PC leader Jim Prentice in a post-leader's debate media scrum at Global Edmonton studios.

Notley wins the debate. Now it’s time to manage expectations

Last night’s leader’s debate was the biggest opportunity for Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice to knock NDP leader Rachel Notley off-balance. Since the start of the campaign, the PC Party has focused most of its attacks on Wildrose leader Brian Jean, who has proven to be an easier target. But Ms. Notley has been a more difficult target for the PCs.

Rachel Notley NDP Alberta

Rachel Notley

Expectations were high for Ms. Notley, whose party appears to be enjoying a surge in support, and she exceeded those expectations by not falling into Mr. Prentice’s traps. She was calm, concise, and set herself apart from the three other leaders.

Mr. Prentice performed as was expected, despite sounding patronizing at moments, and spent most of the debate on the offensive. His focus on Ms. Notley could signal a shift in focus by the PC campaign against the NDP in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge.

Mr. Jean started the debate slowly, but caught his stride in the second half of the event. He stuck to his notes, sometimes too closely, and overall performed well for someone who only accepted the party leadership less than one month ago. If you missed the debate, the one takeaway from Mr. Jean’s discussion points would be that the Wildrose Party will not raise your taxes. And in case you missed it a first time, he repeated that message numerous times for good measure.

Brian Jean Wildrose

Brian Jean

Earnest Liberal leader David Swann faced low expectations and performed as well as expected. Not a natural politician, Dr. Swann managed to present his party’s platform, but struggled at times to compete with the three other leaders.

With the leader’s debate over, we have now entered the final stretch of Alberta’s 2015 provincial election campaign. With limited polling available, I refuse to jump on the “PCs are going down to defeat” bandwagon. In uncertain times like these, it is important to remember the first unwritten rule of Alberta politics: that the PCs always win, and they always win a big majority [this is me, managing my own expectations].

With the leader’s debate behind them, what do the leaders need to do to manage their own party’s expectations?

Rachel Notley

Rachel Notley is making orange waves in Alberta, but how far will they splash? At the start of the campaign, she said the NDP are aiming to form government in Alberta, but perhaps more realistically Official Opposition is within their grasp. I know many New Democrats who would love for Ms. Notley to lead the party to win at least 17 MLAs, more than the 16 seats the party won in the 1986 and 1989 elections. Any more than the four the party currently holds should be considered a win for the NDP in Alberta.

Jim Prentice

Jim Prentice must lead his party to form a majority government. If the PCs win less than 44 seats in the Assembly, Mr. Prentice will have led his party to its first major electoral humiliation in 44 years. But even within a majority government, there are thresholds for Mr. Prentice’s political survival. What happens to Mr. Prentice if, for example, the PCs elect less MLAs than Alison Redford led them to in 2012 (61)? Or less than Ralph Klein led them to win in 1993 (51)?

Brian Jean

For new Wildrose leader Brian Jean, holding the party’s current number of constituencies – five – while personally winning election in Fort McMurray-Conklin is probably enough to secure his political leadership. Holding on to Official Opposition would be a bonus and electing more than 17 MLAs – the number the party elected under Danielle Smith in 2012 – would be golden.

David Swann

Expectations are low for the Liberals. Re-electing the party’s two incumbent MLAs – David Swann in Calgary-Mountain View and Laurie Blakeman in Edmonton-Centre – would be considered a win for the Liberals in this election.

Greg Clark

Electing leader Greg Clark in Calgary-Elbow, which is the Alberta Party’s best shot in this campaign, would be considered a big win for the party. Mr. Clark placed a strong second to PC candidate Gordon Dirks in the 2014 by-election.

35 thoughts on “Notley wins the debate. Now it’s time to manage expectations

  1. Bob

    Does anyone know where we can watch the full debate online? I forgot to PVR it and am disappointed Global isn’t posting it on their website as CBC normally does when they host a leader’s debate

    Reply
  2. Neal

    I think you need to stop drinking the PC Kool-Aid Dave. Your projections are far too generous to a wooden & unlikable leader like Prentice.

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  3. Peter Moss

    There is a recap video on Global TV website.

    Rachel rocked the debate. She was feisty, got her message out and didn’t take any crap from the old boys club standing beside her.

