Alberta Lurches Left, Makes History

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

Related Post Roulette

128 Responses

  1. Dand says:

    Reposted from linky Friday:

    Looking at the current result(about 95% of the total) it looks like the conservative parties are going to get a combined 52% of the vote and the liberal parties a combined 45%; in 2012 the conservative parties got a combined 78% to the liberal 18%; in 2008 the conservatives got a combined 60% to the liberals 35%. So there left wing parties did make gains in addition to benefiting from a conservative split.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Dand says:

      It looks like the 2012 elections were especially bad, though, having just happened not long after the collapse of the Liberal Party. In the previous election, it was closer to a 60/40 split, and the one before that was 55/43.Report

      • Dand in reply to Will Truman says:

        According to Wikipedia there was tactical voting by left leaning voters to keep the more moderate Progressive Conservative party in in power.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to Dand says:

          It’s possible some of the late NDP shift in this election were liberals who realized they might not need to vote for the lesser of evils this time. Doesn’t explain all of it, but likely does explain some.Report

        • Stephan Cooper in reply to Dand says:

          You have to understand the local elements to make sense of this instead of merely looking at it as a simple right left split. That imports all sorts of assumptions that aren’t necessarily accurate

          The PC party in Alberta primary identity wasn’t as the conservative party. They are the party of being in power, having held power for 4 decades. If you are going to use a mental model based on American politics, first think about how a some cities work where the Democratic Party has held all the offices for generations. Its not a political organizaton built on ideology, its built on being the local “establishment.” Its a pretty open secret that plenty of people in the PC party held liberal-ish views, joining not for ideological reasons but to get a chance to be in government. So the PCs really acted more as a big tent centrist to centrist-right party rather than a right wing one.

          While vote spliting on the right is a story here, its one part of a much larger picture that you’re not going to understand very well without a fair amount of background into Alberta’s fairly unusual political culture.Report

          • Yeah, somebody said last night that the PC-Alberta is conservative in the same way that the Chicago Democratic Party is liberal, which I do wish I had managed to fit in to the OP. But from a national perspective, the Chicago Democrats still are liberal.

            From Colby Cosh, it seems like the bigger story is that of the entrenched establishment being unseated. From the outside, though, the more interesting part is that it was unseated by the party to the left instead of the party to its right.

            If you would like to submit a much more informed piece on this election, I’m sure we’d love to run it!Report

            • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:


              From the prospective of someone who spent a good chunk of their adult life in NYC and SF. The situation is more complicated. Everyone on the Board of Supervisors in SF is Democratic but they run a gamut from Scott Weiner who is more moderate and will right essays on housing with titles “Yes, Supply & Demand Apply to Housing, Even in San Francisco”, Rose Pak who basically represents the Chinese community and does great behind the scenes stuff to get pet projects approved, like the SOMA to Chinatown subway*, and David Campos who really is left-wing.

              Even during the 1970s, you had long disputes between business friendly Diane Feinstein and liberals like George Moscone.

              To understand city politics, you need to understand the districts that city politicians represent. All or most are Democratic but that doesn’t make them all liberal. Unless we are defining liberal as everyone who is “not Republican”. or exists somewhere to the left of Jeb Bush.Report

              • For the sake of this conversation, “liberal” is defined as “not insignificantly to the left of the national center…” which I think qualifies the vast majority of elected Democrats in San Francisco. In the national context, few of them aren’t some shade of liberal. They’re just different shades.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

                I suppose this depends on where a person place the national center which is going to entirely depend on a person’s politics. Rahm Emmanuel looks pretty centerist to me and so does Christine Quinn and Ed Lee.Report

              • “center-left” is probably a pretty accurate description for Rahm. He has worked in two Democratic administrations and it’s nearly impossible to imagine him ever working on a Republican or independent one. We know where he is, relative to the center, in the national context.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman says:

                There is nothing left about Rahm Emmanuel and Christine Quinn besides the fact that they don’t engage in culture wars. Rahm Emmanuel’s running of Chicago is heavily criticized by many liberals and progressives for privatizing what we believe should be public services and for closing public schools. The reliance on charter schools and testing is also not popular.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

                The thing that is left about Rahm is that he is reliably aligned with the party to the left. He is from the centrist faction of said party, but there is no doubt where his feet are planted, at the end of the day, and it’s not with Broder.Report

              • Dand in reply to LeeEsq says:

                What privatizations have happened since Rahm took office?

                There are many ways that Rahm is left of center, he’s currently leading the fight against the Governor’s attempt to make Chicago a right to work zone, raised the minimum wage to $13 an hour and strongly supports gun control. I’d say he’s solidly he’s solidly liberal on social issues and moderately liberal on fiscal issues.Report

            • Dand in reply to Will Truman says:

              If that’s the case it’s sounds more comparable to the way Democratic parties have historically operated in the urban dominated states of the Northeast than city level politics anywhere; that’s changing however and democratic parties are becoming more homogeneously.Report

            • Dand in reply to Will Truman says:

              Daley Sr. was in many ways to the right center I don’t think any of the Chicago mayors since have been there are still some conservative Democrats in Chicago like Congressman Dan Lipinski.

              Chicago did almost elect a Republican in 1983 when the white vote split in the democratic primary and the black candidate got the nomination. When white Democrats regained power the changed the system to favor white Democrats.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Dand says:


                Chicago also seems like it has kept a lot of people and neighborhoods that would have normally left during the white-flight era. My Chicagoan friends tell me that it is still very much a neighborhood oriented place with local bars in an almost throwback kind of way.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Dand says:

                Daley Sr was an old ward politician and one of the last of his kind in many ways.Report

  2. Dand says:

    In the Westminster system it’s possible to make major changes despite never winning a majority vote, for example Margaret Thatcher never won more than 43% of the vote(and the other parties were all left wing).Report

  3. Will Truman says:

    I wish I had put, in the OP, that neither Canada nor the UK would particularly need to go multi-member to address the system. An IRV would take care of a lot of what I consider to be the problem. And unlike multi-member districts, IRV is something I would definitely advocate in the US at the national level.Report

    • Dand in reply to Will Truman says:

      I wonder how many people on the left who don’t like the number of veto points in the US are aware a that fact about Thatcher.Report

      • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Dand says:

        Speaking as the resident leftist who would end every speech with, The Senate delendo esta, if I ever lucked into elected office, I’m OK with it.

