Alberta NDP would have won 26 seats if PC and Wildrose merged
May 6, 2015

Alberta NDP would have won 26 seats if PC and Wildrose merged

The question for the federal scene coming out of the historic NDP wave election in Alberta that saw them jump from four seats to 53, a solid majority, is whether anything close to this is reproducible on the federal scene. The major difference between the two is that federally only the Conservatives represent the right wing (shhh dear Liberal bashers) while in Alberta there is the Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose Party.

One crude estimate is to see what would have happened if the PCs and the Wildrose had indeed joined into a single party. Assuming the votes work out the same way in this new scenario (a big if!), it is easy enough to compute how things would have turned out: the Alberta NDP would have one 26 out of 87 seats against a powerful Conservative majority. (email me if you want the spreadsheet)

This result is fairly stable if you relax the assumption. For instance, suppose the NDP gets a 10% boost (not 10 point) because of, say, people so disgusted by the amalgamation that they vote NDP. That only gives him 28 seats.

Of course, at the federal level, Alberta doesn't give 87 seats. Under the new redistricting (which makes this kind of math very hard this year), Alberta only generates 34 seats. If we assume the result is proportional, that means the NDP gets 10 seats federally. Not bad. Not great, either. In 2011 (when only 28 seats were up for play before the redistricting), the Conservatives swept 27 of 28 seats, with the NDP second in 23 of those 27.

Incidentally, the Liberals might appear to be the big losers here, but they aren't. They are a dead party in Alberta, capturing only 4% of the vote (most Liberal supporters undoubtedly ended up voting NDP so it doesn't necessarily mean people dislike them as much as 4% implies). But the key point here is that normally when the NDP does well it hurts the Liberals and helps the Conservatives. Here the NDP doing well reduces the number of Conservative seats but doesn't change the number of Liberal seats (they get zero either way), so it makes it easier for the Liberals federally.

There are about a million caveats to this very crude analysis. It only works under a tonne of assumptions that are almost impossible to remain true. Either way, there is hope for a modest but not enormous jump for the NDP federally. 

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Ron Waller said...

The real issue here is vote splitting under our 19th-century Fist-Past-the-Post voting system.

If Canada was an actual democracy, like 32 of 34 developed countries, neither the Alberta NDP, the ON Liberals or federal Cons would've won absolute power on 40% of the vote in their last elections.

In developed countries, a party or coalition needs 50% of the vote to govern, which ensures they have the support of an actual majority of voters. (In Canada and the UK, the word "majority" is meaningless because parties arbitrarily divide the vote which produces arbitrary election results.)

So if Alberta was a democracy, the end result would've been either a NDP/WR coalition or PC/WR coalition (probably the latter.) (In Canada the word "coalition" has a technical meaning: the lesser coalition party gets some cabinet positions.)

So whoever will "win" the federal election is a crap shoot. The only thing that can be known with certainty is that Canadians will end up the losers.

BTW, most developed countries fixed their voting system a century ago. Canada and the UK are aristocracies that look down on the will of the people.

bazie said...

You would probably be better off making this argument basically any time other than the first time in my political life when vote splitting actually helps the progressive party, not the right wing;)

Ron Waller said...

The NDP gets hosed the most under FPTP (besides voters, whose will is never carried out.) So the party's supporters know the voting system is a huge problem.

Over the past 25 years, the NDP has snagged only 3 fluke majorities (in major provinces) because of vote splitting. Not exactly a reliable process.

Interestingly enough, their 1996 fake majority in BC (had less of the vote than the Liberals) started off the doomed electoral reform process in Canada. It was in response to the corrupt Campbell government. The BC NDP actually campaigned against PR. (So were the BC Liberals who promised electoral reform and brought about two designed-to-fail referendums.)

That was the last time the NDP governed in BC. The 1990 NDP fluke win in ON was the first and the last time the party governed in that province.

The plutocrats and nasty social cons will be beating the war drum the entire 4 years of the AB NDP government. They will get blamed for bad weather. So that will probably be the last time anyone now living will see another NDP majority in AB.

But the main reason we've gotten anti-progressive neo-con and neo-liberal governments over the past 25 years is because of vote splitting. The Liberals need the Red Tory vote to get their 40% "majorities." So they give the cons the economy -- tax cuts, spending cuts, privatization, deregulation, free trade, etc.

What they give progressives to keep them coming back is a mystery to me. They like to play the neo-con horror card to shepherd centrist and left-leaning voters. But that's not exactly giving them anything.

Ron Waller said...

Correction: Glen Clark had the corruption problems. Gordon Campbell was the Liberal who instigated the designed-to-fail referendums (60% win threshold, campaign gag laws, etc.)

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