    Reply
  4. Elizabeth Underwood

    I’m just a regular person, worked hard in my life and am now retired. Although I still have not decided who I’m voting for, mainly because I tend to believe they all make promises that they don’t keep. I would very much like to vote with some certainly that that party would actually do the good things they say they will. I guess we’ll see. I don’t really care who won or lost the debate, although interesting, the leaders didn’t say anything they haven’t already said in one way or another.

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  5. Graeme

    Neal: I don’t see how Dave has drank the PC Kool-Aid. I agree with your assessment of Prentice as wooden and unlikable, but it is far from obvious that the PCs will not win a large majority. Just in the last election polls were very misleading and looked like the Wildrose might have a chance to form the government, and yet Redford got a majority government.

    Another important question here is how will people who identify less strongly with a party vote. Will they look at the leader of each party, or will they look at the specific candidates in their riding. If it is the latter than the fact that Prentice is wooden and unlikeable is far less of an issue.

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  6. Rural gal

    Elections are provincial but issues are local. I expect many vote for the candidate in their riding – maybe not this time. The anyone but PC seems to be big, but will they get cold feet at the last minute?
    I think there is change in the air, and Prentice,s arrogance was front and centre last nite- turning his back on Swan and Jean. arrogant dismissingness is unbecoming someone who wants to be Premier. Tells me how he would treat Albertans and risings who do not vote for him.
    NOtley was good in the beginning but her rudeness in not allowing others to speak and occupying the time space was unbecoming to someone who wants to be Premier.
    The moderation of the debate was poorly handled. The mics should have been turned off when their time was up.
    Jean did well, when he was allowed to get a word in, and I would have liked to hear more of what he had to say. Efficiencies first – maybe we do not have to have the most expensive govt anywhere?

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  7. conrad

    Disagree that Notley won. In fact her constant whining, nattering, and complaining would place her dead last.

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  8. Osmotic Truth

    Speaking as a card carrying federal and provincial Conservative, one has to be blind to not acknowledge that Notley won the debate hands done.

    But the latest poll by Forum Research predicts a two seat NDP majority government and that worries me. But I will wait until 308dotcom does the seat projections before I will worry too much as I trust its seat projection algorithm the most. The fact that the NDP is now in the lead in a poll is likely well-justified just post-debate euphoria. As it stand now, I will vote NDP in Whitemud but my vote is not a ringing endorsement for NDP policies, but rather reflects my fervent desire to see that foul-mouthed buffoon Mandel defeated.

    Prentice blew it. The fact that debate devolved into a Notley-Prentice affair was undoubtably a reflection that internal PC polling sees the NDP surging and any hope for a PC victory can only come from a resurgence of PC support in Edmonton.

    Who would have predicted this kind of exciting finish in the last two weeks in the election. Most particularly after what looked like Prentice finished off the Rosies with the defections last fall. Wow. Hang on to your hats folks. The ride is about to get real bumpy.

    If the PCs come in third on election night I predict Prentice resigns on the spot.

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  9. Constituent

    Gee Conrad, you must have issues with strong and intelligent women. I agree with Dave that Rachel must manage her supporters’ expectations. She forcefully demonstrated that there is an alternative to the PC dynasty and it is her and the NDP. I think all of what she said will resonate with Albertans but she has to motivate the undecided to get out and vote. Becoming the official opposition is the worst she will do in the election. And that should be enough to spring board her into government in the next election.

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  10. Stephen

    Notley was the clear winner of the debate. Prentice’s strategy of first misrepresenting what te NDP wants, and then attacking it, misfired badly because she simply interrupted him and did not let him get away with it. That was neither rude nor “whiny”; it was smart politics, and it showed she was no pushover. BTW, in case anybody missed it, Jean will not raise our taxes, no matter what. No matter that he can’t tell us how many people will lose their jobs as he tries to slash and burn billions out of our provincial budget – he promises, he won’t raise your taxes. Swann had ideas, just no charisma; Prentice masked his nerves well, but his math remark was terrible; Notley had poise and power, and a clear grasp of the topics debated; Jean had a promise – no new taxes – and nothing to back it up. But with him at least we know that he’ll destroy education, privatize healthcare, do anything it takes not to raise taxes.

