Alberta Politics

Progressives need a crash course in basic electoral math, writes MLA.

Kent Hehr MLA Calgary-Buffalo
Kent Hehr

By Kent Hehr

Like many progressives, I watched the Calgary Centre by-election with great interest. Although I was hopeful that one of three outstanding candidates who represented the center/center-left side of the spectrum would win, Joan Crockett’s victory for the federal Conservatives was not surprising. Like Bill Clinton said at the Democratic National Convention describing how to balance budgets, “it’s math”.

Progressive candidates representing the Liberals, NDP, and Greens garnered 60% of the total cast vote. As a result of that 60% being split among three parties in our first past the post system, the provincial Wildrose supporter (Ms. Crockett) carried the day. The result was predictable in that vote splitting amongst the progressives ensured a conservative victory. It’s math!

While this result was predictable, was it necessary? I’m not too sure. Having followed the race and personally knowing and holding a great deal of respect for the three progressive candidates, it is my view that other than the political banner they ran under, there was little to no difference in their core beliefs. Put Harvey Locke, Chris Turner and Dan Meades in a room together and you’d see the value system that compelled them to run in this by-election is the same: they are fiscally responsible, socially progressive individuals with a deep concern for environmental sustainability. Having attended one of the debates, it appeared to me they were all singing from the same song sheet. Although they represented different political brands, it was a distinction without a difference.

As a provincial politician committed to many of the same progressive principles as the three above-noted candidates, what did I learn from this? Well, I think I’ve learned basic math. The center/center-left in this province will not form government until we are in one big tent party. At this moment in time, and objectively looking at the provincial platforms of the progressive parties, we are for all intents and purposes also a distinction without a difference.

In the last election the NDP, Liberals, Greens and Alberta Party agreed on policy 95% of the time. We should all be together in one big tent; there is less difference between all of our political parties than there is between the different wings of the PC government.

What keeps us apart is rugged tribalism that leads to infighting between us and keeps our guns pointed squarely at each other instead of focusing our fire on the right-wing in this province. We tend to identify with our brands and not necessarily the values that we share. Let me be the first to say, I’m putting down my gun, and am open to all conversations with no preconditions. We need to figure out how we can come together in a big tent party. Otherwise, we are wasting our time. It’s math.


Kent Hehr is the MLA for Calgary-Buffalo, Deputy Leader of Alberta Liberal Caucus and critic for Education and Energy. He was elected to the Legislature in 2008 and was re-elected in 2012. Before entering politics, he practiced law with Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP in Calgary. You can follow him on Twitter at @kenthehr.

81 replies on “Progressives need a crash course in basic electoral math, writes MLA.”

Funny how the centre-left attacks each other in the vote split. 70.6% of the eligible voters decided to stay home and not cast a vote. Pretty simple math…engage the 70% and win. I guess the option of whining about vote splitting will work too, it has for how many years now? Oh yeah, none.

Derrick nailed it. The plurality (and in this case the vast majority) is the non voter. Green and NDP votes do not belong to the Liberals (and vice-versa),nthey belong to the voters.

Mr Hehr establishes his capacity at arithmetic with this comment but does appear to lack an understanding of the feelings of people, the distrust, the lack of engagment…it is a simple argument and does ail the test of real political life

While I appreciate what Hehr is saying, the problem is not the 60% that split the progressive vote. The problem is the 40% that voted for the Cons!

Of course no party owns votes – and I don’t see Kent suggesting any party does.

But let’s face it. If two organizations believe the same thing, it’s going to dilute the chances of their value system being implemented for no real reason except brand and personality do. If four parties are splitting votes, dollars, and volunteers, it’s a catastrophe.

Yes, the system is imperfect. But you’re not going to change it without being in power – and by the time you get there you won’t want to.

Yes, the majority of people stay home. But suggesting they stay home because they’re dissatisfied and that full turnout would result in a different result is a pipe dream. Every bit of information we have suggests they’d cast their ballots in the same ratios as those who do vote.

Yes, there is mistrust and bad history between parties. But that’s not a counter argument. That’s an argument FOR the need to build trust, to “put down our guns”.

So the real question is this? Are we so different? If you think so great – fine. But my counter argument would be this:

I completely agree with Kent, and congratulate him for his bravery in coming forward. Few politicians leave the comfort of the tribal fort, where they park their brains at the front door. As for David’s comment about Kent’s alleged lack of understanding of people’s feelings, why do you think that people would be impressed by the existence of a plethora of parties saying much the same stuff and then trying to gain advantage by petty partisan and personal attacks? In Norway, a pre-electoral coalition (not a merger) on the left, two elections back, which committed three parties to work together to implement a progressive program created not by the parties but by a vast coalition of civil society groups increased the progressive vote from 40 to 60 percent. I think that Canadians and even Albertans would prefer to vote for a coalition with a chance of governing rather than having to choose among several squabbling groupuscules with no chance of implementing anything.

Here’s an example of how “only my party can have the truth” works. At the fall NDP convention, the Calder constituency organization moved that the NDP reject any coalition with other parties in the next provincial election. One might expect that the Calderites believe that the NDP has demonstrated that it is the most progressive party in the province, and therefore has nothing in common with the rest. NOT EXACTLY. In another resolution, Calder observes:

“Whereas the Alberta Liberal party was able to promote a more progressive platform than the Alberta NDP in some areas such as tuition elimination, home care funding, and progressive taxation

“Be it resolved that the Alberta New Democrats commit to respond to shifts in political dialogue raised by other movements such as Occupy Wall Street with an aim to always move the party towards greater equality and to remain the strongest progressive voice in the province.”

In plain English, the NDP moved significantly to the right to avoid having to work with other parties to win over centrist voters. They actually moved to the right of the Liberals on key issues such as taxation.

In what way does Kent “appear to lack an understanding of the feelings of people, the distrust, the lack of agreement”?

I believe you are erroneously talking about
the distrust and EGOS of INSIDER party elites who stand rigid guard, like statues, against any new thinking and change that might diminish their OWN internal powerhouse situations. Let’s be clear here. You are not speaking to average centre-left voters who want to see flexibility and change in government, that is certain, you are speaking to your own small inner political circle.

