confidence. On the private aspect in health care, as per previous posts, I am not against that. But reality is due to constraints of Canada Health Act, provinces are very limited on what reforms they can make. Also if we are to move to a hybrid system or small user fees, we need someone who is not ideological and competent to do it and Smith is last person I would want in charge. She would screw it up so badly that this would ensure such idea becomes politically toxic for a generation or more. With campaign only half way through, I expect more bomb shells so only way I see UCP winning is if the right wing base is large enough they will win no matter what (and I do not believe that is the case).

NDP has had an okay start. Much of the focus on health care which is their area of strength. While I don’t think it can be fixed without a major overhaul, I do believe their policies are probably best that can realistically be done within the confines of the Canada Health Act. Also most announcements pretty small and my guess is party wants to show they are fiscally responsible and not be painted as big spenders. To my surprise, NDP has promised to have a balanced budget and not raise personal taxes on anyone, not even wealthiest. So it seems unlike 2015, Notley realizes she needs to win over the old PCs and your centre-right Calgary voters. And while probably a lot on left are not happy about this, Notley understands stakes are high and if it means being more centrist than she and party would like to stop Smith, so be it. And seems to be paying off as while vast majority of conservative voters are going UCP, she has united not just NDP and federal Liberal voters, but even won over many Red Tories. It is a broad coalition that will be tough to hold, but nothing like a common enemy helps unite disparate factions. In many ways, her coalition looks a lot like the Biden one as Biden won in big part by winning over upper middle class suburbs that traditionally voted Republican but found Trump a bridge too far. As someone just slightly right of centre, I find Notley going to great lengths to try and be acceptable to voters like myself while Smith doing everything to push them away while hoping a few big spending announcements will cover for her incompetence. I cannot speak for most Albertans, but I can say if I lived in Alberta, I would do something I have never done before; vote NDP. And I am not alone, a few cabinet ministers from Peter Lougheed’s government, former federal MP, Lee Richardson and former deputy premier Thomas Lukaszak have all endorsed Notley. If Notley wins, it will be thanks to former PC voters lending her their vote. In a lot of ways, not too dissimilar to Never Trumper Republicans helping put Biden over the top. Or on other end, former Labour voters in UK voting Conservative in 2019 because they found Corbyn too extreme (most have since returned to Labour thus challenge for her long term if next leader more reasonable).

In terms of prediction, I believe NDP has edge but UCP is still not totally out even though they should be. Alberta can be divided into three regions.

Edmonton – NDP will sweep this easily. Some may say Edmonton is normally left wing, but old PCs usually won some seats there and federally Tories usually win most there too. But Edmonton is quite moderate and Smith is way too extreme to even be remotely competitive there.

Rest of Alberta – This will go mostly UCP as it is staunchly conservative and Smith’s libertarianism and populism which turns many off sells well in much of this area. However there are some competitive seats. NDP should win both Lethbridge ridings thanks to university. Banff-Kananaskis due to tourism while perhaps Lesser Slave Lake due to large First Nations population. Also the capital region around Edmonton will be key like Calgary. It is close enough to Edmonton with many commuting there that NDP will be competitive, but still rural enough UCP will be competitive too. It is more exurban than suburban and we have seen parties on right still dominate exurbs, but struggle in suburbs. However Smith so extreme even exurbs no longer safe.

Calgary – This is key and its why parties spending most of their time there and promises there. Most polls show NDP ahead and they need that. If city splits evenly, UCP wins, but if NDP can 18-20 seats here, that will be enough overall to win. South end should stay UCP while NDP will easily win central and Northeastern parts. Northwest Calgary will be key and right now I think NDP has edge. Heck if Smith keeps shooting herself in the foot, NDP may even pull off a few upsets in southern parts. While anecdotal so should take with caution, I am hearing a lot of lifelong conservatives going NDP for first time.

It is not over, but I do think if results pan out as I expect, this should be a strong signal right wing populism and libertarianism doesn’t sell in Canada and conservative parties everywhere he pander to this cohort will lose. Even Alberta despite being more conservative than most provinces would be a blue state if in US, so trying to be like red state governors outside a few rural pockets just doesn’t work in Canada.

7 thoughts on “Alberta campaign at halfway point

  1. Miles I hope with all my heart that Alberta, a place I love, goes the way you predict. I just wonder about the wildcard of the fires – whether displaced people manage to vote while trying to survive crises, and whether the way this ongoing climate disaster is managed puts a few more votes in Smith’s column or out of her column – hopefully the latter. And as someone recently suggested, whether or not Smith figures out that the more she talks, the more she legitimately frightens and appalls centrist and even center right voters. If she does shut up, she might squeak through. So I hope she keeps blabbering and revealing her true lack of character, compassion, insight and intellect. Leadership matters, and in my estimation, she is among the worst we have seen in a long time.


    1. I think fires will have limited impact as most in rural ridings which UCP is going to win no matter what. Lesser Slave Lake is only one it might impact as that riding is majority First Nations, but turnout amongst First Nations tends to be low so if they don’t show up then UCP holds it, but if show up in large numbers turns NDP.

