When is the next Alberta election?

Alberta Legislature 2014

With the governing Progressive Conservatives selecting their new leader in September 2014, there is growing suspicion that Albertans could be going to polls sooner than expected. While Alberta’s next strange “three-month fixed election period” is not until 2016, a loosely written law may allow the next premier to trigger an early election.

According to Section 38.01(2) of the Elections Act, the next election should take place between March 1 and May 31, 2016, but under 38.01(1), the Lieutenant Governor retains the authority to dissolve the assembly and call an election when he sees fit. This would typically occur when a government loses confidence of the Assembly or when the leader of the government asks him to do so (it would be highly irregular for the Lieutenant Governor to deny this request).

By my reading, what the Elections Act really says is that the next election must be held by May 31, 2016, but it could easily be held before that date. And I bet it will be.

An election in 2015

An early election would allow the next PC Party leader to seek a new mandate from Albertans, highlight new candidates and purge his caucus of deadwood and troublesome MLAs. With expected growth in resource revenues next year, it will be very tempting for the PCs to call an election after tabling a cash-rich provincial budget in Spring 2015.

An early provincial election could also conveniently rid the PCs of three potentially embarrassing by-elections in constituencies soon-to-be vacated by MLAs seeking federal party nominations (these MLAs are Len Webber in Calgary-Foothills, David Xiao in Edmonton-McClung, and Darshan Kang in Calgary-McCall).

A Jim Prentice By-Election

If the next PC leader is Jim Prentice, who currently has endorsements from 45 of 58 PC MLAs, a by-election would need to be held to provide the new Premier with a seat in the Assembly. In the past, when a party leader does not have a seat in the Assembly, a sitting MLA has resigned in order to trigger a by-election.

When Premier Don Getty was chosen as PC leader in October 1985, Edmonton-Whitemud PC MLA Robert Alexander resigned so that the new premier would win a by-election in December 1985. Mr. Getty later won a May 1989 by-election after he was unseated in the March 1989 General Election.

The Social Credit Party formed government in August 1935 without its leader on any ballot. Seatless Premier William Aberhart ran and won a by-election in November 1935.

Wild rumours suggest that Mr. Prentice could wait until the next election to win a seat, perhaps running against popular Liberal MLA David Swann in Calgary-Mountain View (where Mr. Prentice was defeated in the 1986 election). But it is unlikely that he would wait that long or risk challenging a popular incumbent.

It is more likely that Mr. Prentice would follow tradition and quickly seek to run in a by-election. It is plausible that former Premier Alison Redford would resign as MLA to trigger a by-election in Calgary-Elbow.

Opposition Parties gearing up

The Wildrose Party already has candidates preparing to contest nominations across the province. The party has attracted an early high profile candidate in Sherwood Park, where former Strathcona County mayor Linda Osinchuk has announced she will seek the Wildrose nomination. In anticipation of an upcoming by-election, retired Colonel John Fletcher is seeking the Wildrose nomination in Calgary-Elbow.

The NDP will nominate candidates Shannon Phillips in Lethbridge-West and Chris Nielsen in Edmonton-Decore on June 17, 2014. The NDP was the first party to nominate a candidate for the next election months ago when Lori Sigurdson was chosen in Edmonton-Riverview.

While no Liberal candidates have been officially nominated, MLAs Laurie Blakeman, Kent Hehr and Mr. Swann have all indicated they plan on running in the next election.

To keep track of party nominations, I have compiled a list of official and unofficial candidates planning to stand in Alberta’s next provincial election. Please feel free to contact me if there are additions to the list.

9 thoughts on “When is the next Alberta election?

  1. daveberta Post author

    Also, along with the Don Getty and William Aberhart examples, when former PC cabinet minister Nancy MacBeth won the Liberal Party leadership in May 1998, she was then elected in a June 1998 by-election after retiring Liberal leader Grant Mitchell resigned as MLA.

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  2. Mike

    Prentice would be best served by passing two consecutive budgets showing fiscal restraint while slowly shedding the party of potential electoral liabilities.

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  3. Susan Stratton

    Janet Keeping was officially nominated as the Green Party of Alberta candidate in Calgary Fort on May 12.

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  4. Roger

    Nancy McBeath also lost the 2001 election badly, and her own seat. The same fate awaits Danielle Smith.

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  5. Jim

    Just a quick note Dave – although Mr. Alexander’s full name is Robert Keith Alexander, he went and goes by “Keith”.

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  6. Jason Morris

    By what mechanism is it suggested that Prentice can get rid of sitting MLAs that he doesn’t like? That’s intriguing. Is he going to hold open nominations for all ridings, and prop up his preferred candidates? Because that will be awesome for the Wildrose.

    Reply
  7. Greg

    At this point we should be asking: “What is the biggest issue facing Albertans?” The answer is simple; The ever increasing cost of Health Care. Will this be the campaign issue? If not, it should be.
    Look for my comments to be posted on this site as a formal submission is being prepared. We are in trouble. The problems run deep. There are solutions. Can the medical system change and adapt? Who is to blame? Who needs to step up?

    Reply
  8. Martin Harder

    There once was a bar owner who who also owned a parrot. The Parrot lived in a bird cage hanging in the Bar. The bird knew bar language well.
    One day the bar owner sold his bar to a church.
    When people arrived for the first service, the parrot who had remained in the building was heard to say, ” different bartender, different stools, different menus but the same old crowd”
    Please give us a new crowd with some dignity from the top down.
    I find it very hard to believe that the people in Alberta who love hard work and truth would The PC’s with a reputation for corruption to lead us.
    Folks, lets get rid of the old crowd.

    Reply

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