Pull your head out of the clouds and, as Kent says, “Do the math.” You do progressive Canadians absolutely no favour whatsoever with your outdated, moribund, rigidly narrow partisan thinking. Please give this some serious thought.

Successful parties know how to cooperate with like-minded others in order to work together and win. This is one thing federal Conservatives–whether they be Reformers, or Blue or Red Tories, whatever they previously voted–are truly smart about and NEVER forget. And that’s why they keep winning.

Yeah, anyone who thinks that engaging the 70% of people who don’t vote is going to make a difference is not paying attention to the fact that polling firms can guess what the 30% who do vote are going to vote for on the basis of a poll of less than 1% of the voters.

And amalgamating all of the parties on one side of the political spectrum is like embracing pain relievers as the solution for hitting yourself in the head with a hammer. There are electoral systems, unlike ours, that do not cause vote-splitting. The vast majority of modern democracies use them. We could too.

I am glad to see Kent’s changed his views on this. These types of changes are long overdue for our provincial and national electoral systems.

Andrew Coyne nailed it in a recent column about the byelections:

We could still keep our parties but have a proportional representation system. Makes sense to me. I would be happy with an anything-but-Conservative (or Wildrose) option.

Unless the Liberals support Proportional Representation, or some form of electoral reform – the NDP and Greens will be joining together without the Liberals. If a nomination campaign had taken place previous to the election, one of the three candidates might have been chosen – but under what banner? The banner of the winning nominee? Had Harvey Locke been chosen and run under the banner of the Liberals he would not have won simply on the basis of the two comments made by members of his party during the last week of the by-election. The target is now 2015 in Calgary Centre. The nomination process should be organized now. The only candidate that was free to accept and discard policy from other parties was Chris Turner. Dan Meades would have had to follow party lines as a member of the opposition, and Harvey Locke seemed interested in building the Liberal Party at the expense of the tax-payer. Harvey, for as much as I admire his work and experience, was unwilling to accept being corrected on this point. The only way this would have worked would have been to have a “progressives” nomination meeting well in advance so that the opposition can be struck against the Conservatives who are in the best advantage to win elections right now because of our outdated colonial inheritance: the first past the pole system. The Liberals have yet to mention changing our electoral system so why would anyone join in a pact with them? The weakest candidate won based upon the party, not on the candidate, a mistake the electorate made, not the candidates. If the candidates made a mistake in the Calgary Centre election it was that they did not get their message out. Few came to the polls, which is really more of a reflection of the Conservatives and Lee Richardson’s previous work. It would appear that the voters were pleased with what they had. Crockatt was simply kind of the turnkey candidate for the position.

This greenish AB Party Member and past NDP and Lib voter loves what Hehr wrote. I would love to help him succeed in his vision.

Nubanta, I think Kent is calling for something more than cooperation. But FWIW the provincial Liberals had instant runoff (STV) voting in their last election platform.

Alvin, thanks for your comment.

It’s quite the idea, that we the people might be able to use other groups to form a pre-electoral coalition, where we select legitimate progressive contenders for voters to use as a guide, rather than waiting for the parties to get their heads around co-operation. The problem with any plan where the parties don’t come on board, is that it leaves too many options on the ballots for low-information voters, and statistically as many or more votes will go to each option as the non-serious independent and fringe party choices.

Nubanta, I’d suggest including the Liberals because I see the election fraud that the Conservatives engaged in, and Contempt of Parliament as two paramount democratic problems that eclipse even the Liberals’ love of FPTP. The Liberals at least don’t work with omnibus bills, and record levels of off-the-record committee meetings.

Kent’s theory may contain some logic at the federal level where you have essentially a three-party system. Its fruition would be a bi-polar system like BC’s, highly acrimonious to say the least.

But in Alberta’s four-party system, as soon as the Libs and the NDs merged (provided Thomas Mulcair allowed his provincial wing to do so), and regardless of what the new party was called, the Tories would spend wads of cash to welcome the ‘New Alberta Socialist Party’ to the scene. Over months and years, the newly-merged party would be so thoroughly labelled ‘socialist’ that it could never crawl out from under that image.

On top of that, it would be so mired in its own likely-vicious “us-against-them” internal leadership battle that it would be months, if ever, that it could heal and congeal, find its new brand, and begin to sell it to the people.

The only clear winner of Kent’s strategy, in Alberta, would be Alison Redford and the Tories, who would end up being the party in the middle – to quote the future Tory messaging – ‘between the loonie right and the socialist left’.

What is a “progressive”? I hear an awful lot of talk about these people, but I’m not sure anyone can say what a progressive really is.

Must all progressives support same-sex marriage, a woman’s right to choose, doctor-assisted suicide, and the irresponsible legalization of harmful narcotics? What if I support the first two and oppose the latter two? Does this no longer qualify me as a progressive, leaving me branded a conservative?

There are plenty of points of contention among “progressives”. Let’s stop chasing an imaginary demographic and start going after actual Albertan voters, maybe?

No, what keeps us apart is not just tribalism but an antiquated electoral system, first past the post, that is holding our votes and our democracy back.
Change that or get rid of political parties(the tribes).

Very good post.I’m teaching a course in government and politics at a small college here in Ontario. I’m afraid the experience has me giving up on the non-voters. While the idea of inspiring non-voters to vote in masses is appealing, it’s also a pipe dream. We might drive voting rates up a few percentage points over a specific issue, but I don’t think it will make a big difference. The only solution is what Kent speaks about. Give voters stark choices. As a former Liberal candidate, I actually think that uniting the left will help with voter turnout. Lots of people told me they couldn’t bother voting because they know they saw the result as a foregone conclusion.

I think there are too many good ideas to include in a single centre/left party. We need the diversity of multiple parties — but we also need proportional representation so they can all be heard.

I think the way there is via cooperation, but not as one big party. Two ideas:

a) A one-election-only join nomination process (primaries) for centre/left candidates. The winner of that process/primary goes on to the real election.

b) All of them run but with a public beginning-of-the-election pledge to jointly take a poll one week before election day. Anyone more than 5% behind the leader in that poll pledges to drop out of the race and encourage their supporters to vote for their next best alternative. The “leader” is only with respect to the centre/left candidates, obviously.

