Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cracks in Fortress Alberta and what not to do to exploit them

Voter turnout was poor. Nationally this is considered to be a contributing factor to the Liberal's result. While this may have been, at least partly, a result of voter suppression efforts by the Conservatives it doesn't explain the Alberta result: 52.9%. And in the two major cities:

Calgary: 54.6

Edmonton: 54.4

I can only explain this in a qualitative way. The reason for the low Alberta turn-out is the reverse of the low national turn-out. Many people I talked to didn't vote because they couldn't vote Conservative due to the Income Trust issue, dislike of Harper, the Wheat Board and you know the rest of the list. They couldn't vote Conservative and have yet to bring themselves to vote for one of the other major party. This would be a huge step for them to make.

Two friends in Calgary West who did vote talked about how hard it was to chose who to vote for. They couldn't bring themselves to vote for Rob Anders. They also said they couldn't vote Liberal. This is common. The inability of Calgarians to bring themselves to vote Liberal is born out by some numerical digging by Five of Five. The NEP scar tissue is every bit as deep for the Liberals in Alberta as the Riel execution memory was for the PCs in Quebec before Mulroney. These friends ended up voting for a party on the fringe.

But they have taken the first step. They realized that the Conservative Party is not in line with their beliefs. The next nut to crack is to get them to agree that the Liberals are the party to move to. Albertans in search of a home for their vote won't be happy voting Marxist-Leninist for very long. We have to show them that the Liberals are the centrist party not the neo-cons in charge right now.

Alberta has always been stable politically. But when it shifts it shifts big time. There is of course the Linda Duncan win in Edmonton to point to. This result does not point to a preference to the NDP notwithstanding their supporters fervent hopes. It has as much to do with strategic voting actually working and a good ground game. In other events, Calgary Elbow went Liberal in a by-election for Ralph Klein's seat last year. The same neighborhood elected an environmentally focused Alderman in the last election. If these are the leading indicators of the cities drifting away from the Conservative brand there are several ridings in the cities that could be up for grabs if the Liberals play their cards right. This would help establish the return of the Liberals as a national party.

I'm not sure of how to do this. I am absolutely certain BigCityLib Strikes Back typing things like this:

"And as much I wouldn't mind seeing Alberta screwed out of its oily dough"
won't get the job done.

I left a comment on his blog but this is such a divisive and counter productive thing to say that it must be commented on further. Alberta has a constitutional right to it's resources. The wealth may cause strains on the Confederation but they must be dealt with in a non-threatening way within recognizing the rights granted by the Constitution. If anything is going to turn Albertans away from the Liberals and back to the Conservatives it is posts like that.

Let's hope that the Conservatives don't catch that one. I am eager to hear constructive ways to widen the cracks on the Alberta foundation.Recommend this Post


Dylan said...

I agree with most of you post. However, you're not including those who didn't vote because they were happy with the status quo and knew that voting for the CPC wouldn't really "help" the inevitable outcome of landslide victories. These voters showed their approval for Stephen Harper by not voting for anyone since the outcome was already, and correctly, assumed.

The other thing you mentioned in your post is one that you have not been able to face: Calgarians are not going to vote Liberal. Neither are Edmontonians. They might provincially, but only out of protest (as we saw with the Liberal by-election success only to be wiped away in a provincial election where Stelmach gained on the Alberta Libs).

I believe the party with the most potential to win seats in Alberta (and maybe even rural Alberta) would be the Greens. Right now, the Greens are a "blank canvas" on which voters will project whatever image they want to see of Canada, onto them. If the GPC re-engineered their campaigns and their platforms to include rural Western Canada and drive home the point that the CPC (and it's Reform and Canadian Alliance predecessors) took them for granted and aren't doing much for their communities (which desperately need economic revival in some parts of the West) they could start another green sweep the Manning did 15 years prior.

But first they need a change of leadership and a defined, or should I say - refined - platform and objectives. They need to target Conservative ridings to stop the vote-split in Liberal urban areas (in Ontario and BC) and cast doubt on the CPC in provinces like Alberta.

The Liberals can't do that because of the NEP and other things Albertans have been told by their politicians are very bad for the country and for the province.

It doesn't help that Liberal supporters, like BigCityLib, admit to taking glee in seeing the oil economy fall. It's time for a realistic and pragmatic party to come and charm Albertans into voting for a progressive alternative that doesn't threaten their livelihoods. And the Green platform doesn't do that.

It's time for a Western revival! But it has to start at the grass-roots and I believe that advantage goes to the Greens.

Anonymous said...

Dylan is correct. If you want Albertans to go progressive, your best hope is a renewed Green Party that can understand that "conservative" is an expansion of the word "conserve" and work from there.

If you want them to go Liberal, your best hope is a Logan's Run style purge of anybody who was in Alberta during the NEP. Even though world markets are far more at fault than the NEP for the Alberta crash (along with Albertan's continued reliance on a single resource extraction based economy) it's been demonized and Liberalized so such an extent that it'll take generational change to get rid of it.

Robert McBean. said...

There is no way of knowing why people didn't vote. I doubt it is an endorsement of anything. In Calgary West there is a lot of dissatisfaction with Rob Anders, even among conservatives. However they have painted themselves into a corner and have no where to go. The conservatives here worked very hard to get their vote out but dropped some 4000 voters since last time.

Constant Vigilance said...

Points taken. I suppose my propensity to optimism made me overlook the tendency of the new dominant party to come from nowhere. Thanks for pointing out the Green potential. The only quibble I might have is that the Greens aren't necessarily a blank canvas after the Green Shift election. It seems to be they are seen as carbon taxers. Not the reality perhaps but that may be the perception.

Anon: General agreement as well. I am hopeful that being aware of the problem will avoid it taking a generation to effect. I suppose if you could have heard my opinions in 1982 you would be shocked to have read my views today so it can happen.

Robert: I agree that the post is mostly supposition.

I think the fact that people who take their responsibility to vote very seriously and are disillusioned with the Conservatives is the silver lining.

Thank you all for your constructive comments. Now I have to go buy a tub surround.