Wildrose win Calgary-Foothills by-election, NDP hold on to ‘Orange Chinook’ support

Wildrose Party candidate Prasad Panda became his party’s only MLA from Calgary with a fairly decisive win in yesterday’s by-election in Calgary-Foothills, stealing the constituency away from the Progressive Conservatives. PC candidate Blair Houston finished third in the constituency that elected former Premier Jim Prentice in another by-election ten months ago and in a general election only four months ago.

The New Democrats mounted what appeared to be a strong campaign with candidate Bob Hawkesworth, but the governing party was only able to finish with second place in the by-election.

The NDP lost some ground in this by-election, holding 25.7 percent of the vote compared to the 32.3 percent earned by candidate Anne Wilson in the May 5, 2015 general election but still significantly more than the 3.7 percent earned by the NDP candidate in the October 2014 by-election. The results suggest that the NDP “orange chinook” from May 2015 has not completely dissipated as some would have argued and that NDP have developed a base of support in the city that was non-existent only a few months ago.

An NDP loss in this by-election would not have been a notable outcome had that party not intentionally raised the stakes of the results by pouring significant resources into the campaign, including high-profile endorsements of Mr. Hawkesworth and at least three campaign visits by Premier Rachel Notley. The loss does not spell the end of the NDP in Calgary but it does demonstrate that the party faces strong conservative opposition in the city, which should come as a surprise to no one.

Media commentaries will likely frame the Wildrose win as a rebuke of NDP policies in Calgary-Foothills, which it was, but at a more interesting level the results of this by-election are reflective of the divide between the Wildrose and the PC Party.

While the electoral outcomes were different from the last election, the percentages of the combined PC and Wildrose votes were 59.8 percent, up slightly from their combined vote of 58 percent in May 2015. This is a major decline from the October 2014 by-election, when the two conservative parties dominated with a combined 88 percent of the vote.

Conservative voters were split in this by-election, but Mr. Panda’s win will give the Wildrose Party potent ammunition to argue that the old PC Party is not a viable conservative alternative to the NDP in the three and a half years leading up to the next general election. The by-election results do suggest that in Calgary, the mostly rural based Wildrosers could still have some hard work ahead of them, as the PC Party is at the very least “still standing.”

The Wildrose caucus will now grow from 21 to 22 MLAs, making it the largest official opposition since the Liberals had 31 MLAs in the early-1990s. The PCs have 9 MLAs in the Legislature.

Here are the unofficial results from the September 3, 2015 by-election (66/66 polls reporting):

Prasad Panda, Wildrose: 4,877 (38.3%)
Bob Hawkesworth, NDP: 3,270 (25.7%)
Blair Houston, PC: 2,7,46 (21.5%)
Ali Bin Zahid, Liberal:  791 (6.2%)
Mark Taylor, Alberta Party: 610 (4.8%)
Janet Keeping, Green: 377 (2.9%)
Antoni Grochowski, Independent: 46 (0.36%)

15 thoughts on “Wildrose win Calgary-Foothills by-election, NDP hold on to ‘Orange Chinook’ support

  1. Ed

    Roughly 600 votes more and NDP would have clinched it, so not a major WRP win, just a win of a few %. So I guess WRP calling people communists is what Calgarians, at least in this riding, like to hear… sad…

    Reply
  2. Gary Feltham

    Even with a big-name candidate the NDP’s share of the popular vote declined by 6% and the WR won by a margin of 12%. The results support the theory that the NDP is an “accidental government.”

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  3. Travis

    Actually, Dave your Orange Chinook is a misnomer since the NDP results are consistent with the 1973, 1986 and 1989 Calgary-Foothills elections. popular vote and percent wise.

    There has always been a 20%ish NDP constituency there, weather they come out or not.

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  4. Watson Smith

    @Gary

    I think it more supports the fact that so far the NDP have done nothing, proved nothing and realistically are still on the exact same path the PCs were on. This result does nothing to change the dynamic but it is a bit of wake-up and do something to the party in power.

    We all get it, it takes time to learn the job and figure out how to deal with the direction government was headed in under the PCs but a government cannot sit on the sidelines while the economy of the Province turns to jello and expect it to “all be okay”. So far the only action they’ve started is Andrew Leach. He’s a great, smart, well though out guy but he cannot be the only thing a government does.