        The problem is right now, everybody can toss off blame. Obama can blame the obstructionist GOP. Conservatives can blame the sell-out RINO’s. Liberals can blame Obama for being a sellout. So forth and so on.

        At least with few veto points, people know who is in charge and can decide whether the effects are a good or bad thing. Of course, I’d also throw in a change to a STV or PR system as well, but that’s details.Report

  4. Burt Likko says:

    This is interesting indeed: my impression was that Alberta was the rough equivalent of Kansas in terms of its general political bent. Granted that an NDP in the prairie provinces may not be the same thing as an NDP in fashionably progressive Vancouver, but still.Report

    • Dand in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I think Alaska is closest parallel; an energy based economy and high numbers of both non-religious people and evangelical Christians.Report

      • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Dand says:

        It’s also basically true Canadian voters aren’t as polarized as we are, and also, the state and federal parties aren’t so linked together. Thus, you have situations where the Liberals’ are the right-wing party in British Columbia, and likely, the NDP will be the center-left party here in Alberta.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:


          My Canadian friends hate Harper and the conservatives with a zeal that equals hatred of Bush II and Obama depending on whether a person is Democratic or Republican.Report

          • KatherineMW in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            Harper’s an American-style conservative, and what’s more, he practices Rove’s style of politics, including voluminous, nasty, and constant attack ads, and attempting vote suppression in the last election. It’s a style of politics that is uncharacteristic of Canada, and even aside from his policies that people don’t like, is definitely generating a lot of dislike.Report

        • One of the things I have cited favorably about the Canadian system is (a) the moderate de-linking of national and provincial/state parties, and (b) that their party system is more fluid than ours.

          This result, on its own and reminding me of Harper, does remind me how important IRV is to the equation, however.Report

    • Stephan Cooper in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Kansas isn’t accurate at all.
      1. Albertan conservativism is mostly anti-taxation/pro-business/free-market. The social conservatives exist but they aren’t really popular outside of rural southern Alberta.

      2. A big reason Kansas is conservative is because its particularly rural. Alberta is above the Canadian average in terms of people living in urban areas with two fair sized cities. Just one of those cities is unusually right-wing. Think more like Texas with Austin vs Dallas.Report

      • Will H. in reply to Stephan Cooper says:

        I think you have the wrong view of Kansas. Most people do.
        I don’t see Kansas as being much, if at all, more conservative than Illinois (minus Chicago).
        Of the ten largest cities in Kansas listed here, five of them are suburbs of Kansas City. Lawrence and Manhattan are primarily college towns; i.e., the “town” is a big university surrounded by a few shops. Wichita, Topeka, and Salina round out the top ten.

        And if you had ever seen the Flint Hills, you would know that Kansas has some of the prettiest countryside in all the US.

        But the place doesn’t strike me as being all that much, if at all, more conservative than Illinois, minus Chicago.

        From what I can see, the biggest difference between Kansas and Downstate Illinois is that Kansas is a lot more affluent.Report

        • Stephan Cooper in reply to Will H. says:

          I don’t think you quite understood my point, because its largely in agreement with yours. My point was that Kansas is conservative in American terms because its disproportionately rural. As you say, compared to Illinois it lacks a Chicago.

          That isn’t the Albertan dynamic. Alberta is relatively urban for Canada, on the basis of having the 4# and 5# biggest metro-regions in the country. Its not like Kansas which has the suburbs of Kansas city and Witchita as its biggest urban areas. Alberta is conservative in Canadian terms primary because one of its two cities (Calgary) is unusually conservative leaning for a Canadian city, for a variety of reasons the most important likely being the oil-industry. But the conservativism you see in a rich city with an oil-based economy is different from rural conservatism. This dynamic strongly influences the kind of politics you’d see in Alberta.

          So when Burt says “my impression was that Alberta was the rough equivalent of Kansas in terms of its general political bent.” As someone with a close familarlity with how Albertan politics can tell you this impression does not lead to a useful mental model for understanding the situation.Report

          • dragonfrog in reply to Stephan Cooper says:

            Even that has been changing though. If you look at the mayors of both major cities, first Nenshi in Calgary and then Iveson in Edmonton, both are quite progressive in their politics – after several terms in both cities of business-first, developer-hugging mayors – I think you can see there some foreshadowing of this provincial election.Report

        • Zane in reply to Will H. says:

          I used to drive through the Flint Hills several times a year. It is a gorgeous landscape.Report

    • KatherineMW in reply to Burt Likko says:

      You’re understating it. Alberta is the rough equivalent of Texas in terms of its political bent.

      The prairie provinces aren’t all of one mold, though – the NDP was born in Saskatchewan as the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, and NDP premier Tommy Douglas created the public health care system that was the model and inspiration for the national public health system. Manitoba’s had a strong NDP presence for decades. On the provincial level, Alberta’s conservatism has been the exception.Report

  5. DRS says:

    Parliamentary democracies tend to be multi-party. It’s easier for smaller entities to organize and at the provincial level, win. My favourite party was the United Farmers of Ontario, which actually formed a government in the 1920’s/30’s. That’s right: Ontario had a UFO government. Suck on that, California.

    Best article to read about this election:

    • Will Truman in reply to DRS says:

      The multipartiedness depends, usually, on the nature of the districts. Single-member vs multi-member. What’s interesting about Canada and the UK is the extent to which they have single-member districts but flout divurger’s law by persistently voting for three parties. (Especially the UK where it’s not just parties-in-transition, but three established parties.)