      She will shut up, but NDP likely has loads of past videos from her days as radio host. My guess is they are spacing out attacks and saving the most devastating for final 3 days. I do worry polls are wrong like in US with Trump, but noticed most polling errors tend to underestimate right in rural areas, not urban so I think sadly good chance Smith wins popular vote, but I still believe Notley will win most seats as Smith will run up margins in rural areas but lose both cities where more than half the population lives. But I do worry like you about possibility of shy UCP vote who pollsters are missing. I don’t think an issue, but I do think possibility.

      Canadians unlike Americans tend to be risk averse and thus usually crazy types lose as you saw in Alberta in 2012. However, with pandemic, I worry that has driven some over the edge as we saw with Freedom convoy and just how widespread that cohort is, is always a question. I assume small but do fear larger than we realize is a possibility albeit not likelihood.


  2. Unless the ABNDP has a few tricks up their sleeves(they probably do lol) I could see them lose the popular vote but win the election at this point. Mainstreet is a bit on the weird side in terms of their regionals. I think the ABNDP wins Edmonton by 15-20 points, Calgary by 5-10 points and lose the rest of Alberta by 30 points


    1. I agree on that and I think Abacus poll may be accurate seat wise but off vote total due to rural Alberta. I have found for some reason pollsters tend to underestimate right in rural areas but not urban. It is big reason Trump both times outperformed polls as in urban/suburban areas polls were largely accurate but vastly underestimated him in rural areas. Same problem federally however when an entire state that is a problem, but if seat by seat not since just means winning ridings already ahead by even bigger margins.

      I think UCP winning popular vote but NDP most seats is a good one to bet on. I know some were saying opposite, but I think that was more case with Kenney not Smith. Reason for that is WIP if Kenney were still leader would get lots of votes in rural areas but few in cities thus pushing UCP down in rural areas in votes but not enough to cost them seats. Smith has pretty much scooped up all the WIP votes but none elsewhere and even maybe pushed some old PCs on fence over the edge to NDP.


  3. It’s a challenging election to predict, but I am quite confident both parties will get at least 34-36 seats as both of them have a large number already in the bag. That leaves maybe 15-18 seats up for grabs, mostly in Calgary, and the topline numbers are irrelevant no matter who is leading.

    * We can pretty much bank on it that the NDP will sweep Edmonton, and most or all seats will not be close. The UCP is far from the median Edmonton voter today which tends to be centrist in the suburbs and centre-left in the core (the CPC wins are largely on vote splits federally). However, that only adds up to 20 seats.

    * Rural and non-metro Alberta will be mostly UCP, and again, it will not be close. That is a big recovery from when Kenney left there and they were threatened by WIPA, since rural Alberta is very right-wing, both economically and socially, and the median voter there probably is naturally closer to the PPC than the CPC federally (but would fear a vote split). The exceptions, however, are important. There are 41 seats outside of the two main cities, of which the UCP should be a lock for 30 of them. The NDP should win for four of them (St. Albert and Sherwood Park in suburban Edmonton and the two Lethbridge seats), and the other seven – Banff-Kananaskis, Lesser Slave Lake and the other exurban Edmonton seats such as Leduc-Beaumont and Spruce Grove-Stony Plain – are competitive.

    * Calgary is the real battleground. I’d say, for the NDP, the floor in Calgary is 10 seats, mostly in the inner core of the city and in the more working class Northeast and East (east of Deerfoot Trail and north of Glenmore Trail). The UCP should win at least 5 or 6 seats, all in the more conservative (albeit business-type, meaning they hate the thought of possible NDP anti-business policies, but are not really socially conservative) outer suburban areas in the South (i.e., south of Anderson Road). The rest of the seats – the inner suburbs in the South (i.e., the Chinook and Heritage areas) and the suburban areas in the West and Northwest (say, west of Crowchild Trail and north/west of Nose Hill Park) – are where the election will be won or lost. Those ridings need to be polled on an individual basis, since they represent the election. A good analogy of large parts of Calgary would be Romney-Biden or Tory-Remain in the US and UK, respectively.

    * It’s possible that both sides could have a “wrong winner” election, if the NDP dominate Edmonton too much, or if the UCP dominates rural Alberta too much. I think the latter is more likely, since polls tend to greatly underestimate right-wing anger these days in rural areas. Also, the anti-Trudeau anger is deep there too, but those are in seats the UCP are already winning. (If they had a more moderate leader, they would likely be at least competitive in Edmonton and doing much better in Calgary, but would have the risk of leaving the rural vote exposed…a real catch-22).


    1. I heard that the ABNDP is planning to roll out a big endorsement tomorrow. Not sure who it is. If it’s a former premier the only logical choices are redford and stelmach. If its a former cabinet minister I don’t know who it could be. It could also be another high profile person in Calgary(i.e. a former mayor).


      1. Be interesting who they have. Thomas Lukaszak has already endorsed NDP and he was former deputy premier, but perhaps will have more. Doubt it will be a federal MP or if they do get one, that person likely is someone willing to not run again.


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