THE ACCIDENTAL UCP GOVERNMENT
BY SCOTT HAYWARD
In the wake of the federal and Alberta provincial elections in 2016, Jason Kenney (who many thought of as a shoe-in for the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada) left Ottawa to return to Alberta to run for leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta with the sole purpose of merging the party with the Wildrose Party to create what is now the United Conservative Party of Alberta.
In the lead up to winning the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, Kenney would often refer to the NDP government in power at the time in Alberta as the accidental NDP government.
The implication was that if the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta and the Wildrose Party were one entity, running one candidate in each riding, and pooling resources, that the NDP would not stand a chance of winning government.
Fast forward to late May this year in the second general provincial election in Alberta after the merger of the two parties into the United Conservative Party of Alberta (UCP). This right-wing political party ran one candidate in each riding, pooled the resources of the former parties together, and had no real conservative alternative (the closest being the Independence Party of Alberta, which garnered just over 5,000 votes across the entire province).
Yet despite this incredible unity on the conservative side of the political spectrum in Alberta, the NDP saw an increase in seats (from 24 to 38), increase in votes (from 620,000 to over 775,000), and an increase in the percentage of the vote (from 33% to 44%).
So, what changed in Alberta that despite the unity of the conservatives into one political entity, the NDP were able to experience such incredible growth from the 2019 election to the 2023 election?
LET’S BREAK DOWN THE NUMBERS
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
This was an often-used quote from my time in university accounting courses and it rings true for most things in life. If you cannot objectively (and oftentimes numbers are required to add objectivity) identify and size up your problem, then there is no way of successfully addressing said problem.
The aggressively pro-abortion NDP increasing raw votes, vote share, and seats in what has long been considered rock-ribbed conservative Alberta is a major problem.
Let’s look at the last ten years or so of provincial elections in Alberta:
As you can see in the graph above, the united conservative parties (UCP and it’s predecessor parties of the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose, together) in Alberta have typically hovered around 1,000,000 votes for the last decade. However, the NDP have rocketed up from well under 200,000 votes in 2012 to almost 800,000 in 2023, more than sextupling over the last ten years while the united conservative vote has stagnated.
When you combine the vote results for the NDP, the Liberals, and the Alberta Party (it can be argued that the Alberta Party is more centrist, however more of their policy positions are closer to the NDP than the UCP; for example their 2023 platform included freezing funding for chartered schools), the united left vote has increased from less than 300,000 in 2012 to almost 800,000 in 2023, almost tripling their total vote.
This rate is unsustainable for the United Conservative Party of Alberta.
However, some of those who would rather stick their heads in the sand point to the following as evidence that there is no problem:
- The UCP won the popular vote (52% vs 44% for the NDP)
- It was the second highest popular vote for any winning party since 2004
- The UCP has a 10-seat cushion (48 seats versus 38 seats for the NDP)
While all those things are indeed true, there are some factors that are worthy of consideration if one does not wish to see UCP governments become accidental going forward.
Firstly, elections in Canada are won based on seat count and not popular vote. If a political party increases the vote share in safe seats, but is losing momentum in key swing seats, then that party will eventually lose government. In the 2023 provincial election, the united conservative vote lost both the seat count and total raw vote count in Calgary for the first time ever, and not just to the united left vote, but to just the NDP alone:
Furthermore, while there is still a large vote margin in the rural areas for the united conservative vote over the united left (253,000), that margin has been cut in almost half since the 2012 provincial election, where the united conservative vote had a vote margin of 438,000 over the united left:
In fact, the united conservative vote had a vote margin of almost 50,000 over the united left in Edmonton in the 2012 provincial election. Over the course of the last ten years, that vote margin has flipped to a vote deficit of over 100,000, a flip of 150,000 votes:
In all three regions of Alberta (Edmonton, Calgary, and rural) the united conservative vote has remained stagnant, but the united left vote has increase steadily, completely wiping out any vote margin the united conservative vote had in the two major cities (Edmonton and Calgary) and cutting the vote margin in half in the rural areas.
This is completely unsustainable for the conservative vote in Alberta.
The UCP cannot win elections by winning most rural seats by large margins, while losing seats in Edmonton and Calgary. Simultaneously, the UCP is losing seats in rural Alberta, losing the first fully rural seat ever to the NDP in Banff-Kananaskis. Some will justify this as saying that the Town of Banff is very left wing and growing and as such the party was eventually going to lose that riding.
However, that does not explain how the rural ridings of Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre went from a UCP vote margin of over 18,000 in 2019 to just over 12,000 in 2023, or how Vermillion-Lloydminster-Wainwright went from a UCP vote margin of over 17,000 in 2019 to less than 10,000 in 2023.
