Welcome to the second, less frequently-posted decade of RevMod.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Post Mortem

Let's start with my personal results, and get them out of the way. I came fifth, as I predicted. I beat the Socred, but lost to the incumbent, the Liberal parachute, the Alliance no-show/no-sign, and the Parti Albertois. On the other hand, I doubled my vote and was in striking distance of all but Oberg, so there's something to be celebrated even in this.

To the rest of the election. The Klein who spoke last night was not the exuberant Premier of 2001 declaring Alberta "Ralph's World". He won three-quarters of the seats in the legislature, and he looked humbled. And rightfully so - he understands what he heard over the writ period. He understands what it means that the Alberta Alliance snagged over 9% of the vote, mostly out of a rural base the Tories have taken for granted. In Alberta, a grumbly electorate doesn't immediately throw the bums out. But Albertans clearly told the Premier that we expect some change, some new direction. If we don't see it from the Tories, we'll find it elsewhere.

This is going to have a huge impact on the upcoming leadership. The candidates who might pull the Tories out of trouble are the ones who articulate something new - who are as much of a change within the PC party as Klein was a break from the Lougheed era. A smart guy like Jim Dinning might figure that out and reinvent himself. My suggestion, and prediction, is that he'll invoke the PC party of 1971, of the Lougheed era. That PC party was a shift left from the Socreds who came before, running against the most excessive and offensive ideas left over from the thirties. Lougheed's first act in office was to repeal the eugenics legislation that permitted forced sterilizations. I'm not sure there's anything as huge or symbolic as that, but the contest will be the same. If the next PC leader lines up the party behind the modern, urban, fiscally conservative-to-moderate but socially moderate-to-progressive Alberta of today, the Tories can pull their vote once more, steal back from the Liberals, and dominate the centre once again. Like the Lougheed era, there will be a few opposition memmbers on the right ("Hey, what happened to our eugenics legislation?") and a few on the left.

Or, the Tories can move themselves to the right, try to get back the votes and seat they've lost to the Alberta Alliance... and Kevin Taft will be extremely well-situated to take most of Calgary, some of the medium-sized city seats, and a few in the bedroom community rurals. It's enough to turn the Liberals into the government - an awfully similar government to the Tory one I described above. No wonder Taft was happy last night.

We NDP last night were happier than we should be. Before Klein, the NDP were in the position that the Liberals are now - a decent-sized caucus sitting across from a government that needed to reinvent or fall. I'm not sure when exactly we let the Liberals steal that opportunity away. But Albertans of all political stripes who appreciate responsible government should be happy about the four ND members, because we've proven over the last session our effectiveness at holding the government to account with even a tiny caucus.

I think the rest of the country would be surprised to hear that an election that brought the Tories their tenth majority in a row was about change. But that was the message last night - the Tories can change, or Albertans will change them. Klein's political instincts are as good as ever - he heard it. Did the rest of the party?

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