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  5. Jerrymacgp

    I think the PC vote there reflects their hard-core base, those that will continue to vote PC until there is no such party. The NDP vote increase from the 2014 by-election is probably more progressive voters, some likely being former “Red Tory” PC supporters, shifting their votes to the NDP instead of to the more right-wing Wildrose, while bluer Tories shift their votes to WR.

    The political ground in Alberta is shifting, IMHO, and I think we will soon see a new status quo emerge: a more competitive political culture, with the NDP & Wildrose squaring off against each other, but without the one-party dominance that has been the pattern here until now, while the PCs, Liberals and all the rest dwindle off into irrelevance.

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  6. Jim Storrie

    Dave, why do you suppose the NDP put so much weight into this race? It seemed like an odd strategic decision to me. Were there campaign funds that had to be spent now or never? Why not just save those resources for a competitive race?

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  7. Dave Cournoyer Post author

    Jim – I imagine it was a strategic decision made with the belief they could win in Calgary-Foothills. If all their resources could muster was 25%, it may have been lower if they hadn’t run a concentrated campaign. Placing second is still losing but it would be actual worse news for the NDP if they had placed a distant third behind the PC and Wildrose candidates.

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  8. Maria

    This is the definition of communism.

    – system of social organization based on the holding of all property in common, actual ownership being ascribed to the community as a whole or to the state.

    – a system of social organization in which all economic and social activity is controlled by a totalitarian state dominated by a single and self-perpetuating political party.

    Seems to me that this represents the conservatives……… economic activity is controlled by a single self-perpetuating party for the benefits of their friends but certainly not in the interest of the people.

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  9. Mark Hambridge

    Another picture of the sorry state of ‘democracy’ in this province (and Canada), when so much weight is ascribed to an election where only 39.48% of the electorate showed up to vote, and the ‘winner’ obtained only 38.35% of the vote.

    It is past time we had a fair voting system, like most modern democracies, where every vote counts to elect our legislators and people are actually encouraged to vote since they can cast an effective vote FOR a candidate they want, not waste a vote against the candidates they don’t want!

    Reply
  10. David Grant

    I agree with both Daves , Cournoyer and Climenhaga, about this particular election. While the NDP lost , they have fared better here than in both the by-election in 2014 and 2015. While the Wildrose won, they didn’t exactly win in a landslide and Tories did a pretty given their most recent losses. The Liberals, Alberta and Green Parties, had the most dismal showing and political analysts will be examining in the future. I don’t this results means very much as political parties can win by-elections and yet it doesn’t really reflect their political future. The federal Conservatives and Liberals have actually won a lot of by-elections in the past few years and yet both neither party is ahead in any polls that I have seen. The federal NDP which hasn’t won any federal by-elections is in the lead. That is something to think when looking at this by-election or any other by-election.

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  11. Raj

    “Another picture of the sorry state of ‘democracy’ in this province (and Canada), when so much weight is ascribed to an election where only 39.48% of the electorate showed up to vote, and the ‘winner’ obtained only 38.35% of the vote.”

    This analysis is nonsensical. This riding is picking an MLA for the third time in less than a calendar year, and the entire campaign was overlapped by a federal campaign. This is an impressive turnout given those circumstances. In terms of the percent vote the winner received–if we had a two party system like the states, the winner would have had 50%+. Would that actually be better in any meaningful way?

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  12. Michael Hynes

    1778 votes combined for Liberals, Alberta party and Greens.
    If they all had voted NDP, the NDP would have taken this. Now there is absolutely no reason why all so-called progressive voters should vote strategically to keep out Wild Rose and/or PC candidates, especially in a by-election. But it does indicate that the vote to the left of the PCs is not united, and that the NDP should really invest time and energy in wooing Liberal/Green/Alberta Party votes, as well as left leaning PCs, if they want to have the slightest chance of staying in power.
    Of course the combined PC/WR vote is much bigger than all those 4 parties combined. But one must assume the PCs will continue to be a distinct part and get significant votes from a hard core of voters for a while yet.

    Reply
  13. George

    The Wildrose Party is a fierce opposition but they would be a lousy government. All they want to do is fire teachers and nurses. Alberta would be a wasteland with Wildrose in government.

    Reply

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