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Brace for Post-Election Chaos in Alberta

Will the UCP implode? And will the NDP learn from its defeat?

David Climenhaga 30 May 2023Alberta Politics

David J. Climenhaga is an award-winning journalist, author, post-secondary teacher, poet and trade union communicator. He blogs at Follow him on Twitter at @djclimenhaga.

Those praying for a degree of sanity to prevail after Monday's Alberta provincial election were bound to be disappointed by the apparent result last night.

At the witching hour, the United Conservative Party was leading or elected in 51 seats and the New Democratic Party in 36. Forty-four seats are required for a bare majority in the Alberta legislature. The parties were within less than 300 votes from one another in seven ridings, most of them in Calgary. The UCP will have no seats in the City of Edmonton.

So while the dust was still settling after midnight, a United Conservative victory convincing enough to last four years seemed obvious — if the party’s supporters can only resist the temptation to go for each other’s throats.

But it’s hard to believe that after a couple of weeks swaddled in metaphorical bubble wrap, Premier Danielle Smith will be able to resist the temptation to resume telling us her innermost thoughts, ignoring the rule of law to benefit her friends and pursuing her most dangerous constitutional schemes.

So hang onto your pensions, folks. Not to mention your Mountie hats!

While UCP strategists were doubtless patting themselves on the back and breathing well-deserved sighs of relief, last night’s victory may yet prove to be a pyrrhic one, given the very unstable non-genius at the helm of the party, and the sinister alliance that has her ear.

I reckon that in light of her election victory, the UCP will have to give Smith a couple of years to prove that she can do the job. When she fails to pass that test — a virtual inevitability if the recent past is any guide — the knives will come out.

But Smith’s Trumpian Take Back Alberta supporters will also be more deeply entrenched by then.

So don’t count on this being a restful or happy time for the UCP as it turns to trying to put its good-enough mandate to work developing a suite of policies that can satisfy both its infuriated-by-everything base and its remaining sensible MLAs.

The NDP’s problem at this juncture is likely to be rather the opposite of the UCP’s.

With an opponent like Smith, and an Alberta that is changing before our eyes, the NDP should have been able to do better.

If Alberta’s disunited Conservatives jump too readily to each other’s throats, though, its New Democrats are too inclined to sidestep an argument they need to have.

The NDP campaign may have made a compelling case for why Albertans should not vote for Danielle Smith, but despite being the only Opposition party with broad support, it never made a compelling case why they should support Notley.

As former Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason said two days before the Ides of March, “if the NDP doesn’t up its comms game immediately, they will lose the election in May. There’s too much at stake to keep fumbling around. Clearly, they need outside help.”

Well, they didn’t up their game. And they did lose the election.

And so there now needs to be a brisk discussion in NDP circles about why there was never much evidence of what Mason termed “a coherent communications strategy” that defined “three or four issues that will move the vote we need to move, and hammer them home repeatedly.”

Still, if Latvia can declare a national holiday when their hockey team wins a bronze medal, the NDP can view the election’s outcome as something of a success — they have 10 more MLAs in the legislature, a much stronger beachhead in Calgary, and their popular vote has grown to a historic high.

Alberta needs the NDP to do better, though. So the NDP needs to have that frank discussion about what went wrong with their 2023 strategy, and who needs to be reassigned to other duties as a result.

And that will be almost as hard for the NDP to do as it will be for the UCP to get along without intramural fisticuffs breaking out.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics, Alberta

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