Sunday, May 07, 2023

In Alberta, the choice is either left or right, no centre (or is it?)

Alberta is not like other Canadian provinces. Not in the respect that many Albertan Conservative would like hard  you to think, not in a Quebec-style "distinct society" way. But it is the only province where the political choice us either hard left or hard right, with nothing in between.

The United Conservative Party (UCP) is further to the right than any other provincial party (with the possible exception of the Saskatchewan Party), and domintes most of the province politically. The two main cities, Calgary and Edmonton, are less Conservative, and between them provide enough population to balance out the rural/small town conservative base.

Edmonton is firmly left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP) territory. Calgary is where Alberta elections are won and lost, because the population there tends to be fiscally Conservative with a distinct socially progressive streak. Ridings there can go either way, depending on whether people focus on their economic or their social feelings.

There are 26 ridings in Calgary, 20 in Edmonton, and 41 in smaller urban and rural communities. In the last provincial election, the NDP won 19 of 20 Edmonton ridings, 3 of 26 in Calgary, and just 2 of 41 elsewhere. Many of the Calgary results were relatively close, though, so you can see why so much effort is being focussed there in the run-up to this year's provincial election, especially given that UCP leader Danielle Smith is even more disliked and distrusted than her predecessor, Jason Kenney.

Nowhere until this analysis, though, is the middle-of-the-road Liberal Party, which you would think might satisfy someone of those on-the-edge voters. In most of Canada, the Liberal Party is the party that provides the main opposition to a not-quite-so-extreme Conservative wing, they have the ability to morph to fit any number of different political profiles, either further to the left or even centre right, as needed. It is a woolly, malleable beast, and much of its historical success results from exactly that.

But not in Alberta. There, the choice is either a distinct left or a distinct right.

NDP leader Rachel Notley is a wily campaigner (and ex-Premier), more than capable of persuading fence-sitters over to her side. Danielle Smith is a bit of a loose cannon, apparently a little too cozy with the more radical "Take Back Alberta" right, and thereby distinctly vulnerable. And interestingly, the Alberta NDP maybe taking a leaf out of the Liberal playbook and moving more centre-wards in order to improve their electability. So, it's going to be a pretty interesting election later this month.

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