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Alberta 2023 – Part 1: Political Analysis – Copy

By Einar Davison, Managing Director, Strongpoint Projects

Since 2015, this has been Alberta’s long ”winter of discontent”.  Alberta’s industries declined and the Provincial Government financed the government with debt. Many Albertans saw the election of a New Democrat government as a train wreck. In 2019, the election of the Jason Kenney UCP government brought conservatives hope of a return to normal. Missteps by the UCP Government during the pandemic ended this hope. It’s not over yet and I will discuss what may occur in Alberta over the next year.

Political Analysis

The election of Danielle Smith as UCP leader and her acclamation as Premier of Alberta has been anything but uneventful. The first Bill introduced, caught the attention of not only Albertans but Canadians as well. Many Canadian political pundits see Alberta as the scrappy, problem child of confederation.  We aren’t, but in politics perception is everything.  The 2023 Alberta General Election on May 29th will be Alberta’s biggest political news of the year.  Here are the possibilities

  1. UCP Majority Government. This assumes Premier Smith can turnaround UCP fortunes in political polls. Premier Smith needs to win at least 44 seats. (45 preferred with Speaker of the Legislature). This will be Alberta’s “Better the Devil you know right now” scenario.
  1. NDP Majority Government, Is Alberta ready for Rachel Notley to be Premier again? This has never happened in Alberta’s history. Many Albertans respect NDP Leader Rachel Notley. However the New Democrats aren’t nearly as popular as she is. This is the “Better the Devil you knew” scenario.
  1. A minority government, this would require at very minimum the UCP and NDP to each win no more than 43 seats and one of the minor parties to win at least one seat.  The odds are pretty slim for this.  Alberta has never had a minority government. Currently none of the minor parties have enough following to win a seat.  We will call this the “Black Swan” scenario.

I believe the above are the only possibilities with the first two being the most probable. 

Right now it looks like the NDP has the best chance of winning. They are more popular in the urban areas, as well areas surrounding Calgary and Edmonton, some of the QE II highway corridor. If this holds the Rachel Notley will have another first of winning back government. This will fail if the NDP start giving the impression they have the election sewn up. Will Albertans say, “NDP – Never Again”?

In regards to the UCP, if they win, we can expect at least a few years of Premier Smith and her cabinet “shooting from their holsters”.  They will be learning from their mistakes and eventually they will get down to governing as opposed to trying to pick a fight with…well everyone.  The question is, when the UCP is moving right, is Alberta moving to the center?

What happens after May 29th?  I believe if the NDP hadn’t won the 2015 General Election, Rachel Notley probably would have stepped down as leader after the 2019 Election.  If she fails to form government this time, she will probably step down, opening the way for Shannon Phillips, Kathy Ganley, Joe Ceci, or David Sheppard as the NDP next generation leader.  This also will open up a possibility for minor parties to maybe make inroads back into the Legislature.

If the UCP fails to win back the government there will be a push to get rid of Danielle Smith again and I suspect history won’t be kind to her.  The 2022 UCP Leadership contest brought out many candidates, but none were especially noteworthy. Will they step up and try again?  The fact that there are many different factions to the right wing, will we see another parting of the seas as what occurred after Danielle Smiths first time in the Legislature? Could that just be the destruction of the UCP as MLA’s go off to the various factions?  Somehow I doubt it.  The PC’s and the UCP has always managed to find the next leader or party to stay in the Legislature I suspect they will hold on. Being government for most conservatives is more important that ideology. The more right wing parties will fizzle as they have in the past because they usually have unexciting leadership or are a one-plank platform or both.

This leaves us with the Alberta Party, the Alberta Liberals the Greens.  I am disclosing that I currently am a member of the Alberta Party.  I will endeavour to be unbiased.

The Alberta Party has a good leader, but after coming in 3rd after Danielle Smith in the byelection.  I suspect the General Election will be an uphill battle for Barry Morishita.  It is a case of the party not being up to the leader as opposed to the other way around.  There are only three candidates nominated Barry Morishita, Kerry Cundal and Jennifer Yeremij.  Does the Alberta Party have enough time to nominate 87 candidates? Probably not! It will be a struggle, for sure! The Alberta Party lost its credibility in the 2015 election when they decided to remove Greg Clark as leader, the only sitting MLA. The best hope is that Kerry Cundal will regain Calgary Elbow which was the seat held by Greg Clark. 

The Alberta Liberals are on life support and like the Alberta Liberals in the 1970’s the name Trudeau is their greatest downfall.  They currently have elected their former President John Roggeveen as Leader.  The party diehards are keeping the party alive.  The Alberta Liberals have been the Official Opposition four times in Alberta’s history and during the 90’s with the most seats (32) ever held by the official opposition.  The odds are pretty good that they will not win a seat in the 2023 election. The odds are it will be a long road back to the glory days of Laurence Decore and the official opposition.

The Alberta Green Party doesn’t seem to be registering on the political landscape at the moment in Alberta. However they always manage to run some candidates and I suspect they will do the same in 2023. They currently have 23 candidates nominated.

In summary the 2023 General Election will most likely be just a battle between the UCP and the NDP. We need to keep in mind that Albertans are pretty much “steady as it goes” politically with the occasional “time to give the ruling party a spanking”.  When I talk to people the one thing I take away is that 2015 was a change election, 2019 was another change election and I suspect 2023 will be no different.  Albertans are struggling to find stability and Alberta politics is still unstable.

Next Part – Alberta Economics

1 thought on “Alberta 2023 – Part 1: Political Analysis – Copy”

  1. Einar Davison

    I haven’t finished the Alberta PESTLE Analysis yet. I’m thinking there will be more interesting things to write about post election.

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