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Wednesday, February 28 2024 @ 01:56 MST

Alberta by-elections 2014

Alberta PoliticsSo the votes are in for the four Alberta provincial by-elections and the winners are, surprise, surprise, the Progressive Conservatives. This can only be seen as a big win for Jim Prentice who's unenviable task is to give the impression of clearing out over 40 years of Tory entitlement. Though not winners, the Alberta party and NDP who came in a strong second in two of the ridings so at the least weren’t losers either. The big losers, the Alberta Liberal party and the Wildrose Party.

For Jim Prentice and the Progressive Conservative Party these by-elections were do or die. All but one had as the PC candidate a cabinet minister or Prentice himself. The rejection of these three candidates would have been a powerful message that the tide had turned against the PC’s once and for all. Holding these seats gives Prentice if not a mandate, at least legitimacy that he would otherwise not have. The question still remains of exactly what Prentice will do with this other than the rapid program of de-Redfordization that he has been implementing. Time will tell how truly different the Alberta Tories will be under Prentice and it remains to be seen if he can fully revive the fortunes of the Progressive Conservative parties in time for the next general election.

For all the opposition parties this was not a good thing in that by-elections are usually a time when the voter can safely send a message to a governing party without the fear of that party being thrown out of office. This didn't happen and the opposition parties will have to analyze their strategies and prospects for the next election good and hard.

For the Alberta Party and the NDP strong second place showings made this set of by-elections basically neutral. Though not victories, the second place finishes showed the potential for growth for these two parties in Calgary for the Alberta Party and Edmonton for the NDP. Though not a lot to hold a huge celebration about, not a bad showing and something to build on.

The election was a almost a complete wash for the Alberta Liberal party. A string of third and fourth place finishes don't bode well for future election prospects, though they may still have a chance for growth in Edmonton.

This leaves us with the Wildrose Party. They accomplished a strong second place finish in Calgary-West thanks mostly to a big-name candidate in the person of Sheila Taylor, but failed to duplicate this in any of the other three ridings. In fact in two ridings the WRP finished third behind the Alberta Party and the NDP. This inability of the WRP to deliver in the only poll that counts must be weighing heavy on the people who back the party. It will be interesting to see if, after a second bout of being so close to taking out PC candidates and coming up short (really short in two of the ridings) if the bloom is off Danielle Smith's rose. Now Smith has called for a review of her own leadership no doubt in an attempt to get ahead of any calls for such a thing from the membership. What remains to be seen is if the WRP membership is willing to have her as the leader for a third kick at the electoral can.

Now other parties have kept leaders despite poor showings a the polls, but most of these parties never expected to take the election as a whole. Things are different for the WRP and Smith. In the case of the last general election, the WRP under Smith was set to take over from the hapless PC's up until the actual election. Smith's mishandling of some candidate outbursts was likely a factor in much of the Liberal vote suddenly shifting to the PC party at the last moment in fear that the rest of Smith's candidates were just better at keeping their mouths shut.

This time around Smith faced a PC party racked by spending scandals under the leadership of Allison Redford. This had given the WRP a boost in the polls, enough to put them in government territory. So with an angry electorate apparently ripe for the plucking, how did Smith manage to not pick up even one seat?

Some of this is partly due to the fact that Jim Prentice is a far more able politician than Danielle Smith. In this case Smith's days could be numbered as her party looks for someone who can take on Prentice in the next general election. There may be a faction of her party that sees this and will be wanting a change. The question is how big is this group? Hard right conservatives tend to stick to their parties and leaders with near religious tenacity. If the WRP membership is made up of more of the hard right and less of the more pragmatic right, Smith is safe. They'll stick with her till she wants to leave. If the pragmatic right is more numerous in the party then there may be a leadership change in the party sooner than later.

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