Sunday, January 27, 2008

Grumpy Alberta Voters Are Volatile On the Eve of an Election

The results of the next election in Alberta will not be because the voters wanted to throw out the incumbents or because there is a preferred option. Success in this election will not be because a party won or another lost. Victory will be earned by the leaders and by the hard work of each and every candidate. I believe the Alberta voter is generally cynical but also grumpy and nervous, even if they are doing well in this overheated economy.

Albertans are also in no mood to be trifled with. I think the “change” mentality coming out of the US Presidential races will emerge in the minds of Albertans in the pending election. That means the only safe seat in the province is likely Ed Stelmach’s. Candidates from all parties and in all corners of the province will have to earn votes at the doorsteps, through the phone lines and now on the Internet. Premier Stelmach as said repeatedly that the opportunity to govern is a privilege and not a right. Nothing can be taken for granted in this election.

Cambridge Strategies Inc. and The Policy Channel did a discrete choice modeling survey on what Albertans see as the important values needed for responsible and sustainable oil sands development. Results indicate there are two lines of though in the minds of Albertans. For example, an equal number of Albertans agree and disagree that their government is doing a good job on managing growth and our natural resources.

That means there is lots of volatility in the views of voters. They can be a fickle lot too. They can even change their minds at the last minute, like they did in the weekend before the 2006 federal election, putting pollsters and pundits in their place. The same thing happened as recently as the New Hampshire Democratic Primary where the voters confounded the pollsters.

The end result is the pending Alberta election outcome is not known and not easily predicted, at least not now. This is especially true based on the many and varied poll results we have been seeing. Some things are for sure. That is that election campaigns matter and they are about choice and change. In a democracy, you always get the government you deserve. That is true even if you don’t vote and choose to leave your future to be decided by other citizens who do vote.

I am usually a betting man on election outcomes, and I win more often than I lose. This Alberta election may be the first time I don’t think I can make a reasonable prediction on an outcome. I do not expect to be taking any bets on this election – even if I were offered odds.