Byelections show Alberta pendulum swinging back to centre

The recent byelections in Alberta were quite revealing not only by results but by the campaigning and the reactions after the vote.

The recent byelections in Alberta were quite revealing not only by results but by the campaigning and the reactions after the vote.

The Progressive Conservatives won all four byelections, under a new leader and a significant move to a more centre-right positioning with 44 per cent of the vote. While they were accustomed to larger majorities, they still won.

The Wildrose Party came in second in two races and finished third in the other two races while garnering 28 per cent of the vote. There is talk that Wildrose and its right-wing positioning peaked on the eve of the last provincial election, when it was considered a safe bet on them forming government.

Remember almost all federal Conservative MPs were supporting Wildrose. Many of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Alberta organizers and advisors were said to be working for the Wildrose. It was the Wildrose that was being accused of using attack ads (a major part of Harper’s arsenal).

Perhaps it is the right-wing political position and campaign tactics that have seen their best-before-date expire. The Alberta Party came in second in one race and the NDP came in second in the fourth race. The Liberals and the Green Party were non-contenders in all four races.

Wildrose failed to live up to expectations, using the federal Conservatives’ tried and true strategies and tactics. And now the leader is calling for a leadership review and said she needs at least 77 per cent support to stay on. I am not sure a leadership change is as necessary as a change in electoral positioning, strategies and practices is.

While the Alberta Party and the NDP exceeded expectations, their positioning may need fine tuning, and perhaps their communication and fundraising arms may require some help. But no leadership change should be demanded.

The Alberta Liberals have once again slid into oblivion as they concentrate on messages that are not resonating with the electorate and could be ripe for a leadership change, a revised communications strategy, a name change or perhaps a merger is the answer.

The Green Party has a limited but strong base but they are unable to appeal to the right wing as much as their policies should, so perhaps a leadership question is needed but without strong fundraising and a strong communications arm would it make any difference?

It seems that the pendulum is swinging back from the extreme right and heading back to the centre, but has not quite hit it yet.

The Alberta byelections brought out a desire for change, a real distaste for negative tactics and attack ads, a desire for a more moderate governing style, and a willingness to give the benefit of the doubt to those who appear willing to listen and change.

Are the political leaders listening? I hope so.

Garfield Marks

Red Deer

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