Strange Bedfellows

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The current poll results in Alberta paint an interesting picture. Currently the Wildrose Party (a kinder gentler version of the Tea Party for American readers) is in the lead (barely) with the New Democratic Party (left wing of the US Democratic Party) in second place closely followed by the current governing party, the Progressive Conservatives (like moderate Republicans). Also in the running are the Liberals (moderate Democrats) and the Alberta Party (who can say?). Other parties are also running but only these five have a chance of electing members to the Assembly — though the last will be lucky to win even one.

It’s a fascinating result given that the Progressive Conservatives have ruled the province for 44 years. Having escaped several near death experiences in that span, I wouldn’t count them out but the chances of them or anyone else forming a majority government is remote at this stage.

The situation following the May vote will be complex. The likely result is one of the conservative parties having enough seats to form a minority government — but their continued survival requires one of the other parties to support them. The natural result, you might think, is for the other conservative party to prop up the winner for at least 18 months to 2 years, at which time there will be another election.  A typical minority government situation.

Except those two conservative parties truly hate each other — much as the Tea Party saves its most intense vitriol for moderate Republicans. The fact that the current Premier enticed the leader and eight sitting members of the Wildrose party to cross the floor (before calling a cynical snap vote while the opposition was disorganized) makes the hatred more intense. It didn’t make the voters happy either. A ‘Unite the Right’ movement is too poisonous to consider.

So what is the alternative? It is possible — though not likely, given the concentration of their vote in one of the two largest cities —the NDP will win the most seats and get to form the government. But it would still be a minority. The Liberals would be their most likely ally. Liberals and NDP don’t exactly hate each other but they are hardly bosom buddies. Besides, the Liberals are not likely to have enough seats to make a difference.

Who then would the NDP turn to? The PCs are closest politically (though hardly close) but are now tainted. So that leaves the Wildrose party — the party of the outsider — to back what have traditionally been the pariah of conservative Alberta politics, the left-wing NDP. Can you say: The enemy of my enemy is my friend?

Which means of course that the most likely backer of the Wildrose party, if they form a minority, is the NDP. And the only way either of those scenarios could happen, I think, is through a formal coalition where each party puts aside its most contentious issues and form a joint government. Seems unlikely but few other combinations seem likelier. Unless, of course, the PCs and the Liberals together get enough seats for a government. There’s a match made in… you pick the theological locale.

But unless there is a big shift in voter intention in the next two weeks — it’s either one of these unlikely scenarios or going back to the polls in September.

And that’s ten minutes.

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