Kent, my friend, although i agree with some of your premises, i heartily disagree with your conclusion. There are longstanding and significant differences between the “progressive” parties. I needn’t go into them here. The principle issue is not vote splitting among centre-left parties, it is the chronic voter apathy we are witness to. 70% of the electorate stayed home. This is precisely what the poison ivy party and regressive conservatives are counting on. There is lots of room for growth on the progressive side of the spectrum in Alberta.

Joel Klein, good point about the PCs. Coyne says we should overlook the differences now so as to gain electoral reform. OK, I’ll side with Liberals as long as they go along with the plan.

At the federal level, it’s going to hard to join with the likes of Joyce Murray whom I’ve had a personal experience with and was amazed at how ungracious a politician she is. Same goes for Hedi Fry. As for Harvey Locke I can still be convinced because at least he’s an Alberta Liberal, same for Hehr – yes, very good people. I worry though that a union with the Libs would backfire down the road. Meaning, the Liberals might do something to undermine the plan if they gained power because they seem so bent on entitlement to power. I guess I still don’t trust the Federal Liberals.

Corey Hogan, I didn’t know the Alberta Libs used STV to gain a leader; I still see the Alberta Liberals as very different than the federal Liberals. It wasn’t always like that in Alberta – 20 or more years ago the Alberta Liberals were very much like the Federal Liberals, so things have changed.

David Swann should really be running as a Green. Sherman is doing very good service to Alberta – I don’t see any of this at the Federal level. (Joyce Murray is running for the Federal Liberal leader position and is suggesting a cooperative union to defeat the Conservatives ). I make a distinction – the Alberta provincial liberals are great, the feds – not so much.

A number of people have pointed out that PR or some other electoral reform, not a coalition or merger of progressives, is the answer. That’s fine, but it begs the question: how can you get electoral reform unless you elect a government that is committed to it? The Tories will not consider electoral reform of any kind for the simple reason that they are not insane: it would wreck their chances of forming far-right governments in the future, at least federally, since it will become impossible to govern without having 50 percent of the votes of Canadians. To become a party that could coalesce with other parties, they’d have to go back to Red Tory days of the 1960s and 1970s. Even trying to persuade Harper to do this is a big waste of time.

None of the parties can be trusted on the electoral reform issue. The federal NDP is committed in theory to PR, but Tom Mulcair is not enthusiastic about it; he stresses that the provinces and the Senate would have to be on board, which I interpret as ‘I like the current system just fine’. No provincial NDP government has had a referendum on PR or other electoral reforms; only Liberal governments have had such referenda. The point is that the parties would have to commit themselves to electoral reform or at least to a referendum on an electoral reform measure, preferably PR, for a coalition to work. Or they could go the direction that Kent suggests and just merge. Everybody said that the right would take years to make their merger work. In fact it worked overnight.

Federally, the Liberals have been in government for the vast majority of Canada’s history. Given this long history, when unchallenged majorities gave them room to implement electoral reform, but (aside from political financing reform) they did nothing, it’s pretty rich to hear Liberal leadership candidates muse about proportional representation. Jean Chretien & Paul Martin had lots of time & opportunity to bring in PR, but they did nothing. They could have had a “come hell or high water” moment on this file, but they didn’t.

Jerry’s right on this. A party elected to power isn’t likely going to change the system that got them elected into power. The call for electoral change is the anthem of the losing parties.
As far as that whole “the majority didn’t vote for the winner” thing goes, that’s more the norm than the exception. It’s all part of having more than two parties in an election. If you look at the Elections Canada records for federal elections over the past 60 years, only two PMs ever lead governments that earned a true majority of the vote…and Trudeau wasn’t one of them.

If the non-Conservative parties just merge, it leaves us with a 2 party state, and we know what disaster awaits us, if we follow US politics. Voters need more serious options, not fewer, and the only way to get that is through PR or at least a ranked ballot.

The Conservatives are a merged coalition, and the result is that honest conservative voters have no party to put their vote toward if they want a conservative option that can win. I don’t want to see the same disaster unfold for the left, just to win power from the right.

Ok, guys great ideas. Now its time to fold the ND’s tear up those memberships, and time for Alberta Party Folks to join the Liberals. ND’s and AP are the vote splitters so either they are for giving the PCs more power or they are for a unified and coalesced progressie center, or they are in bed with tories. Make up your mind folks, a an ND or AP vote is a Tory PC vote. If you are progressive and not backing a strong progressive united center under the Liberals, you are time wasting vite splitters helping the Tories win. Some of you need tocome clean and declare yourselves, if this is in fact what you are really actually doing, pretending to be progressives, but actually trojan horsed Tory enablers? They are easily spotted thise that encourage vote splitting and irrationally encourage others to follow vote splitting experiments. Kent is right, its simple math, dippers and AP need to debadge, rip up their memberships and unify, coalesce and rebrand their mission under a liberal brand. To do anything else is to help a Tory win. There can really be no other rational explanation for those ignoring numbers.

I thought I would share a letter I wrote to the 4 NDP MLA’s discussing co-operation.

Dear Mr. Mason, Mr. Eggen, Ms Notley, Mr. Bilous

Congratulations! Thank you for all of your hard work not only during this past election, but for all of your years of service fighting on behalf of ordinary Albertans.

I write to you today to express my grave concern about continuing on our current path. As a former NDP candidate in Edmonton Mill Creek (2008), as well as a journeyman union millwright (local 1460) and a high school teacher (ATA local 14), I realize firsthand the uphill battle we as progressives face in Alberta. However with the current rise of the Wildrose party and their extreme conservative views, I feel that now is the time to change our strategy. I know that we as New Democrats will never give up our principles; nor would I ever want us to. However it just no longer makes sense to have two left-of-centre parties fighting one another for a handful of winnable ridings against two very strong conservative parties. We have fought and continue to fight to first reclaim and then extend the successes of the 1986 and 1989 elections, when we won 16 seats. We have had little success. I have been heavily involved both as a candidate as well as a volunteer hitting the doors for the past 3 elections, and unfortunately all of our hard work has only resulted in winning 2-4 seats, and fighting tooth and nail to attain party status. The changing of the boundaries in the past few years has also made it almost impossible for further gains to be made if we continue the same strategy.

