Well, that was certainly interesting; Albertans have chosen a new government for the first time in FOUR DECADES, relegating the Prentice PCs to third place, and prompting his immediate resignation. This sort of total collapse is rarely seen outside of professional building demolitions.
Before the start of the campaign, most progressive voters had their fingers crossed, seeing the opportunity to mmmaaybe reduce the governing party to a minority. At the kickoff, Rachel Notley said she was running to be premier of Alberta, and optimistic supporters considered the possibility of a minority government.
As I write this, the NDP hold a commanding majority, expected to end the night with an unbelievable 53 seats. Unprecedented!
Some of this is undoubtedly due to the tremendously well run and disciplined campaign that Premier-Elect Notley and her team ran, but I think that is only the third most important element in their victory. For those who care, here are my picks, in ascending order, for Top Five Reasons for the Alberta Orange Crush
5. The Liberal Collapse
The Alberta Liberals have had a hard time in this province since their highwater mark under Laurence Decore two decades back. Discontented former PC Raj Sherman came to the Liberal leadership with all the panache of a folk hero, tussling with his own party over favoritism and ineffective health care, but squandered his incredible potential, and then bolted from the party. This left them effectively leaderless during the election, and without a full slate of candidates.
Philosophically,I am probably closer to the Liberals than the NDPs, but unless you were voting for David Swann or Laurie Blakeman, a vote for the Liberals this time around was a complete waste of one`s franchise, as their party was in a complete shambles.
Can they come back from their single seat? I don't know.
Should they? Maybe not. As one of the pundits on CBC quipped tonight, "The Liberals have been dead in this province for years, but this year we finally found the body."
With the Liberals out of play, and the Alberta Party (consisting primarily of disgruntled and frustrated former Grits) still struggling to get their first seat, most progressive voters sensed the momentum and united behind Rachel Notley,
4. An Effective Opposition
There are very few who would dispute the notion that the Wildrose have been the most effective opposition in this province in twenty years, and without their incessant pressure on the PCs, chipping away first at the Redford government and then Prentice's, the NDP would not have had quite so much voter disgruntlement to work with.
3. The NDP Campaign
From an indomitable presence in the leader's debate, to the Notley Crue t-shirts, the NDP ran a positive, engaging and disciplined campaign, channeling voter anger into a new majority government.
2. The Floor Crossing Fiasco
Years from now, I am sure political nerds like myself will still be pointing to the Wildrose floor crossings of last fall as a watershed moment for both that party and the PCs. The blatant hypocrisy of Wildrose leader condemning two floor crossers only to join them across the aisle less than two weeks later was an insurmountable insult that even saw her new party reject her nomination bid. The backroom dealings and secret negotiations (as opposed to an above-board Reform/PC-style party merger) left a palpable stench of corruption on everyone involved, and
And the number one factor behind the NDP victory and PC self destruction?
1. Jim Prentice
A smooth (practically oleaginous) and rich banker, as well as a committed opportunist, who parachuted into provincial politics from the federal stage, amidst rumours of a future run at 24 Sussex. Prentice's performance as a party leader was deplorable by almost any measure; even discounting the way the floor crossings were handled, his missteps and miscalculations were legion:
- his autocratic overruling of the all-party Legislative Office Committee
- ignoring his own survey which said 70% of Albertans wanted corporate tax increases
- a fiscal conservative running up a $5B deficit while also raising taxes for everyone except corporations
- "The Liberals have a Gay Straight Alliance bill? Let's have a free vote! No wait, we have our own bill! Hang on, no we don't!"
- Cutting social programs and counting on charity to pick up the slack, then cutting the tax credit for charitable donations...
- ...then reversing that decision in the middle of an election campaign
- blaming Albertans for the current fiscal crisis instead of Tory mismanagement, and asking them to 'look in the mirror'
To be fair, any leader would have had a hard time picking the Progressive Conservatives up from the trench Alison Redford left them in prior to her abrupt departure from the political scene. Having said that though, Rachel Notley and the ruling NDPs (man, it is even weird to type that!) owe some of their victory to hapless Jim Prentice. A man whose gamble on an early election effectively orchestrated the brutal dismantling of Canada's longest political dynasty, and who instead of courting the Prime Minister's chair, will now slink away from the political arena, never to return.