Alberta PC Leader Alison Redford celebrates her win in Calgary on Monday.
But under Redford, a party which had trailed by 10 percentage points on the weekend before the vote somehow rose from the dead to win its 12th consecutive majority, casting a pall over Smith’s campaign headquarters at a country club here. The hurtin’ tunes started playing early and never really let up.In the immediate post-mortem, the instant analysis was simple. “What happened,” I asked one veteran of federal and provincial campaigns, who like most of the team around Smith are seasoned and shrewd political operatives.“Hunsperger happened,’’ he said.
That’s as in Allan Hunsperger, the pastor running for Wildrose who had condemned gays to life in a lake of fire, joined by Ron Leech, who said he was a better candidate than his opponent because he was white.
Smith was badly hurt by this outbreak of Tea Party-style, social issues foot-in-mouth disease. But she compounded her problem. She failed to fire either of the candidates, falling back on her libertarianism as an excuse to let them carry on, arguing freedom of speech. But in the campaign’s last week, she had nothing to offer, only playing defence on social issues and her view that the science of climate change remained a work in progress.
“You had a 41-year-old dynasty with a lot invested in hanging on,’’ said one Wildrose strategist. “They threw a lot of furniture at us in the last week.’’ Things shifted, a last-minute surge that pollsters missed. There did appear to be strategic voting, an almost total collapse of the Liberal party and a move to the PCs to block Smith. In essence, Alberta decided to move forward as Redford implored. They would not be pulled back to the 1950s where she said Smith would take them. “Tonight we found out change might take a little longer than we thought,’’ Smith told supporters.
“Am I surprised? Yeah. Am I disappointed? Yeah. Am I discouraged? Not a chance.’’ Redford told Albertans the entire country was watching, waiting to see what this province really thought of itself.
She told them the world was watching, too. She worried aloud about the future of the provincial, and national, economy if a “climate change denier” was trying to open new markets for the province’s bountiful resources.
She dared them to take the next step on the world stage, to show the world that this was a more cosmopolitan province, home to more than Stetsons and stampedes, with a diverse Calgary leading the way.
She had travelled the world herself and made an international reputation for herself. Smith had barely left Alberta. They listened and they clearly worried about Smith and a team of untested neophytes running the show. Redford appeared to head into election day playing a weak hand, looking at polls which showed Smith up to 10 points ahead of her.
She was trying to stave off significant “brand fatigue” after 41 years of PC rule. She was being accused of forsaking the party’s conservative base. She seemed to have missed a window last winter when, had she gone to the polls riding a wave of acclaim as the province’s first female premier, even Wildrose strategists conceded they could not beat her. But she waited, and as she did the problems piled up and she underperformed. Despite the odds, the premature obituaries written on her and her party, despite the national attention showered on Smith, despite the polls, despite the despair even heard from within her party, she prevailed.
Dynasties are hard to kill.
dear readers, I have presented this article written by Tim Harper, Toronto Star, National Affairs Columnist. Many 'polls and punditry' during the Alberta election called for a Wildrose victory, which makes me wonder if legitimate unbiased public opinion polling has changed to an art from a science? I suspect that some marginal pollsters counted on ignorance while others used dubious methods to test their research. Regardless, instead of being skeptical; which is what pollsters are trained to be, no less, are some just selling 'snake oil' because it's easy? At a time when many forms of science are being questioned; like medical and environmental science, i'm not really surprised that post Alberta election, many political pollsters are now feeling vulnerable but if we continue to confuse voters, we may breed more voter apathy!