I feel that the biggest problem facing any gain for progressives in Alberta is our stubbornness and our unquestioning allegiance to party names. I myself am guilty of this and have often stated “I am a lifelong New Democrat”. While I understand that branding is important, I feel that many of us have lost sight of our most important goal, that is, pushing for our ideals to be translated into laws and fighting for our underlying principles, which we believe are in the interests of ordinary Albertans. After the 2008 election I fought against the proposals of the Democratic Renewal Project/Change Alberta and I continue to feel that their notions of a pre-electoral coalition and/or strategic voting do not offer the answer for Alberta progressives. Neither of those approaches give confidence to voters that progressives in Alberta are united behind a single vision or a single platform even for one term of government, much less over the long term. They are an evasion of our problems, rather than a real solution.

After the 2008 election I was, in any case, dead set against any alliance of New Democrats with the Liberal party as they were much stronger and had many more seats than the NDP. I felt that any merger or even coalition would just see the NDP absorbed into the Liberal party and that NDP principles and programs would potentially be heavily watered down.

However, times have changed; therefore we must change in hopes of greater success. The Liberals and the NDP had virtually the same vote in the 2012 provincial election, and with the Liberals winning 5 seats to 4 for the NDP, it is fair to say that these two parties now carry equal weight in Alberta. It is time to open our minds and hearts to uniting the left of center, recognizing that New Democrats will be equals in such negotiations . This I realize is more difficult than it sounds and will require great strength and leadership to ensure we do not lose the values and principles we have all fought so adamantly for. That fear however should not stop us from exploring the creation of a united centre-left party for Alberta, since we need to fear the continued success of conservatives and the implications for the lives of ordinary Albertans every bit as much as we have to fear the possibility that a marriage of Liberalism and social democracy in Alberta might produce a party that is less vigilant in its defence of ordinary Albertans than the Alberta NDP. After all, if the NDP can never come to power in Alberta in its own name, it can’t give life to its principles in the legislation that governs Albertans, and it is giving life to our principles, rather than protecting our name, that must always motivate us.

I propose that we openly extend an invitation to the Alberta Liberals as well as all progressives in Alberta to meet to discuss an alliance. For this alliance to have any chance of success we would have to abandon all party names that evoke our federal parties. I often liken our marriage to party names as cheering for our home town hockey team. Many Edmontonians disdain the Calgary Flames and Calgarians return the favour with regards to the Oilers, even though few players either team is an Edmontonian or Calgarian. If the two teams traded all their players to each other, almost all fans would continue wearing their same jerseys, and chanting the same chants, even though the only constant would be a name. This may be a simplistic analogy. But, just as the two cities of Calgary and Edmonton are not so different as their residents might like to pretend, the Alberta Liberal and New Democratic parties have both evolved over time in ways that mean the core values of both parties are much the same. The two parties seem more and more similar than ever with the introduction of yet another right-of-centre party that decries the idea that the state in Alberta should exist to do more than allow big businesses to make huge profits while workers, farmers, seniors, youth, Aboriginal people, and the poor are left with fewer protections all the time. Yet until now neither party has been willing to give up their name in an effort to combine efforts to push forward our common goals. I realize that a great deal of history is involved with the NDP name and the ties with the CCF and Tommy Douglas, Jack Layton etc. However we will not abandon these great historical figures and accomplishments, simply by changing a name. In fact we will be honouring them by being better able to carry on their ideals. There is no doubt giving up a name will be difficult for many, and it may seem to some an abandonment of principles and history, and possibly an admission of defeat. However with strong leadership I feel we can overcome this. We simply must, since our other options simply leave us as beautiful losers who cannot do much to help Albertans overcome the sickening might of the conservative parties with their overwhelming support from big business and the monopoly media. I and many other New Democrats are frustrated with continuing to fight election after election for the same result; I believe this is the definition of insanity.

I feel that the NDP brand and the ties to the federal party in Alberta hold us back. I think we all had great hopes this election after the success we saw with the federal NDP and Jack Layton in 2011, as well as the recent leadership convention and subsequent paid advertising. Although I feel this contributed to drawing many outstanding candidates to run under the NDP banner, it did not have the effect we all had hoped for on Election Day in the province. If our ties with the federal party did not contribute appreciably to our performance in the 2012 provincial election, will they ever?

Similarly, the Alberta Liberal ties to their federal party have not helped them; they also stand to benefit from dropping a name that ties them in the provincial mind to a federal party, even though they claim a separation of their provincial and federal wings. In Alberta, even after more than three decades, I still hear often at the doorstep about Trudeau and the disastrous NEP, sometimes from people who were not alive at the time. Also their recent federal collapse certainly did not help them provincially.

Basically being tied to the ups and downs of the federal parties is not helping either party. The two conservative parties, neither of which bears the name of the federal Conservative Party, have managed to create among Albertans the view that they are distinctly Albertan parties even if first one, then the other, has had support from the federal Conservatives. Yet, in provincial elections, the NDP and the Liberals are simply unable, by virtue of their names, to appear to be real Alberta parties as opposed to the local puppets of national organizations that Albertans, rightly or wrongly, have chosen generally to shun.