It does not also account for the fact that the UCP went from a total vote margin in the small city ridings of Cypress-Medicine Hat, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge-West, Lethbridge-East, Red Deer-North, and Red Deer-South of over 38,000 in 2019 to just over 16,000 in 2023, a decrease of almost 60% over four years.
It won’t matter if the UCP continues to win the fully rural seats by large margins in future elections leading to an overall win the popular vote, if the party is starting to lose some of those six small city seats (which it already has in Lethbridge-East and almost did in Lethbridge-West).
Finally, many will point to the fact that the UCP have a 10-seat vote cushion on the NDP in a legislature with 87 seats. The UCP won 55% of the seats in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta: this is the lowest share of seats of any government in the history of Alberta.
If the NDP won five more seats from the UCP, the NDP would have formed government. The five closest margin UCP victory seats all came in Calgary and together the vote margin in those seats was 1,866, or just 373 votes per seat.
Had 934 of those Calgarians who voted for the UCP in those five seats voted instead for the NDP (giving 1-vote margins for the NDP in those five seats), then the NDP would have won government. This is the fewest number of votes ever to determine an election in Alberta history.
FIVE ALARM FIRE
Should the trendline of the united left vote (which has predominantly coalesced behind the NDP in the last three provincial elections) continue in all three regions (Edmonton, Calgary, and rural) of Alberta, electing a UCP government will quickly become accidental.
And yet no one seems to be discussing this alarming trend in legacy media, independent media, or in conservative circles.
So, why is this trend happening?
It is important to remember that elections are won with votes and not percentages. What I mean is that it is important to focus on the raw vote totals and not on the percentage of the vote. The united conservative vote has hovered around 1,000,000 for the past ten years. Yet, the united left vote has skyrocketed from 270,000 in 2012 to 800,000 in 2023.
As the population of Alberta increases, so does the united left vote.
This is partly explained by who is moving to Alberta.
Since 2020, almost 200,000 Canadians from other provinces have moved to Alberta. This is a net and not a gross number, which is to say that this number has already subtracted all the Albertans who have moved to other provinces from Alberta.
Most of these non-Albertan Canadians have moved to Calgary. In addition to importing themselves and their families into Calgary, they have imported their values, including their previous voting behaviours.
Since the UCP seem intent on not engaging in any cultural battles, especially under Danielle Smith, then new Albertans (particularly new Calgarians) are going to determine the new voting patterns across the province and particularly in Calgary, which we have been seeing for the past ten years.
There is very little polling on this question in Alberta, but there could be a possible likelihood that those who flee other provinces to Alberta also want to flee those values behind as well. In fact, those parents who enroll their children in public schools in Calgary may have an expectation that the wokeist garbage they left behind in their home provinces will not rear its ugly head in their new home. If this is true, how disappointing it must be for them to hear their new premier say things like this:
If a family moves to Florida and has their children enrolled into a publicly funded school (as most will), you can expect those children to be taught Floridian values as determined by Ron DeSantis and those (re: the majority of Floridians) who elected him and the Republican legislature.
However, if a family moves to Calgary and enrolls their children in public school, you can expect that the children will be taught the values of the NDP, just like they would at a public school in Mississauga or Burnaby.
When the UCP lets the NDP determine who should or should not run as a UCP candidate, which laws that they passed should remain on the books and not be repealed by a four-year UCP majority government, and cede to the cultural values of the NDP in the public square, then the UCP should not be surprised that the province will eventually vote for the NDP.
This lesson does not just apply solely to the UCP or Danielle Smith, it is a lesson that has application across Canada to the Saskatchewan Party, the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, and the federal Conservative Party of Canada, to name a few.
Very few who are concerned over the aggressive push of gender ideology in the public school system are also supportive of the carbon tax. It is important for conservative parties to be promoting conservative economic values, just as liberal parties promote liberal economic values. However, in this country liberal parties promote liberal cultural values (which is to be expected), but our conservative parties are nowhere to be seen on those cultural issues, or worse:
The ample cowardice of these supposed conservative political parties, their leaders, their full-time staff, and their caucuses have toward engaging in the great and urgent cultural battles of our time will have long-term consequences that are being played out in what used to be rock-ribbed conservative Alberta before our very eyes.
When the NDP were first elected in 2015, many conservatives rightly identified that having a united conservative vote would make the NDP an accidental government, and while that was true for the subsequent election in 2019, it appears that was very temporary.
Welcome to the age of accidental UCP governments, Alberta.
At least, as long as your conservative party refuses to be culturally conservative.