      The existence of two parties or more than two parties is something that depends mostly on the electorate. Where it becomes a problem, in my view, is when you have a plurality-win system with single-member districts. That’s where I think it leads to troublesome results (benefiting conservatives in the UK and Canada, though liberals in this particular Albertan election).Report

      • DRS in reply to Will Truman says:

        What you call “troublesome results” is nothing but the voters expressing their preferences and expecting their elected representatives to work it out afterwards to ensure that government functions and legislative responsibilities are upheld. Coalitions and partnerships are standard for parliaments.

        I would take the worst parliament any day over the American system which seems to be an exercise in noisy futility. Gordon Woods once wrote an essay about the structure of American government being the British monarchy as Americans understood it in the 1770’s with the president in place of the king, but that since Americans at the time were rather prejudiced against the British monarchy, they misunderstood and caricatured it.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to DRS says:

          There is nothing particularly wrong, or right, about coalition-based governments. I personally don’t care for them, but that is a matter of preference. And not particularly what I am talking about

          What I am mostly referring to are fractured votes handing a majority of seats to the side that has less votes. Stephen Harper’s party got a majority of seats despite liberal parties getting a majority of the votes. That, to me, is troublesome.

          And has nothing to do with Parliamentary vs Presidential. What I’m talking about can be avoided in either system. Neither the Canadian nor the American system do so, unfortunately.Report

          • DRS in reply to Will Truman says:

            The parliamentary system doesn’t count overall popular vote. Every member of a legislature was elected by the most votes in that particular riding. The member of parliament or legislature (MP or MLA) represents the people in that riding – all the people, whether he/she got their votes or not. This matters tremendously when a province might have a huge population block in one small geographical area that would out-vote other areas accordingly. There has to be a balance.

            Your error is in assuming that the most important thing is where a party sits on some idealized spectrum of left to right. But there are other things that matter: small town versus large city, establishment-identification versus outsider-identification. This was huge in Alberta last night. There were voters who were Wild Rose in 2012 who voted NDP yesterday because they id’ed as anti-establishment and they wanted the largest stick to whack Prentice with. If you’re thinking of parties of the left and of the right, that makes no sense at all. But it’s quite common in Canada. My parents voted NDP all their lives and flipped to Reform in the 1990’s. They certainly didn’t see it as all that much of a jump.

            And there are two parties of the right for a reason. If the only thing that mattered was being of the right, there’d only be one party. There are differences if you look closely enough.

            If you really understand the parliamentary system as it works on a day-by-day basis, it’s really the best in the world.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to DRS says:

              You keep thinking I am arguing against the parliamentary system. I’m not. I’m arguing against a parliamentary system with a FPTP system. Actually, I’m mostly just arguing against FPTP since it’s not optimal in the US, either.Report

              • DRS in reply to Will Truman says:

                Parliamentary system = FPTP. Because the post(s) in question are in each riding, not in some larger political entity like the province or the country. If you don’t like FPTP, then you don’t like PS either. We’ve had these debates in Canada for years and there’s not a lot of support for changing FPTP. You’re overlooking the importance of the riding.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to DRS says:

                Parliamentary system = FPTP”

                That is just wrong. Most of the United States has a FPTP system. Many parliamentary systems do not.Report

              • DRS in reply to Will Truman says:

                Did you read my next sentence? That bit about the riding? You do know what a riding is, don’t you?Report

              • dragonfrog in reply to DRS says:

                You realize Germany’s Bundestag is just as much a parliament as Canada’s federal parliament or Alberta’s legislative assembly, right? And that Germany uses mixed-member proportional representation? New Zealand elects their parliament the same way.

                Ireland, Australia, and Iceland all use single transferable vote (another PR system) for their parliaments. And yes, they’re parliaments.Report

              • Ridings as they exist in Canada are not required for a parliamentary system. Furthermore, you can even keep the ridings in you have an IRV.Report

          • KatherineMW in reply to Will Truman says:

            I’d like to see a system that allowed, for example, single-riding transferable votes (e.g.: every voter can pick a second or third choice, and this affects the final outcome).

            But I honestly don’t think that would have changed the result in Alberta significantly , because the Alberta Conservatives would not have been the second choice of most Wild Rose voters. This was anti-establishment vs. establishment, with the former winner decisively, and the leftist party being the preferred anti-establishment party.Report

  6. KatherineMW says:

    The NDP have over 40% of the vote. That’s typically what a government earns to get a majority in Canada (the federal Conservatives only got 30-some percent), so in a multiparty system where the party with the next-most votes has 27%, I’d say they have a mandate.Report

    • They have a majority of seats, but they and their allies did not get a majority of the vote. That they have a majority of the seats is a bug in the system, in my view (as with Harper).Report

      • DRS in reply to Will Truman says:

        Will, we don’t like each other so maybe this is just wasted text that I’m writing here. But could you please work on your rather patronizing let-me-explain-this-to-the-idiots-in-the-room tone, especially when you’re talking to people from other countries who might be expected to understand how their own system works? We do understand what you’re saying but we don’t think it matters if you look at the whole picture.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to DRS says:

          DRS, You calling someone else patronizing is the funniest thing I have heard all day. It’s early, but I’m pretty sure it will persevere.

          Katherine, so would I. And if the results would have been as you say, then I’d have no problem with it. I’d just prefer those be the actual results. (The question, to me, is who the PC voters would have voted for. But maybe it is the NDP. Hard to say.)Report

          • DRS in reply to Will Truman says:

            Doesn’t mean I’m not right (no pun intended) about you.Report

              • Dave in reply to Chris says:




                Will, we don’t like each other so maybe this is just wasted text that I’m writing here.

                That’s some MENSA level intelligence right there.

                Next time, don’t waste your time posting that shit if only so I don’t have to point out the fact that you’re being an asshole.Report

              • Chris in reply to Dave says:

                You were able to get the words out. My reaction was too visceral for words.Report

              • Dave in reply to Chris says:


                You were able to get the words out.

                It’s what makes my personality so warm and charming. 😀Report

              • DRS in reply to Dave says:

                How does your being vulgar mean I wasn’t right?Report

              • Dave in reply to DRS says:


                We’re both right. You are right in that you wasted your time and I’m right that you acted like a petulant little asshole.