Now is the time to unite under a completely different banner. A name such as New Liberals or Democratic Liberals will not do. We need to cut all ties to the federal names in order to ensure that people don’t feel as though they are betraying any party, or joining an existing one. I feel that if this happened, not only would we be able to retain all votes from both camps, we would also be seen as a more viable party. The new party would almost certainly win back a great deal of support from the PC camp from those who were so scared of a WRP government that they set their true ideals aside when they voted this year. We do not need to change our message. That is not the problem. Nor should we have to sacrifice our ideals or principles. Under the same banner we would have a stronger voice, a clearly Albertan voice. We would be presenting Albertans with a socially progressive party that they can view as having a viable chance of forming government. To change nothing will result in the same outcome election after election. Frankly I am greatly concerned when I contemplate the likelihood of a future Alberta ruled by the Wildrose Party and with only a handful of progressives, NDP and Liberal, opposing them in the legislature. We know that many, and probably a majority, of Albertans would vote for a united made-in-Alberta party of progressive-minded Albertans. Why should we not lead a negotiation to provide them with the possibility of electing such a party? The worst that can happen is that we fail to produce an agreement among progressives that New Democrats can view as an affirmation of our social democratic philosophy and goals. That would leave us where we are, but no further behind for having tried to create something better. Since that something better has a chance of rekindling interest in politics among Albertans, especially disenchanted young people, why would we not take the approach of statesmen and stateswomen as opposed to simply partisans? There is so much to be gained for Albertans in our leading such a bold attempt at unity of centre-left forces.

I appreciate your time and truly appreciate all of your hard work.

Thank You

Your brother in solidarity,

Stephen Anderson

Edmonton Mill-Creek Constituency President


I wanted to address this at convention, but as the resolution was not brought up, I never had the opportunity.

We’ve been debating this sort of strategy for years, and the most informed conclusion I’ve been able to come to is that this sort of analysis that we can simply add votes from different parties together is deeply flawed. That’s putting aside the policy issues (including history of policy, eg. the massive Liberal cuts to health transfers in the 90s). Here is an analysis of the non-compete plan Nathan Cullen proposed during the NDP leadership race by one of the best-informed pundits out there. Most, if not all, of the points made in this post can be directly applied to Mr. Hehr’s ideas. Cheers.

It’s no doubt that Harper’s biggest coup was to take over (I refuse to call it an amalgamation) of the Progressive Conservative Party.
The old guard Tories now have no home and can’t resurrect themselves.
The old way the majority will ever form government again is for there to be a Proportional Representative electoral system. But every time there is a referendum, those who do well under the current system scare the pants off the electorate.
Also, what is so bad about parties having similar policies if those policies are god ones?

@Stephen Anderson, horrible idea. Water down all political camps to make them so nutless that that Pee C’s get another free ride. Cutting off ties to all Fed Parties, an even worse idea, it will only disenfranchise and marginalize parties and voters even more.

We have to remember, this is all not necessarily just unification of all forces from just left of center to just right of center, its also about co-operating on a much deeper level to challenge and hold accountable the ruling oligarchs and corporatocracy and bureacracy. On those three items, there must be a concerted and vociferous co-operation to restore democracy and even solicit floor crossings from some of the Tories at the right time. WR, Libs and ND’s all need to co-operate to hold the oligarchs, corporatocracy and bureaucracy accountable to the people. That is what will strengthen voter’s support. At the end of the day, its just not about making parties stronger, its about providing a better democracy. All opposition parties should remember that, especially withing the context of co-operation.

I find it rather disturbing yet interesting that Stephen Anderson actually refers to the Wildrose is an extreme conservative party in his letter. I was under the impression that using the word “extreme” to describe the Wildrose was just a scare tactic used by the other parties (Wildrose in reality doesn’t have a single “extreme” policy in their book), but now it appears the left actually is starting to believe their own propaganda. Very interesting.

Wild Rose is extreme. I would invite those who think otherwise to read their policy documents on their site. Though this well funded party employs people who can disguise American Republican policies in polite verbiage, when you cut through the code language you get:
–more private health care;
–more for-profit seniors’ healthcare;
–vouchers for education that can be used to build private education;
–no recognition of climate change as an issue;
–no recognition of poverty as an issue;
–reduced standards for daycare operators;
–the continued mythology that the proposed minor increases in energy royalties proposed by the Stelmach regime (and endorse by voters in 2008) constituted “disastrous royalty changes that drove tens of billions in investment and tens of thousands of jobs out of the province.”

Corey, Kent today’s paper, your idea has been shot down by Brian, David and Raj. You guys simply need to grow up a little bit. Because watering down the entire progressive spectrum will serve to only help the tories, unless that is the actual goal in mind.

If you two had any sense whatso ever, you would instead be trying to get dissaffected PC’rs and supporters to defect to the left and right.

Sorry, Cory and Kent, you two just made huge and massive political boo boos and just showed how rookey and misguided you guys really are. Firstly, you just showed a lack of judgement and you also showed a disdain and disloyalty for all of the supporters of the Liberal Party as well as Party brass. Believe it, or not, in the minds of many, you just did huge damage to yourself and your reputations.

Merging and watering down the progressives is the absolute stupidest idea ever heard. If any thing, if anything you two, if you really were trying to help progressives, you would be encouraging left and right minded PC’s supporters to defect to the Liberals and Wildrose. One has to really wonder, what the true intent is behind this cock brained idea really is.

Merging The progressives, oohhh…that will be such a huge politcal threat, instead of 4 and 5 seats, we will have a megacaucus of 9 progressives! I bet those amalagamated 9 progressives will just annhilate and vote out any bills being shoved through by the P See’s.

Its not too hard to figure it out, once you see where the idea was concocted. The question is, was this idea concocted in the P See party? The question is also, how much are the concocters of the idea, willing to pay to operative$ to execute and sell the idea? Would either of you know anything about this, just asking?

How about you Dave Berta? Any thoughts? Is this just another form of a vote splitting experiment, like the Alberta Party?

From far away, almost any outsider with half a brain can see where this is all coming from. Any outsider with a half brain would have instead decided its far better to stay the course and encourage right and left floor crossing from dissaffected Tories. Anything else, is just serving to help the Tories.

Extreme: far from moderate, especially in politics; very severe or serious; furthest from the centre.

Just responding to your first point, an increase in private health care would increase the balance between public and private health in the province, thereby making it more moderate (and likely increasing the net quality of care in the province through competition). A public monopoly of health care is, by the definition of extreme, extreme. The Wildrose, according to the very definition of the word/concept “extreme”, has the most moderate health care policy in the province. Unless of course you define “extreme” as anything deviating form the norm, in which case you’re EXTREMEly closed minded, IMO.