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  11. C

    Osmotic Truth – Really liked your comment! Very thorough and accurate. I tend to vote PC also, but, like you, I am giving Mr. Turner my vote in Whitemud. He’s been an upstanding member of the community for as long as I can remember and would be a better representative than Mouthpiece Mandel for sure.

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  12. Burt

    Spot on analysis of the leader’s performance in the debates.

    Notley did have the advantage of being the only woman on the stage and the moderator’s barely enforcing the rules.

    Any majority will be seen as a win for Prentice and the PCs.

    17 seats for the Wildrose and the NDP is an interesting number as a goal. I think both should be expected to do a little better.

    The Liberals holding onto one seat would be a win. Here in Edmonton-Centre it sure feels like the orange crush is going to sweep Blakeman away.

    At 17 seats the Wildrose would like remain a southern Alberta rural rump. Although, given how Smith almost decimated them that isn’t that bad of a result.

    The NDP should really expect to do better than 17 seats. They should do very well in the Capital region. Thanks, in part, to the Liberals essentially disappearing as a party.

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  13. Ugly Dog

    Even if the NDP sweeps Edmonton (20 seats?), gets a small handful in Calgary (5 or 6 is generous I think) and 1 or even 2 in Lethbridge, that still leaves them a long way from a majority. Not trying to be antagonizing here, just curious where people who are predicting and NDP majority expect the other dozen or so seats are going to come from? Last polls put them nearly 20 points behind WR in the rest of the province and slightly behind PC.

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  14. C

    Also, Daveberta – I appreciate that you’re trying not to get your (our) hopes up, but I agree with the other commenters. While the NDs may not form a majority government as promised, I do think they will pick up more than 17 seats. Polls are tricky, but the polls turned out to be more than an accurate barometer for how people were planning to vote in the federal election and the NDP went from 36 to over a hundred seats. The times could be changing here in Fortress Alberta. I guess we’ll see a week from now!

    Reply
  15. Ron

    “Jean did well, when he was allowed to get a word in, and I would have liked to hear more of what he had to say.”
    you mean you want to hear him say
    “I won’t raise your taxes” again and again and again and again and again and ……

    Reply
  16. Vin

    Ugly Dog – I think vote splitting could propel the NDs to claim more seats. They are actually polling well in some rural ridings, such as Athabasca, and Lloydminster.

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  17. RDF

    Bottom line people, if you don’t vote on May 5th, all your whining about the PC’s is moot. NDP will not form government but we need them to be official opposition to stop the entitlement of the current government in power. Prentice continues to make mistakes. He is flip flopping on the budget that he put out until he is re-elected and I’m sure he’ll change everything back to where it was.
    He has no respect for anyone and I think what he did to Danielle Smith was the low of the low. He felt threaten by the her as leader of the Wild Rose and took her down. (she is to blame in this as well) Now Mr. Prentice feels threatened by Rachel Notley and tired to knock her down in the debate yesterday. He didn’t and he couldn’t so like a defeated King that is so use to getting everything handed to him, he stormed off the set at the end of the debate. This is a great leader for Alberta (insert sarcasm)
    It’s time for change in Alberta.

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  18. Kim

    In addition to being very corrupt and inept the PCs forgot where much of their support came from in the last election, Liberal and NDP votors (including myself). Now there is a very credible alternative for middle of the road and left leaning voters in Rachel Notley and they are flocking to her and abandoning the arrogant PCs. The Wildrose party proved itself to be being a grassroots party by being in contention despite the defection of its leader and most of its caucus. I have to agree with RDF, while Danielle Smith’s defection was extremely ill advised and career ending move…… I was disgusted that Jim Prentice just threw her under the bus when he no longer needed her. That is just further proof of the corruption, cynicism and lack of principles that permeates the PCs.

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  19. TC

    After watching the debate (courtesy of the link you posted), I’m not sure whether Notley (or anyone for that matter) “won” the debate. While there were no knockout punches, I enjoyed her telling Prentice, referring to Jean, “that’s not the way to treat a donor”.

    While I’m operating with an expectation that the PC will win, would it be a realistic goal that it’ll only be a minority government, and thus the opposition parties will actually matter in the next Legislature?