                Go read our commenting policy before you choose to act that way again. That way you avoid my vulgarity in the future and your precious sensibilities won’t be offended.

                Either way, we’re done here so feel free to heed my advice and go back to your corner.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Dave says:

                We can let it go. I am comfortable with people considering my commenting history, and considering DRS’s, and deciding for themselves who does and does not have a problem with being patronizing.Report

              • Dave in reply to Will Truman says:


                We can let it go. I am comfortable with people considering my commenting history, and considering DRS’s, and deciding for themselves who does and does not have a problem with being patronizing.

                Awesome. That means that I won’t see any additional comments in this conversation. 😉Report

              • DRS in reply to Will Truman says:

                Actually, that works for me too.Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to Will Truman says:

        I agree, Will. I’d like to see a system that provides representation that more closely resembles the popular vote of parties. What’s your preferred method of doing that?

        But I think the NDP would have won, although likely with a minority, even if Alberta had such a system. Alberta Party, Greens, and Wild Rose would have more seats, but the NDP would still be in the lead and the Conservatives would still have taken a beating: there’s no way they’d be the second choice of Wild Rose voters in an election that had a major theme of “kick the bums out”. Choosing the NDP leftists rather than the Wild Rose conservatives as the leading party says something major about the political shift beyond throwing the bums out, as well. Alberta hasn’t elected a left-wing party since the 1930s, so this IS huge in political/ideological terms as well.Report

        • DRS in reply to KatherineMW says:

          It does already, Katherine. In each individual riding. And it’s the riding that’s the political entity that counts.Report

          • KatherineMW in reply to DRS says:

            Even if I accepted that contention, the question would remain: If Party A gets 35% of the vote in a riding, Party B gets 30%, and Party C gets 28%, but Party B and Party C (and the people who vote for Parties B and C) generally agree with each other more than with Party A on most issues, does the victory of Party A truly reflect the will of the voters?

            But why should the riding be the only entity that matters? Why should a party that gains 5% of the vote nationally be denied any representation in Parliament simply because their voters live in different areas of the country?Report

            • DRS in reply to KatherineMW says:

              First of all, how do you know that the voters of those two parties “mostly” agree about things? What is your proof for that statement? And if the popular vote for the province/country is important, why stop at the popular vote for that particular election night? Why not canvass the popular vote once a year and reshuffle the number of MPs annually, either by electronic voting or a massive opinion poll or some other agreed-upon mechanism? A government might win with 45% of the vote and bring in legislation that is very unpopular and see their support plummet like a rock – like the reaction to Prentice’s budget of mid-April, after which he called an election. Why should the government continue to enjoy a majority when their support is in massive decline?

              As for ridings being the only entity that matters, it’s because the MP/MLA represents those particular people in that riding. Have you never had to deal with constituency office staff when you need to sort out problems with the government? That kind of help is what most people receive from their representatives between elections and it is very important. Divvying up representation according to popular vote makes sense in political science classes but not on the ground.

              As a conservative, I have a tremendous respect for the status quo and if it’s going to be changed then I want to hear sound practical reasons and see an example of how it’s going to work in practice. You may think geographical representation is arbitrary but how much better is popular vote on election night only?Report

            • Maribou in reply to KatherineMW says:

              @katherinemw – and the general commentariat since this turned into a long rant that isn’t really aimed at her in particular, sorry Katherine 😀 –

              It shouldn’t necessarily be that a party with popular interest can get shut out of representation, but it will continue to be, because, unlike you, most Canadians are parochial in how they think about elections.* They really don’t care about federal politics nearly as much as about provincial politics and they don’t care about provincial politics nearly as much as politics in their own backyard (unless they live in a province small enough to be their own backyard, Islanders represent!). What they mostly want is ONE PERSON to be “their” person that they can, at least in theory, have a personal interaction with when they have issues. Putting a party in power at the federal level without being the ONE PERSON for any riding would be a problem. (Me, personally, I think it has upsides and downsides. But.)

              Federal politics are mostly experienced (rightly or wrongly) as akin to hockey teams – someone to cheer for or rant against – while the civil servants get on doing the real federal work. On some level, federal politics matter as a tilting-horse arena, but people aren’t backing ideological tilting-horses so much as perceived-fairness-to-my-province tilting horses, no matter what their cover story is. (I’m not sure this is true in Ontario and Alberta, but it seems to be true elsewhere. Quebec being a special case because they’ve mostly combined the provincial-fairness and ideological tilting-horses into one, which, yah, they have their reasons for doing.) The number of times I’ve heard some variant on “Fishing Steven Harper! He doesn’t give a damn about the Maritimes…” is innumerable.

              And even “the real federal work” that I mention above is, in my experience, seen as much less important than local politics, except right around election time (when it is still most focused on who the local representatives will be, with the federal outcomes being WAY less important – I’ve seen died in the wool conservatives vote for an NDPer or a (hard-left-leaning) Green Party member with a rationale that goes like “I wouldn’t trust any of the other candidates as far as I could throw them. At least this guy will take care of things here even if he’ll vote wrong most of the time when he’s up there.”

              Probably the most politically shocking thing that happened to me when I moved to the States was how incredibly much more federally-focused they were than the provinces. Despite my personal experience of Canada being very day-to-day regionalist, while adhering to emotional federalism like it was the national religion, which I still do too *waves tiny Canadian flag*, I’d heard all my life about how in the US every state has lots of power to make its own decisions, etc – and when I actually moved here and found out the states have wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy less power compared to federal law than the Canadian provinces do, or at least that people seem to experience their lives that way – I was quite baffled for a long time. I think any attempts to reform Canadian parliamentary procedure that don’t take the country’s history of intense regionalism into account are doomed to fail.