The refusal of other parties to condone increased private health care in the province is in reality exemplary of extreme policy. Similar pure logic and neutral interpretation of the Wildrose policy book inevitably will be able to prove the same for the rest of your points.

Hey Corey, Kent, have YOU guys done any math lately? Uniting a caucus of 4 and 5 seats = 9. I guess, in Corey and Ken’ts world a juggernaut progressive caucus of 9 will just blow the Tories out of the water, won’t it, even uniting the supporters, in some dreamland, if that was possible, it won’t even put the slightest scratch in politically challenging the Tories. There can be only one of two reasons for this hair brained idea. Either you guys can’t do math, or somebody in the Tory camp put somebody up to this idea.

This DOES NOT increase ANY threat to the P See’s, whatso ever! In the opinion so of many people’s minds, you guys just are showing that you really don’t have a good understanding of the political process and are possibly not serving the interests of any of the left leaning parties, but actually serving the interests of the Tory Partys and this an opinion that would easily explain any of this.

Like it was said before, a smart tactition would have said, let’s steal the progressives from the Tory party and have the Wildrose bleed off the puritan big C conservatives from the tories, but curiously something that sensible has not been uttered from either of you.

Does anybody remember the story of Benedict Arnold, or the guy off of the movie “300” who sold out King Leonidas? Does anybody see any parallels?

Progressive Party leaders (not including the Tories) need to keep a watch on their back doors. Its quite apparent, a rat or two are leaving doors open to let more rats in. People appearing as helpers or friends may not be appearing in their true form.

Even Rick Newcombe, WR member posted a scathing rebuke of uniting the Liberals and ND’s in the major paper. He asks how can you unite the two smaller progressive parties, being so numerically outgunned and expect to take on the progressives in the PC party. A beyond horribly bad idea.

I agree, Rick, anybody suggesting such horrible ideas are not destined to lead a popsicle stand.

So, as a general rule, if you don’t attach a real name to a comment I’m probably not going to take you too seriously. But the nine seat thing is kind of the point, Political Watcher.

If you were to add the raw votes together the joint entity wouldn’t have nine seats, it would have about as many as the Wildrose. The combined entity could have been the official opposition. Perhaps it could have been seen as a legitimate contender for government.

I’m happy to talk to anybody about my stance and opinions at any time. Just drop me an email at – it’s not about disloyalty to any leader, it’s about loyalty to progressive Albertans, and the trust they put in us to get the job done.

Alex, r u sniffing paint? Glue, or both?. A mixed system works well in Europe, but its downright dangerous and endangers the lives of Rural Albertans and even Urban ones, and serves only the Richer Albertans. In Europe, there is huge population density and the countries have smaller land mass and there is an oversupply of Dr’s, especially primary, relative to the population.

So clearly, you understand, its makes complete sense for a mixed system, once you have met the supply demand for the public system and even an over supply, then those oversupply Doctors should be free to compete in a private system, because at point, you do not jeapardize the public system, because you are not bleeding off public primary care Dr.s and not jeapardizing public accessiblity.

Now in Alberta, you bring in private, you can bet your bottom dollar, Dr.s primary and specialists, will have NO incentive to goto rural communities, as there is little to do in terms of fun and services and recreation, compared to the city. This attrition of physicians from rural centeres to Urban centers, attracted by the Lure of lucrative private work, will hugely decrease accessbility for rural citizens and in fact create queues in the public system in the Urban centers.

You will have a profit driven system, where the onus will be to make profit, NOT provide a public service. Coupled with further deregulation, you will in no time, bring about two tiered healthcare. I don’t know any political party that will take the blame for Albertans dying on the front steps of the ER or the ambulance to get care.

We already have huge waiting queues in the ER, a mixed system will make it far worse. In any reasonable, rational, thinking man’s mind, a mixed system in an undersupplied, geographically expansive and sparsely populated province like Alberta, will create an extreme situation of dire need for many Albertans.

A mixed system and any private is in fact, bring in EXTREME ideals. We need to fix the public system FIRST, to do anything else, we are pursuing an extreme ideal to decide to corporatize and profit off the suffering of humans.

A mixed system in Europe is great, but Alberta, is such a different situation. That being geographically spread out, accessibility to the current public system and current supply of Dr.s. We are in no shape, yet to pursue a mixed system. We should fix the public system, create an oversupply and THEN, you got some merit to pursue a capitilist rant to make some profit.

The NDP is a National Party in that all Provincial NDs are also Federal NDs. A membeship in one is a membership in the other. Unless there is a number of NDs Provincially who leave the Party and joing the Alberta Liberals (which happens every election anyway) – this merger is NOT doable.

Corey says:

“If you were to add the raw votes together the joint entity wouldn’t have nine seats, it would have about as many as the Wildrose. The combined entity could have been the official opposition. Perhaps it could have been seen as a legitimate contender for government.”

That is misleading and a pipe dream Corey. You MAY get more than 9 seats, ONLY assuming each and every voter stayed loyal to this new entity, which they won’t! A bone head move would greatly weaken and water down both camps and serve to disenfranchise and demoralize supporters and ultimately strengthen the Tories and make a complete and utter joke of the Nd’s and Libs amalgamation.

I would expect a tactition like you, trying find creative ways to lure away progressives from the Tory camp. So why won’t you try that or suggest that? Even if there was an amalgation, it would not last for that long and it would be a very fractured and and incoherent entity, again this serves to work to the benefit of the Tories.

You are right, its not about the leaders, its about serving Albertans, the best way is to electorally redistribute and balance the progressive votes from the current big tent to the two smaller ones.

Now you do my math, if you add the center progressives and disaffected Tory progressives, and disaffected Tories cross to WR, you have Government!

I don’t where this hair brained idea came from (The Tories?), but it really is not a credibly defendable one. One can only be politically relevant if they can steal from the big tent party. Getting small parties to steal from one another is a huge joke.

This idea will lose the imagination of most Albertans as well as votes. They will just laugh at it. People are already so cynical about politics and parties, most mainstream progressive voters will scoff at it and either not vote, or just vote Tory out of frustration. Unless, that is the ultimate goal??

