10 Things to Watch on the eve of Alberta’s 2015 Election

As a tumultuous campaign comes to a close, many people will make predictions about the results of election.

I am not one of those people.

Everything seems to be pointing to a major breakthrough for the Alberta NDP and a historic collapse of a PC dynasty, but until the final vote is counted, the power of determining who Alberta’s governing party will be is in the hands of Alberta’s voters.

Here are some things to watch:

Photo taken by Jeff MacIntosh

1) How motivated are each party’s supporters to vote?

The momentum is clearly with the New Democrats in this election. One would think that their voters are more likely to show up at the polls than supporters of a party that appears to be in a steep decline. The PCs have been weighed down by their budget, scandals, and the ineffectiveness of their leader and one might think this might depress their voters into complacency. However, the PCs (and more recently Wildrose) has run a scare campaign that has targeted the NDP. It is unlikely to sway many NDP supporters but I believe that never really was its purpose. The scare campaign is designed to motivate right wing voters to get out on election day. We will see how effective the campaign has been in tomorrow’s results.

2) The Get Out The Vote effort

The Alberta PCs are known for their “on the ground” team. You don’t win 12 straight elections without some sort of skill with pulling the vote out. For what they lack in success in the polls, they make up in organizational strength throughout the province. The NDP is strong in Edmonton and has been building strength in some constituencies in Calgary and Lethbridge but much of the province does not have a “machine” that will pull out the vote. As such, they will be relying on their voters to show up on their own. In 2011, the federal NDP was able to win dozens of ridings in Quebec where they had nobody on the ground because their voters were so motivated that they didn’t need any help to get out to the voting booth. They may need a repeat of that tomorrow.

3) Vote Splits

Alberta hasn’t seen a three way race in decades. Many regions of the province are neck, neck, and neck. This lower threshold for victory could elect MLAs from any of the three main parties.

4) The Incumbency Factor

Incumbency is usually a huge advantage for an elected official. Over the past few years, we’ve seen recently several governments get re-elected that few anticipated would pull off a victory. Redford’s PCs, Selinger’s NDP, McGuinty’s and Wynne’s Liberals, and Clark’s BC Liberals all have stolen victory from near certain defeat. In Alberta, incumbency may not have the desired effect though. The zeitgeist that seems to be pervasive seems to be a hunger for change. The Alberta PCs seem to be stained by scandals and fiscal mismanagement and Albertans seem to have finally gotten into the “Throw the Bums Out” mentality that usually happens after any government has been around for more than a couple of terms. The Alberta PCs have had 12 terms! This “Throw the Bums Out” mentality turns incumbency into a huge liability.

5) The “Liberal-less” constituencies

The Liberals have only fielded 56 candidates in 87 constituencies and their campaign has fizzled. In the 31 constituencies without a Liberal candidate, one would expect the Alberta NDP to benefit. Many of the 31 constituencies without a Liberal candidate are rural with a possible Wildrose/PC split. This lowered threshold of victory combined with the lack of a Liberal candidate and the NDP surge, could elect NDP MLAs in ridings outside of Edmonton, Calgary, and Lethbridge.

6) The Hockey Game

Much like the Alberta NDP, the plucky Calgary Flames have come out of nowhere to find success! In an unfortunate scheduling conflict, the Flames play a home playoff game on Tuesday at 7:30pm. This means that almost 20,000 Calgarians will be at (or in transit to) the Saddledome during prime voting hours. Hundreds of thousands of people will be glued to their TV in hope that their beloved Flames can find a way to get back in the series. This may impact the already low voter turnout that tends to plague Alberta.

7) Will the Alberta Liberals win any seats at all?

If anyone asked me a week or two ago, I would say that both David Swann’s and Laurie Blakeman’s seats are very safe Liberal seats. I no longer believe that to be true. The NDP has surged to such heights in Edmonton that the Orange Wave might take Blakeman out to sea. Swann is more safe in his seat but he has had to spend an awful lot of time in his own constituency for a party leader and that has hurt the Liberal campaign as a whole. The Liberals have a chance in both Calgary Buffalo and McCall but, without Kent Hehr and Darshan Kang, those seats will be up for grabs.

8) Will the Wildrose have a breakthrough in Calgary?

The PC decline has created three way races in Calgary. The NDP surge has put them within striking distance of almost every constituency in the city. They have done this by stripping votes from both the PCs and Liberals. This surge could also help the Wildrose as their threshold for victory in many constituencies has been lowered.

9) Can Greg Clark defeat Gordon Dirks in Calgary Elbow?

If you’ve read any posts that I’ve made about the provincial election, you’ll note that I don’t talk much about the Alberta Party. The reason for that is because for the Alberta Party, this campaign is not an 87 constituency campaign. It is a one constituency campaign. They need to win Elbow. They simply can’t afford to lose here. All of their resources have gone into this campaign and losing it could mean it is game over for them.

10) How many seats will the NDP win in Calgary?

It would prove to be a massive boon to the NDP’s long term success to establish a beachhead in Calgary. Calgary Fort and Varsity seem to be going orange this election. The NDP has a good chance of winning in Klein, Mountainview, Currie, and Buffalo as well.