              * I grant I am relying on anecdata for this point, and most of the rest of my overgeneralizations. But I lived in Canada for the first 20 years of my life, and I still have relatives and friends all over the country (and the political spectrum) who are happy to talk about politics whenever I ask. Also I’ve slogged through a ridiculous amount of dry political science books (ie, 2) about the Canadian 80s because I find them entertaining for some reason. And I wrote a paper once comparing the patronage systems in PEI and rural Japan… So, I feel pretty good about my anecdata, though I can see why you wouldn’t, gentle reader.Report

              • North in reply to Maribou says:

                That’s a great comment Maribou and I agree with it. Being biased I think Canadians have a somewhat more healthy and jaundiced view of government.Report

              • DRS in reply to Maribou says:

                All very, very true. But I’m from Ontario and federal politics are watched carefully here – however, studies have shown that Ontario has less regional feeling than other provinces so that probably accounts for it.

                I do know of MP’s who got themselves dis-elected because they had messy divorces and had been caught hiking the Appalachian trail before the election. That falls into the category of things that everyone disapproves of very seriously. Most such MPs are smart enough to retire before being voted out.

                And there’s always those people who want government out of economic affairs but heavily involved in social affairs, who don’t fall rationally into any consistent ideology. I don’t think philosophical consistency matters that much to voters as opposed to gut feelings about how MPs/MLAs come across. A candidate who seemed to take great enjoyment in the idea of tossing people out of jobs would rub people the wrong way: hey Tim Hudak, I’m looking at you! Hudak could have done a much better job in explaining his reasons for his platform – hard to imagine he could have done a worse one – and might not have come across as an amateur simply repeating what other people wrote for him.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Maribou says:

                @maribou I myself didn’t realize how (wonderfully) decentralized Canada was until I attended a wedding in Canada and we talked a lot about politics because it was 2000 and we were in the middle of an election and there was talk of one on the horizon in Canada (later the same month, it turned out!).

                Here, a lot of people don’t realize what is state and what is federal. Zic has pointed out in the past that a lot of regulation people blame on the feds is actually state-based. And a lot of state actions are through money that goes to Washington and back to the states, leaving overall tax rates and such pretty similar from one state to the next (with some outliers).

                Things here are more decentralized than we often act. As Zic has pointed out, a lot of the regulation that gets blamed on the feds is in fact state and local regs. But a lot of people can’t be bothered to follow state elections like they do federal and so our psyche rises and falls with national elections. It’s an unfortunate state of affairs.Report

              • KatherineMW in reply to Maribou says:

                most Canadians are parochial in how they think about elections.* They really don’t care about federal politics nearly as much as about provincial politics and they don’t care about provincial politics nearly as much as politics in their own backyard

                I don’t think that’s the case at all. Far more people vote in provincial and federal elections than in local ones, for example, and in the last federal election we had a lot of NDP MPs elected in Québec despite having zero name recognition and almost nothing in the way of campaigns – because they were NDP, and the Québecois are largely left-wing and were sick of the Bloc and liked Jack Layton.

                But I certainly don’t think Canada should go to a no-riding, MPs-assigned-based-on-popular-vote system. I’d just like something – federally and/or provinicially – that reduced vote splitting and produced results that more closely approximated what people actually support. BC made a strong attempt at changing our electoral system to the Single Transferable Vote (multi-member ridings and ranked ballots), although it narrowly missed passing a referendum; we got that close because of several successive elections where the results in the Legislature were very far from the popular vote results.

                Also, you’re right that Canada is very decentralized compared to the US (although we do have a federal criminal code, unlike the US where criminal law varies from state to state – which I think is weird, although on the plus side it’s what’s enabled marijuana legalization to move forward). About a quarter of the federal budget is money it gives to the provinces.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to KatherineMW says:

                (although we do have a federal criminal code, unlike the US where criminal law varies from state to state)

                Isn’t that a function of 1) a low population density over a vast area, so the RCMP picked up a lot a slack and 2) a federal system that emerged in a more top down manner then the US did from the colonial governance era (an era that only technically ended in 1982?)Report

              • Stephan Cooper in reply to Kolohe says:

                Its hard to say why certain things are Federal and Provincial in the Canadian system because it was all hashed out in a backroom then presented as a unified document. I would speculate that its due to the centralizing tendancy at Confederation, a desire to balance out Provincial control of civil law (a necessary feature due to Quebec’s legal system) and the unified nature of the Canadian court system (with all appeals going through a unified process leading the the ultimate court of appeals).

                The existance of a single, federal police force didn’t come until some time after Confederation, so it wouldn’t have been a factor.

                I think its a better way of doing criminal law because everything is spelled out in a single Criminal Code that fits comfortably in a small, easily consultable book and produces a fair bit less ambiguity when it comes to what actions the state deems punishable by imprisionment.Report

              • Zane in reply to Maribou says:

                I remember reading that the intent among Canada’s nation-forming elite was that the provinces were to have none of the vast powers supposedly given to the US states. Power was to be more centralized at the federal level.

                That things worked out differently for both Canada and the US certainly has to do with their own unique histories and quirks (and the American Civil War!), but I’ve always wondered if there is another factor at play. Namely, that there are only 10 provinces but the US has 50 states.

                Each province (or region, for less populous areas), has a concentrated negotiating power in a way that the US states don’t have, despite all the words in each nations’ constitutional documents. And this is important because some of those provinces feel either only loosely tied to the nation as a whole (Alberta and BC) or sometimes pretty hostile (Quebec). The cultures of the provinces, in large part due to language differences and the sheer distances with a smaller population, are pretty distinct from one another too.

                Is there any truth to this?Report

              • Stephan Cooper in reply to Zane says:

                The founding intent was a strong central government with weaker regional ones but the system evolved away from that for a number of reasons.

                1. Constitutional court decisions. Until 1949 the highest court of appeal was the UK’s Judicial Commitee of the Privy Council. This was particularly significant when Viscount Haldane was a member who took a particular interest in the Dominion’s balance of powers and consistantly ruled in favour of the Provinces whenever a dispute made it to the high court. As a result the many Federal powers, particularly in economic regulation were read extremely narrowly. For example, s.91(2) giving power over “regulation of trade and commerce” was pretty much interpreted out of existance.

                2. Areas of provincial responsiblity, particularly health and education became increasingly important with the rise of the welfare state in comparison to federal responsiblities like foreign trade, defense, criminal law etc. The result is a Federal government whose main job is taking in tax revenues and transferring it rather than day to day governance.