On the other hand, you guys might be meaning well. In a different universe, it just might work. But for now a lot of people are going to be grinning and rolling their eyes.

Corey, to help the progressives, why not help the WR, take on some disaffected Tory floor crossers? Or help Libs to do the same? When you look at the numbers and in light of all of the scandals, that makes far more sense than any aformentioned idea.

The Wild Rose are EXTREME conservatives.

Uniting a caucus would not be 4+5=9 as many people voted PC due to their fear of the Wildrose and their EXTREME views.I cannot overstate how many people voted PC out of fear of a more conservative government. Also there is little doubt that uniting all progressive parties would be a game changer, as many people would like to vote for a progressive party that has a chance of winning. It is sad that in Alberta that many non conservatives take out PC memberships to vote in the leadership race as it is the only way to affect the outcome. In over 20 years the NDP has not held more then 4 seats, is it a gamble? sure but what is there to lose. I do not agree with any party %100, so why not get together with all members and rewrite policy we can mostly agree on. As Ray Martin stated in the Glenora all candidates forum in the past provincial election, he suspects he would agree with his rivals in the Alberta Party and Liberal Party on 98% of things.

As much as I dislike the Wildrose and the PC’s they have a business sense we are lacking. The Wildrose recognized that their platform was too EXTREME for the majority and therefore are changing, while we keep on doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. The other argument I would like to add is that as a unified party we would be in a far better position to attract better candidates. Just adding the seat total or the vote total is flawed.

Also what is the benefit of keeping ties with federal parties in Alberta where there is only 1 seat held by a non conservative?


Completely agreed! 4 + 5 = 0! I just rebutted that to Corey. Most progressives are deep storaged in the Tory party. In light of the scandals and more that may come to light, that will be the key to waking up centrist progressives that have passively and blindly voted P See for the last few provincial elections.

Partyless centrists need to come up with a creative strategy to lure and capture the imagination of mainstream progressives tied up in the P See party. That will take hard work at the grass roots level. Yet not one of them have suggested the idea.

As long as WR can stay mainstream and have mainstream candidates and mainstream policies, many of those Libs, that held their nose and voted Tory will come back to the Liberals and many right wing Tories will vote WR. The ND’s will more or less stay the same. Understanding that simple concept, it will become clear, that watering down the ND’s and Libs or having a vote splitting AP party, it is a form of vote splitting only serves to strengthen the Tories.

@Political Watcher:

We can play the last election hypothetical game all day. Does five plus four equal none, nine, or nineteen? I don’t know, and neither do you. But if we’re interested in better government, we’ll acknowledge this box we’re in hasn’t served us. And that leads us to look at alternatives. You’ve proposed one – working harder. So has Kent – working together.

We can do both. When it comes to presenting a common front or doing more grassroots organization, it’s really not an either/or proposition. It’s a both/and. But you’ll find the grassroots will have a lot more to be excited about if they see a path forward.

And ironically, competing for votes in the center is far easier if you don’t have to worry about your leftward flank. A big tent progressive party IS possible. It just requires party leaders to be open to the idea – and I applaud Kent for that. It takes a lot of guts for a sitting MLA to take the stand he did.

The members of all progressive parties will weigh the facts and decide on their course of action. And hopefully when they do, they’ll be thinking about their province and not themselves.

If Political Watcher isn’t Raj Sherman or somebody whose paycheck is signed by Raj Sherman, I’ll eat David Swann’s cowboy hat.

A similarly anonymous poster who is well aware of the irony

@corey, you and kent are proposing a small tent progressive party, which will in fact scare away most mainstream progressives, and yes, main stream progressives DO SCARE EASILY, in light of the Lakes of fire comment. It does not take all that much courage or hardwork to toss forward ill conceived. It makes more sense for Lib and Wr to co-operate from the left rather than fight, put a bunch of work in and only compete for last place. Your ideas may be well meaning, but its like trying to scratch your left ear with your right foot. Members would have done this long ago, if the thought it had even an inch of credible merit. Its just going to give Tories a free ride even further. Most main stream middle class voters will not touch a centrist party infested with lefty ND’s. You really need to get out and talk to real mainstream folks who got families and do picnics on sundays. They already have intrepidation of lefty ideals. The only party that stands to gain are the far left and Tories. All ideas are great in one’s dreams, but reality narrows the competition. Voters and supporters would have a fleeting child like fascination at best. There is however a stomach to return to a traditional Nd-lib and Cons political spectrum.

I, uh, find this idea as crazy as Castro at a rally. It, uh, just keeps going on and on but nothing gets done.

“Political Watcher” has a short-term understanding of Alberta politics. As Tom Flanagan observed in the Globe and Mail when big oil decided to move the marginal WRA into the big leagues so as to make Stelmach back down on oil royalties,it was safe to split the right in AB because the left is split. The Democratic Renewal Project commissioned a Leger survey in 2010 that showed that if the four centre-left parties agreed to select just one candidate in each constituency that 48 percent of Albertans would vote for that candidate. Average voters, as opposed to the .1 percent of Albertans who hold a membership in a progressive party, are only willing to consider potential winners. As Stephen Anderson suggests, that’s why the left-of-Tory vote dropped from the 40 percent mark of the 2004 and 2008 elections to about 21 percent in 2012. These parties had “loser” written all over them.

After 77 years of continuous right-wing government, Albertans deserve a concerted effort on the part of progressives to give social justice a chance. The NDP and Liberals have not offered Albertans platforms distinguishable one from the other since 1993 (when the Liberals under Decore ran on a Klein-like platform and the NDP supported the Lougheed-Getty status quo). They have a slightly different social class base and strength in different parts of the province. But until they work together, they are not serious factors in the provincial equation.

The trade union movement in particular needs to take some responsibility for forcing a centre-left alliance. They are going to find themselves with Michigan or Wisconsin style legislation and will have no one to blame but themselves. Their positions on various issues are well researched, and the PIA, Parkland, and Friends of Medicare present even more detailed positions. But none of these groups are players in real Alberta politics because the people who think as they do are generally lost as to whether they should support the Liberals or the NDP or vote Tory to keep the New Neanderthals from taking power.