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  20. RDF

    I agree with TC. Let the PC become a minority government and allow the opposition parties to make a difference. The only issue with that is, Mr. Prentice will call another election in 2 years, costing Albertans yet more money. He’s great at telling us to take blame for mismanaged money but has no issues with spending it.
    Do you think he stopped to think that when he choose Tony Caterina to take out NDP incumbent Deron Bilous, that there would than have to be a bi-election for Mr. Caterina current city counsel job. Wouldn’t that cost Millions? Jim Prentice cares only about keeping the PC in power so he doesn’t look like the man that brought down the party. Lets not kid each other.

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  21. Vic

    Prentice need not worry. The hillbillies and Neanderthals in Alberta will vote the Tories in again. They’re so used to swimming in warm Tory poop they’re scared to get out cause they might catch cold.

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  22. Alberta RusH

    Re: Rachel’s debate success: A prince being thus obliged to know well how to act as a beast must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves. Niccolo Machiavelli

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  23. RJ

    Despite all of this sound and fury, I am convinced the PCs are going to win the most seats in this election (unfortunately). Albertans don’t feel comfortable voting for any other party and will ultimately see them as the only viable option for their vote.

    Reply
  24. Alvin Finkel

    The Notley halo extends beyond the 19 seats in the City of Edmonton to every place in the Edmonton region and then northwards to the Peace River country (skipping over a few WR strongholds), south to Red Deer, west to Jasper, and east to Fort Saskatchewan. Once you emerge from the reactionary belt around Calgary and within its leafiest suburbs, you get more Orange areas in the areas closest to the downtown. And then you have 2 almost guaranteed seats in Lethbridge. But outside Edmonton and Lethbridge and Calgary Fort, the contests where the NDP appears to be in the lead or just a bit short of that are close ones with one or both of the right-wing parties. Strategic voting on the centre-left is necessary for these seats not to be blown; the same is true in a few Liberal strongholds and in Calgary-Elbow where only Gordon Dirks or Gregory Clark of the AP can win. Check out all the seats in changealberta.ca

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  25. FCS

    “The hillbillies and Neanderthals in Alberta will vote the Tories in again. They’re so used to swimming in warm Tory poop they’re scared to get out cause they might catch cold.”

    Vic, I applaud you for spitting on rural and small-town people. When was the last time you got out from Edmonton-Strathcona?

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  26. SC

    Kim is spot on! I am a federal LPC supporter (socially centre-left, fiscally centrist) and last election I voted PC to stave off WR and also because Redford seemed like a breath of fresh air. This time, I’m leaning orange and so are many others. Remember Quebec in 2011? It CAN happen here too.

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  27. GoinFawr

    Hehe, Dave I told you Ms. Notley is the real deal.

    The most delicious Prentice foot-to-mouth disease of the debate, of which there are many that were merely tasty, is when he brought up the Alberta laughingstock royalty regime, insinuating that the last time gov’t considered reviewing it that that action was somehow responsible for the coinciding drop in the price of oil. Ms.Notley quickly pointed out that it was quite a bit more likely that the global financial crisis, rather than an Albertan royalty review, was responsible the dramatic fall in the price of oil (in late 2008).
    Yum.

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  28. Watson Smith

    55 seat PC majority sounds about right with 65 on the high side.

    NDP will take 50% of the vote in Edmonton leaving them <25% everywhere else (Except lethbridge). WRA will take 50% vote in a lot of rural leaving them just under the PCs in Calgary….thus the PCs win a majority even though they might not even be winning in popular vote.

    Reply
  29. Rural gal

    It surprises me that so few ppl read the platforms of parties.
    Saying Brian Jean would cut everything is nonsense! Just tells me that someone is not reading!
    Reading Notleys promises are scary and saying she would drop a pipeline pretty much says she is job averse. It is too bad that SK and other provinces stand in testimony to the destruction done by NDP led govts
    Prentice does have his plan out, I do not like it, but I can say I have read it.
    Informed decisions are needed. This is the year of change and we must choose carefully. I think a guy who can read a balance sheet and has run his own businesses is the man for the job! Yes he did not do well in the debate, 25 days in the job and just three weeks from losing his son- I will give him a break. He is much better when speaking to groups- he is just too polite to start shouting over everyone else!

    Reply

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