                3. Canadian provinces are a lot more heterogenous of a group than American states. Quebec is of course a natural outlier, but the gaps in population, size and types of economy are larger in a group that includes Ontario, Alberta and Prince Edward Island. This is excerabted by the a unified governments the Westminister system produces, which allows the premiers to present themselves as a the champions of local interests on the Federal scene rather than the elected federal politicians from those regions.Report

      • If I recall correctly, that doesn’t bother you when it happens in the US Senate.Report

        • I think senate races should have runoffs. Well, I would prefer IRV, but runoffs at least.Report

          • Sorry, I didn’t catch your meaning. You mean the undemocratic nature of the senate. If the senate were not accompanied by a House and an independent executive, I’d have a much bigger problem with it. But, whether you agree with it or don’t, there is a foundational rationale for the US Senate, that while in one house all of the people should get equal representation in the other house each state should get equal representation.

            I have difficulty coming up with a similarly understandable rationale for plurality elections. It’s less of an issue in the US because we have coalesced around two parties, but Maine has repeatedly demonstrated the problems it can cause here, too.

            The lumpy representation of the Electoral College is a problem, for me, though there are better reasons to despise the EC. And, in fact, what the EC would do in the event of a truly multiparty election would be the worst thing about it, if it came to fruition.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to KatherineMW says:

      I have a lot of baggage with the term “mandate”.

      I used to argue with a person that argued that Reagan’s win in 1984 was not a mandate but Clinton’s win in 1992 was one (“it was a rebuke to the Reagan era!”) and that has soured me on the term.

      I’d be down with saying that this is a spectacular example of Canadia “throwing the bums out”. And that’s awesome.

      To heck with those bums.

      But that’s a different thing than giving a mandate to the new bums.

      But, as I said, I have a lot of baggage.Report

  7. Kolohe says:

    How and why did the Liberals implode so much in the last month? Strategic voting may show up in election results, but it shouldn’t show up in poll results, correct?Report

    • DRS in reply to Kolohe says:

      Are you referring to Alberta? Because in Alberta, the Liberals are almost invisible and have been for years.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to DRS says:

        Just in the graphic in the post the liberals went from the high teens to less than 10 percent in polling in under a month. losing half of even a small number of followers is still a substantial hemorrhaging. (esp when it’s above the statistical noise of single digit niche parties).Report

        • DRS in reply to Kolohe says:

          Again, are you speaking of Alberta Liberals or the national party?Report

          • Kolohe in reply to DRS says:

            whatever is the one represented here (which I’m almost certain is an aggregate Alberta provincial level polling of either registered or likely voters or both)Report

            • DRS in reply to Kolohe says:

              That’s Alberta. I suspect it’s because the Liberals once had a significant but small number of MLAs (5 or 6 or so, if I remember correctly) and there’s always the possibility they might come back again. And they had a leader who was saying good stuff and looked promising – I’m not sure if he won last night but I think he did. But the Liberals didn’t even run a full slate of candidates in every riding and were very weak on the ground, so they dropped during the election as the NDP’s ground campaign started door knocking and leaflet dropping. Telling a pollster you’re Liberal in February means you’re not happy with the government but not really pro-NDP. You might have said you’re Wild Rose but this was right after the floor crossing and they didn’t have a new leader yet so it wasn’t really an option.

              Shorter answer: evaporated like morning dew as things heated up.Report

              • Zane in reply to DRS says:

                As an American, I’m surprised at how unrelated and distant the Canadian provincial parties are from their federal counterparts (for those parties that even have both provincial and federal branches).

                The state and federal versions of the Democratic and Republican parties seem in lockstep by comparison. The near-unanimity of party line voting among MLAs and MPs would probably be any US legislative whip’s fantasy, though.

                When I read through materials on the five largest Alberta parties’ platforms, I had some difficulty distinguishing them ideologically. I don’t expect them the line up the same way as in the US, but I did expect more apparent differences between the parties. I know part of the problem is that I’m just not familiar enough with Alberta to know the fault-lines. Are there greater differences between the Liberals, NDP, Conservatives, Wildrose, and Alberta parties than are visible to outsiders?Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Zane says:

                I’m envious of it, to a degree. The tethering of national and state parties in the US has lead to some unfortunate results and unfortunately non-competitive elections. Even if the Democratic Party couldn’t compete in Idaho, having elections between the Idaho Republican Party and the Gem Party (or whatever) would be helpful. Or the California Democratic Party and the California Green Party.

                I say this as someone who is generally not enamored with multi-party systems.

                However, plurality elections are a pretty major sticking point.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

                The Gem Party can never live up to their holograms for all platform.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                alternatively “if you thought the Republicans were truly outrageous…”Report

              • Zane in reply to Will Truman says:

                I’m not sure that having untethered and additional parties leads to more competitive elections. Alberta had single-party rule from 1971 until this election.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Zane says:

                And the party they replaced had a 30 year run before that.

                Might be cultural.David Frum says Canadians are among the most incumbent-friendly in the democratic world.Report

              • dragonfrog in reply to Zane says:

                Alberta’ special that way – other (“normal”) provinces tend to go at most three terms.Report

              • dragonfrog in reply to Zane says:

                The Liberals and Alberta Party just didn’t have the resources to truly campaign – the Liberals didn’t have a full slate of candidates, and to quote Vice magazine, the AP basically only exists as a Twitter feed.

                That leaves the NDP on the centre-left.

                The Wildrose party may publish a full platform, but what they actually campaign on is a small sliver of that – their objection to Prentice’s last budget was that it didn’t cut enough, didn’t privatize enough healthcare functions, and raised any taxes at all. They may not print a lot of the social conservatism stuff in their campaign materials, but they very much are the party of social conservatism – you wouldn’t know it from their platform document, but you knew if you listened to their candidates that they’d go after abortion rights, for instance. In the 2012 election one blow against them came because some sermons by one of their candidates turned up in which is said in no uncertain terms that homosexuals were going straight to hell, and the leadership waffled significantly before distancing themselves from his statements. They’re the bible-belt party, and are unlikely to capture urban seats.