While i humbly respect your intelligent opinion, the math does not lie. Most progressives, regardless of their political or policy leanings, have parked their vote in the tory party. The concerted effort and collaberation of all parties, including WR should be trying to inspire these voters and supporters to come to a better alternative. Uniting two small groups into a larger progressive group, but still small, keeps this new group in third place. The only question here is why should we settle for third place apathy? You will have an incoherent group, on an idea that most mainstream middleclass voters, Albertans, with families and minivans will scoff at? talk to avg Albertans, they will holdtheir noses and vote PC rather than vote in an unknown amalgamated progressive experiment. We need better ideas. Ideas and policies by armchair experts are not enough muscle. Albertans are tough to reach.. Does anybody remember the Gomery Inquiry? That was the demise of the Fed Libs.

Q. of the Day (from CH)

“Do you think that a merger of the AB Libs with the ND’s, Green and Alberta parties could beat the Tories in the next prov. election?

Yes or No ?


Yes 26.3% (453 votes)
No 73.7% (1,269 votes)

Here is a snap poll of what people think of a progressive merger, almost 75% say NO.

Do any armchair geniuses have a comment? How about you Corey? Kent?

As soon as you throw the words Green into there, most bumpkin Tory progressives will run yellow, hold their nose and vote Tory again, its a familiar taste, they are used to, better the devil they know than the one they don’t.

Folks seem to be lukewarm at best to the idea.

@political watcher

A)It would be easier to take you seriously if you used your real name.

B)How many elections have you personally ran as a candidate?

C)How many elections have you worked on?

D) How many thousands of doors have you knocked on speaking to average Albertan’s that don’t read political blogs or respond to online polls?

E) How many labour organizations have you spoken too that have stopped donating/helping either party as their members are split between two camps?

I also doubt that any merger would have us form government in one election, however It would be a hell of allot better then 9 seats, keep in mind that many of those 9 won by only a few hundred votes, including Liberal Leader Raj Sherman. A chance at Official opposition would be better then having all left of centre MLA’s fitting in a mini van.

There are many of us that support some form of Co-Operation/Merger, However many have left all parties out of frustration, and many fear speaking out publically due to social ramifications. I encourage anyone who would like to help see this happen to email me @

Thread’s over guys. Calgary Herald online poll came out showing the idea only two and a half times as popular as either the Liberals or NDP.

You all got served.

That sounds scientific! so people who read the calgary herald online and answer a poll feel it will only be 2.5 times more popular. First off both the NDP and Liberal party captured around %20 together, so does the poll suggest that 20X2.5=%50. I think this poll shows very little and has almost 0 scintific merit.

A) better then less popular
B) Hardly represents views of average Albertans
C) I am very political and did not hear, nor can find the poll, so who has?

Okay, there’s a lot of poll abuse going on here.

First, the poll didn’t ask whether or not people think it’s a good idea, they asked whether the merged party could beat the Tories. What do you think the results would be if it was “Can the Liberals beat the Tories next election?” or “Can the NDs beat the Tories next election?”

Do they make numbers that low?

Second, it’s an online poll at the Calgary Herald. That’s both a self selecting sample, and a sample biased towards Calgarians and therefore Calgary – where the Liberals and NDs combined got 12.4% of the vote. So as already mentioned above, 26% is pretty damn good.

Sure Corey, its an on line poll, I get that its not scientific, but it does echo a snapshot of the prevailing sentiment, you can’t deny that.

But don’t think for a second, just because a group of supporters are all for a merger, that DOES NOT simply and linearly somehow translate into mainstream progressive votes. Sure you might still instill fringe progressives to vote for this, but you wont get the mainstream, centrist and right leaning progressives to join this, nor vote for it. It is a pipe dream a hundred miles wide and a half an inch deep.

You are completely ignoring the “freak factor”, by that I mean, when average voters start to joke and jeer about this progressive amalgamation. When you throw words like “ND” and “Green” into any political amalgamation, the voters of Alberta will casually brush it off as though the lefties have taken over in some sort of desperate bid, that is how it will be painted and discredited, because most mainstream progressives from Toryland are politically close minded, when it comes to anything from the center or left of center. That very same lefty hysteria by the Tories is what stops mainstream progressives from voting other than Tory.(Lakes of Fire).

So again, any ideas on how to convince Progessive Tories to leave Tory land? You got upwards of a few hundred thousand voters there. Not one of you seasoned, armchair geniuses, with such huge political depth and acumen have given even so much a shred of an idea on how to get the real voters. Till then, please stop showing all that greenery behind the ears.

Any progressive merger (which will NOT include mainstream progressives from Tory Land) is an excellent way to perpetuate the status quo,..that being keeping Tories in power. Your numbers, guys just don’t add up.

Some of you guys are treating this like some sort of High School Project and that must stop. Tory land has all of the progressive voters, the question, all of us geniuses must ask and answer, is how do we get them? They don’t belong in a conservative party. Amalgamations will alienate mainstream progressives even more. Don’t kid yourself, yes they will.

@Stephen Anderson, I don’t need any of that experience, because at the end of the day, I know how most mainstream progressive voters voted, they voted for Toryland. Just look at the numbers, if you can read…61 seats.

Again, can all of us geniuses come up with a way to inspire mainstream progressives from Toryland? An amalagamation won’t do it. No it won’t. I can do math. 4 + 5 = 0

@Stephen A, i respect how some of you have become frustrated at the poor traction in the last few elections. Perhaps, being a part of any party is not for some of you guys. You guys may be better off serving Albertans by championing causes and policies and working on these with all progressive parties. Think of it, like a think tank. You can still serve Albertans, without the baggage of partisan politics. You wouldn’t have to joust with party members at all, but instead be true champions of progressive policies, ideas and help guard the hen house. You don’t need to be a party of any party to champion the cause of Albertans. Does it not beat being politically disenfranchised with so much political baggage? Ie Friends of Medicare, ie Democratic Renewal, ie CTF? You catch the drift? You can still be involved helping Albertans and keep a watch on the Foxes guarding the Hen House, all with out the baggage of internal party politics.

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