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2008 Alberta Provincial Election

alberta election 2008: the aftermath.

Well, I’m pretty glad I didn’t take any bets on last nights results.

So, what happened? Partisans and pundits can analyze this one to death, but I’m not sure it’s really that easy. In the end, the Tories got their vote out to get their 11th majority government since 1971. But with a 41% voter turnout it’s clear that none of the parties are connecting with Albertans on a meaningful level.

Province-wide Vote Total
PC – 501,028 (53%)
Lib – 250,862 (26%)
ND – 81,043 (9%)
WRA – 64,370 (7%)
GRN – 24,563 (5%)

Seat Total
PC – 72
Alberta Liberal – 9
NDP – 2

Turnout

It’s hard to call a voter turnout of 41% anything but embarrassing.

It’s commonly said that elections are decided by those who show up, but with two consecutive elections with less than 50% turnout, are Albertans entering an era in which elections are decided by those who don’t show up? In Edmonton, seven constituencies saw voter turnout lower than 40% and only one had turnout (barely) over 50% (Edmonton-Whitemud). It seems pretty clear that not only are none of the parties really connecting with Albertans, but that Albertans are completely disengaged from the electoral process, which is very troubling.

I’m really wondering what were the 59% of Albertans who didn’t vote were doing yesterday that was more important than voting?

Here’s an overview of how the election turned out in Alberta’s three main political regions…

Edmonton

In Edmonton, welcome to 2001 + 2.

Ed Stelmach’s Tories have returned Edmonton to their 2001 win with the addition of Edmonton-Decore, Edmonton-Mill Woods, and Edmonton-Ellerslie (it’s +2 and not +3 because Edmonton lost a seat after the 2003 electoral redistribution).

I’ve always believed that Edmonton was competitive, but I didn’t believe that it would be this competitive. Along with Decore, Ellerslie, and Mill Woods, close races in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview, Edmonton-Calder, Edmonton-Glenora, Edmonton-McClung, and Edmonton-Rutherford gave the Tories the large majority of the capital. The Tories swept all but five seats in Edmonton, leaving the capital city with an opposition of 5, the survivors being Alberta Liberals Kevin Taft in Edmonton-Riverview, Laurie Blakeman in Edmonton-Centre, and Hugh MacDonald in Edmonton-Gold Bar, and New Democrats Brian Mason in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood and Rachel Notley in Edmonton-Strathcona. Though most races in the capital city could be considered close, with abysmal turnout and lost support, both the Alberta Liberals and New Democrats will need to take a critical look at why they lost so much ground in their former stronghold of Edmonton.

New Edmotnon Tory faces of note include former School Board Trustee Janice Sarich and Emergency Room doctor Raj Sherman.

On a personal note, I am really disappointed to see three of the Legislature’s most effective MLAs lose their seats last night. I’m talking about Rick Miller in Edmonton-Rutherford, Mo Elsalhy in Edmonton-McClung, and David Eggen in Edmonton-Calder. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Rick, Mo, and David on a number of issues over the past few years and I think I would have a hard time finding harder working and more genuinely good spirited people under the dome. I’m sad to that they were defeated, but wish them good luck in the next stages of their lives. Take a break, but try not to go too far.

Calgary

Calgary is an interesting one. The great Liberal surge that every one was talking about never really emerged, but interestingly the Liberals actually net-gained one seat inside Calgary. While holding the seats they gained in 2004 and losing Craig Cheffins in Calgary-Elbow, the Alberta Liberals elected Kent Hehr in Calgary-Buffalo and Darshan Kang in Calgary-McCall, bringing the total to 5 opposition MLAs in Calgary. This is an emerging dynamic that could be a sign of the new face of a politically competitive Calgary.

The Tories held their ground, but faced strong challenges in Calgary-Bow, Calgary-Elbow, Calgary-Foothills, and Calgary-North Hill. The Tories also elected a swath of new MLAs including big names Teresa Woo-Paw and Alison Redford, while star candidate Arthur Kent was unable to unseat Dave Taylor in Calgary-Currie.

Also, Independent Robin Leech in Calgary-Montrose placed a very strong second against Tory Manmeet Bhullar. And after much hoopla, former-Tory Craig Chandler placed third in Calgary-Egmont behind Tory Jonathan Denis and Liberal Cathie Williams.

Lethbridge and wildcards

Not much has changed as Lethbridge remains split between the Tories and the Liberals. Bridget Pastoor held Lethbridge-East for the Liberals. Lethbridge-West went to the Tory Greg Weadick over Liberal Bal Boora.

In Cardston-Taber-Warner, Wildrose Alliance Leader Paul Hinman apparently lost his seat to Tory Broyce Jacobs by 39 votes. I’d expect a recount at this point, but only a reversal of the results could save Hinman’s leadership in his now seatless party.

For the Alberta Greens, their big hope in Lacombe-Ponoka wasn’t able to overcome Tory Ray Prins. In the end, Green Joe Anglin netted 22% of the vote to Prins 58%.

What’s next?

Well, congratulations to everyone who ran, volunteered, and voted in this election. Democracy only works if citizens participate, and we now have to figure out how to get that 59% of voters to opt-in to the democratic system (in its current or a different form).

Tomorrow, I’m going to be posting on what the results mean for each of Alberta’s political parties.

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