                The Conservatives are really more neoliberals – any social conservative politics are mainly among back-benchers, and only loosely held by anyone likely to get a cabinet seat. So for example when they recently proposed to let school boards block the formation of gay-straight alliance clubs, the public outcry quickly persuaded them to withdraw the bill, and reintroduce a measure requiring schools to allow them. A WRP government would have stuck to their guns on that one.Report

              • Stephan Cooper in reply to Zane says:

                There isn’t the intensive primary process nor the ability to court large individual donnors in Canadian politics, so appeasing the base is considered much less of a factor. As a result, the dominant political strategy is to run towards the center, make hay out of tiny differences and do your best to keep your more zealous supporters and local candidates from saying anything outside the mainstream. Imagine if Mitt Romeny got to run his entire campagin against Obama and had no reason to make 47% comments at fundraisers and you’ll get the idea.

                The exception to those rules are in federal politics when a regionalist protest party emerges. The BQ is the famous example, but Reform and Social Credit have also played that role, as has the NDP at times. Then the strategy is to throw red meat at your base, particularly on whatever issue caused the split with the mainstream because you aren’t particularly serious about trying to get into power.Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to Kolohe says:

      This was a very heavily polled election – there was a new poll coming out almost daily for toward the end. I think some of what was happening was indeed centre-left minded folks seeing the polls, adjusting their plan (some of them responding to the next poll), seeing the next polls, confirming that they were making the right strategic choice, etc.

      Basically if you want to vote strategically most effectively, you have to do an “alright, who’s with me?” call – and signalling through poll responses is a mechanism for that.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to dragonfrog says:

        I didn’t think people did that (unless a poll explicitly asks it) – more often it seems to me people answer polls with the usual suspects, but then make the change only when actually in the booth. (e.g. Jesse Ventura’s last minute surge Or in the other direction how Nader slightly underperformed his polling when some people did vote strategically.

        But ok, if you say it was strategic, I’ll accept it.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to Kolohe says:

          There’s also social desirability bias. People often tell pollsters what they think will make them look good, rather than answering truthfully.Report

        • dragonfrog in reply to Kolohe says:

          I don’t know for sure, but I suspect there was some of that – strategic voting, bloc-splitting, the shortcomings of FPTP in multi-party politices, etc. have all been very much discussed in Canada in the last few years.

          I saw a lot of people referring one another to this site for example – granted that my circle of contacts may not be representative of the province as a whole.Report

        • dragonfrog in reply to Kolohe says:

          Also worth noting – there was only one provincial leaders’ debate, on April 22, which corresponds almost exactly with the Wildrose party’s sudden drop in polls – and indeed Rachel Notley (NDP) was widely considered to have won that debate, and Brian Jean (WRP) to have seemed like a doll where you pull the string in his back and he says “no new taxes.”

          So I think the first major shift of voter intentions, from the Liberals to the NDP, was largely about Liberal supporters realizing they had a chance to actually change things if they went with strategic votes. The second major shift, from Wildrose to NDP (or maybe to not showing up on voting day), was about “kick the bums out” voters deciding Notley would make a better premier than Jean.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to dragonfrog says:

            So where do you think PC goes from here, Dragonfrog? They seemed to be polling reasonably well until late on – and I know there was a specific scandal I think at Justice – so it seems like they might be able to rebound with a change in leadership and all that. This seems especially true if the WR isn’t a viable alternative (unless they choose a new leader?)

            On the other hand, this is an utterly disastrous result and the last unbeatable party, Social Credit, went from 30 years of rule to oblivion.

            So what do you think?Report

            • North in reply to Will Truman says:

              They’ll be fine, more’s the pity*. The NDP and the Liberals will continue to split the left nationally and in most provinces whereas the Right (unless the WRP starts getting serious national traction) is generally united. It’s the right’s revenge for the divided Chretchien era. If they dust off the furniture, clean house a bit and start taking the contest seriously the advantage still lies with the Conservatives. Fortunately they’re Canadian conservatives so they’re still generally competent to govern.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to North says:

                Colby Cosh seems pretty confident that a merger will take place because all participating members remember Reform vs PC.Report

              • Zane in reply to Will Truman says:

                It sounds like there’s some bad blood between Wildrose and the Conservatives, though. Wasn’t there a call for a merger after a number of Wildrose MLAs switched to Conservative recently?

                (It may sound like I know something, but these are things I just read about after seeing this post)Report

              • dragonfrog in reply to Zane says:

                Yeah, pretty much everyone resented that.

                If probably haven’t got my numbers exactly right, but something like 1/3 of the floor-crossers didn’t even try for the PC nomination this time around, 1/3 tried for the nomination and failed, and the remaining 1/3 managed to get the nomination but were defeated in the election.Report

              • Stephan Cooper in reply to Zane says:

                Huge bad blood, one of the centerpieces of the Wild Rose’s campaign was to undergo a detailed audit of the senior government. The implication being that they wanted to find all the bodies the PCs had buried.

                With this outcome, I think there is going to be a strong temptation by the Wild Rose to wait and see if the PCs simply implode into themselves and pick up their supporters rather than make any deals with the PC hierarchy.Report

              • dragonfrog in reply to North says:

                On the federal front, I agree with you, sadly – Mulcair has said that he’d be open to electoral cooperation with the Liberals in order to unseat the Conservatives, but there’s no way Trudeau will go for it. He presumably figures he can make PM without having to compromise or share any of the power.

                As I see it, Trudeau is hell-bent on making himself a historical footnote and doesn’t realize it. For the cooperation to have worked, it would have had to be declared months ago so the Conservatives couldn’t make it out to be some kind of sinister and sneaky plot.Report

            • dragonfrog in reply to Will Truman says:

              I really hesitate to make any predictions. Alberta sure does have a history of sticking with the incumbents, but then this NDP victory depended a lot on young people making it to the polls, which has been a challenge to maintain.

