The next Canadian legislative assembly to entertain thoughts of a coalition may well not be our Parliament in Ottawa but the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton.
What’s more, a future Alberta coalition might not look at all like what you would imagine.
Never mind the Democratic Renewal Project, that hopeful little club of Alberta dreamers who fantasize about getting the Liberals and the NDP together for a happy progressive future out here in the New West. It just ain’t gonna happen.
But what about a coalition of the Conservatives and the Liberals? Or even the Conservatives and the NDP? This may seem extremely unlikely at this precise moment, but these or stranger things could happen soon in Alberta!
Look at the Alberta political situation this way: Normally, when there’s an election coming in this province, it’s safe to bet on a massive Conservative monolith after the election that’s just like the massive Conservative monolith before the writ was dropped. But by presenting a well-funded and strategically well-thought-out far-right alternative to the Progressive Conservative Party of Premier Ed Stelmach, the Wildrose Alliance under former journalist Danielle Smith has had a significantly destabilizing impact on what used to seem like the eternal verities of Alberta politics.
The most recent credible polling in Alberta – which is growing extremely stale – suggests that if an election were held any time soon, Mr. Stelmach’s Conservatives would emerge with a very narrow majority in what will be a newly redistributed 87-seat Alberta Legislature. It could even, as we suggested recently, look like this:
Wildrose Alliance: 23
Now, that’s about as tight as a majority can get. But even if the Alberta Legislature held a few more Tories, it would not be a happy place for Mr. Stelmach, who surely needs at least 55 seats after the next election to survive as premier.
By comparison, the current 83-seat Legislature looks like this:
Wildrose Alliance: 3
New Democrats: 2
Things would get really interesting, however, if the Wildrose Alliance could add only 3 or 4 per cent to it support between now and voting day – a task that is within the realm of possibility if the winds blow the right way.
With such an increase, especially if Wildrose support rose sufficiently in the Capital Region to split the right-wing vote and hand seats to Liberals and New Democrats, the results could look like this:
Wildrose Alliance: 28
Suddenly, we’re Israel! Or Italy anyway! Moreover, it is within the realm of possibility that, if the planets were all in alignment, the breakdown could even turn out to be more like this:
Wildrose Alliance: 37
In the latter case, the electoral arithmetic that would propel the Conservatives to try for a saving coalition with another party would be compelling.
Remember, the dirty little secret of Alberta politics in 2010 – one that no partisan of any party will admit even having thought about – is that a coalition, post election, is a possibility.
Google this, and you won’t find much mainstream commentary. But do you think if the Wildrose Alliance had enough votes to form a minority government, and the Conservatives could block them by cobbling together a coalition with the Liberals, some Liberals, or even the New Democrats, that they wouldn’t try? Or vice-versa?
With the Wildrose Alliance as the alternative, do you think the Liberals or NDP wouldn’t be tempted to play ball?
Trust your blogger. Their lips may be sealed, but in the secret corners of their hearts, the strategists of all Alberta political parties are trying on the idea of a coalition, holding it up to the light and committing the cell phone numbers of their colleagues in other parties to virtual memory.
Impossible, you say? Just remember where you heard it first.
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.