              A lot will depend on the NDP’s ability to not foul things up terribly, and on the PCs and WRP being unwilling to merge (and they are actually fairly far apart on a lot of issues – the PCs had basically taken a lot of the position the Liberals have been occupying on the federal front).

              Another risk, as much as I hate to admit it, is that if Rachel Notley makes good on her promise to respect, collaborate with, and learn from aboriginal people here, that will cost her party votes in four years. There is a lot, I mean a lot of really ugly virulent racism against aboriginal people in Alberta.

              My guess is that, if there aren’t any huge scandals, oil markets recover at least somewhat, and the WRP and PCs remain competing parties, we’ll have at least one more NDP government.Report

    • Stephan Cooper in reply to Kolohe says:

      One of the big issues was timing of the election. The Liberal party recently had its leader resign and was gearing up for a leadership campaign with the understanding that the election was supposed to be in 2016 so they were in the middle of organizing internal matters and weren’t ready to run a campaign. As a result they couldn’t get a full list of candidates to run and had to have an interim leader as their standard bearer. They’ve also been in internal disarray for the past couple years and needed a leadership race to resolve their internal issues.

      This is in contrast to the NDP, who had their leadership change over last year, so they were in much better position to run a campaign suddenly announced. It also helped that their new leader turned out to be fairly talented as a politician, which did a lot to mitigate an underwhelming group of candidates at the riding level.

      It was a pretty important element to this race that the Premier decided to hold an election when the main opposition on the left and right were both leader less and disorganized. But the shear cynicism of this move ended up rebounding against the PCs. This greatly benefited the NDP who were standing as the 4th party 6th months ago but had the distinct advantage of being ready to run an election while not being the incumbantReport

      • Kolohe in reply to Stephan Cooper says:

        That explains things very well, thanks.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Stephan Cooper says:

        Also relevant w.r.t. the timing – in 2011 the PC government, under Ed Stelmach, passed a fixed election date law, according to which we shouldn’t have gone to the polls for another year.

        But, that law was totally ineffective – it didn’t stop the premier from dissolving parliament, or absolve the lieutenant governor of the responsibility to call an election upon dissolution. Either it was cynically passed in 2011 knowing full well it was meaningless, or it was incompetently drafted in 2011 and cynically exploited in 2015 – neither of which possibilities looks good on the PCs.Report

        • Stephan Cooper in reply to dragonfrog says:

          There was no way they could pass an enforceable fixed election law. Its pretty basic Westminister system constitutional law, no Parliament can bind the hands of a future Parliament. Its impossible to write an enforceable fixed elections bill because a future government is fully equal to the previous one and can elect to disregard its laws. Same applies to a balanced budget legislation.

          The salient point is that the fixed election date amounted to a promise that they wouldn’t hold and early election, rather than an actual law. So it amounts to breaking a promise they made because they thought it would be convenient not to be held to it.Report

  8. Dand says:

    replied in wrong spot, please delete this post.Report

  9. DRS says:

    Another important fact from last night: Nearly 50 per cent of the newly-elected NDP caucus are women. This is quite a high % and means a woman-heavy cabinet as well. I’m trying to find a final seat results list (probably have to wait until tomorrow) but it could mean a legislature that is almost 50-50 split between the sexes. Is there another North American jurisdiction that can say this?Report

    • Kolohe in reply to DRS says:

      Colorado and Vermont are at 40-41%.

      Alberta was below the North American average to begin with (it’s 20-25% in each nation, but less than 15% in Alberta), so mathematically, 50% of new MPs being women is unlikely to create an entire parliament which is 50% women.

      Sweden has the highest percentage of women MPs out of any unambiguous democracy, also in the low 40s% range, but also has a voluntary system of quotas in party slates. The next unambiguously democratic country, Finland, looks like they let the chips fall as they may, as does Iceland, but the one after those two, Spain, has legal quotas for women representation in government.Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to Kolohe says:

        And by “unambigous” you mean “rich-country”.

        Bolivia’s a democracy, no two ways about it. Lots of rich folks disliking the current occupant of the office doesn’t make it otherwise.Report

        • Kolohe in reply to KatherineMW says:

          I believe in a democracy when there is at least one, and normally at least two, peaceful transfers of power under a given constitution (either written or unwritten)

          (and yes, that takes post-ww2 Japan out of the running until the late 90s. ditto with Mexico and the [era of ]PRI [dominance]) [edited]Report

          • KatherineMW in reply to Kolohe says:

            How does having an elected assembly write a new constitution, and having voters decide whether to approve that constitution, make a nation less democratic than it was previously?Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Kolohe says:

        These are MLAs who were just elected, not MPs. 50% of Alberta MLAs being women means 50% of the Alberta Legislative Assembly are women, and changes nothing at all in the federal Parliament.Report

        • Kolohe in reply to dragonfrog says:

          sorry, was using MPs too generically. Thought all the province level legislative bodies were called ‘parliaments’ also. (are any of them funkadelic, at least?)Report

          • dragonfrog in reply to Kolohe says:

            There are at least:
            Members of Legislative Assembly (Alberta and Saskatchewan)
            Members of Provincial Parliament (Ontario)
            Members of the National Assembly (Quebec)

            I think Quebec’s is probably the funkadelickest.Report

    • Zane in reply to DRS says:

      Not North America, but per Women in National Parliaments (, Bolivia’s lower house is 53.1% women, and the Senate is 47.2%.

      However, Bolivia requires parties have a certain percentage of candidates who are women. I believe the quotas are lower than these numbers.

      Setting aside anything that resembles a democracy, Cuba’s legislature is 48.9% women. (I’m not sure just how democratic Bolivia is these days…)Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to Zane says:

        Bolivia’s plenty democratic these days. Voter participation and registration have gone up, and they’ve actually got a party that people support (as opposed to pre-2005, when there was widespread opposition to neoliberal policies but they got them anyway, regardless of who they elected).Report

  10. It seems worth mentioning that original OG (and the author of the manifesto that gave birth to the site) Scott Payne was heavily involved in making this happen. Congrats, Scott!Report