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Alberta Liberal Party Leader David Swann
Alberta Liberal Party Leader David Swann
Cross-posted from Daveberta.ca

Now that the great orange chinook has finally put an end to 44 years of Progressive Conservative dominance, the hard job of governing Alberta has begun in earnest for Rachel Notley's New Democratic Party. Among the many tasks the new MLAs face, one of their first and most important will be to choose a new speaker of the Alberta legislature. Notley's caucus is filled mostly with newcomers, but that gives her a unique opportunity to reach beyond party lines for an experienced and steady hand to oversee the chamber: Liberal Leader David Swann.

Pundits have already written extensively about the political inexperience of many of the 49 newly-elected NDP MLAs, though this group nevertheless boasts some very impressive talent, from Joe Ceci (a former 15-year Calgary alderman) to Sarah Hoffman (chair of the Edmonton Public School Board) to Bob Wanner (Public Services Commissioner for Medicine Hat). But it's still fair to point out that the NDP ranks include only four MLAs with experience in the Legislative Assembly (counting Notley herself), and Notley will need all of them to assume top leadership positions in her cabinet.

At the same time, the speaker of the Assembly must possess an intimate knowledge of the rules of the house, which is why the role is usually held by a veteran MLA and would not be appropriately handed to a freshman lawmaker. That poses a problem for Notley, since she'd rather not have to stretch her already thin senior ranks by nominating any of her most seasoned caucus members to serve as speaker.

That's where Swann comes in. After the NDP's Brian Mason, Swann, who was first elected in 2004 and is now entering his fourth term, is the second-longest serving member of the legislature (along with PC MLA Dave Rodney). Aside from allowing Notley to hang on to her most experienced allies, there are a number of good reasons for the NDP to tap Swann:

  • Swann's 10 years of experience makes him well-qualified for the job, and his long record serving Albertans as a physician and human-rights activist suggests he'd offer a measure of humility and compassion that the legislature sorely needs.
  • By going outside her own party, it would signal that Notley is planning a less partisan approach to governance, which would offer a welcome contrast to four decades of polarizing Tory rule.
  • At the same time, it would be seen as an inclusive gesture to the province's many Liberal voters, some of whom—even those who switched allegiances this time—undoubtedly have placed the NDP on probation. Notley's crew will face a re-election battle sooner or later, and ensuring these voters become (or remain) part of the NDP's coalition is a key goal.
  • Not only would it be a magnanimous gesture on behalf of a longtime MLA who is about to represent his party as a caucus of one, it would place Swann in a neutral role where it would be difficult for him to act as an NDP critic. You can bet that the traditional media is eager to write their first stories about the "left in disarray"; this helps forestall that.

Notley's NDP has already made history in more ways than one: by becoming the first left-of-center party to win an Alberta election in 85 years; by electing the largest-ever number of women to the legislature; and by ending the longest reign of a political party in Canadian history. During those four decades, the Tories never once picked a speaker from outside of the PC ranks. That means Notley can add to her impressive list of firsts by selecting David Swann. It would be good for the NDP, good for the legislature, and above all, good for the province—and Alberta could certainly stand for that.

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Daily Kos Elections Liveblog Banner
Tonight, voters in Alberta go to the polls in one of the most hotly-contested provincial elections in the province's history. Polling indicates an historic upset is possible, with the left-wing NDP in position to deal a crushing blow to the long-ruling Tories, but pre-election surveys have fooled us before in Canada. Polls close at 10 PM ET (8 PM local), and we'll be bringing you the results as they come in. Click here for our backgrounder on Alberta politics, and click here for our guide to the province's key electoral battlegrounds.

Results: Elections Alberta | ABVote.ca | CBC | Calgary Herald

Tue May 05, 2015 at 7:04 PM PT: Polls have closed! Stay tuned for results. Usually we start seeing numbers come in within 30 minutes or so, but we will keep a close eye on the numbers.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 7:19 PM PT: Daveberta has a good overview of key races to watch.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 7:22 PM PT: It's very, very early, but so far, the results are breaking down to 32% Wildrose, 31% NDP, 31% PC.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 7:27 PM PT: Results are still very, very early, but the Edmonton numbers are looking like a bloodbath for the PCs. CTV has called Edmonton-Strathcona for the NDP, which is Rachel Notley's seat. No surprise there.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 7:31 PM PT: With 177 polls reporting (of 7,141), the NDP is leading the popular vote by 37% to 29% to the PCs, 27% for the Wildrose. Still very early.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 7:32 PM PT: The NDP is currently leading in 38 seats; PCs 20; Wildrose 12.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 7:35 PM PT: CTV News in Edmonton is reporting that they are projecting an NDP government. They're not yet projecting whether that's either a minority or majority, yet.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 7:35 PM PT (Steve Singiser): With all ridings not yet reporting, it is worth noting that while 44 is the magic number later, it isn't now. As long as NDP can stay in the lead in more ridings than the combined total of PC/Wildrose, you gotta like their chances.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 7:36 PM PT (David Nir): HOLY WOW! 44 years of Tory rule, GONE!!!

BREAKING: CTV projects NDP victory in Alberta election http://t.co/... #ABvotes
@CTVNews

Tue May 05, 2015 at 7:39 PM PT: Folks, for progressive Albertans, this is a pretty emotional night. What a win.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 7:42 PM PT: Heh, a CTV reporter notes that the "mood is less than electric" in the PC Party headquarters right now.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 7:43 PM PT (David Nir): One amazing thing to consider: Tory Premier Jim Prentice did not have to call this election. He could have waited—in fact, he should have waited, as Alberta theoretically has a law that calls for fixed election dates every four years. Had he not presumptuously called this hasty election, the PCs would not have just gotten their asses so thoroughly kicked tonight.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 7:46 PM PT: The NDP is now leading or elected in 55 seats, well beyond the 44 needed to win a majority. What a historic night, my friends.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 7:47 PM PT (David Nir): One key thing to note for American observers is that the NDP's win is not like the Democrats suddenly winning a majority in the Deep South. For one thing, Canadian politics isn't as polarized and Canadian voters tend to be more elastic. But for another, the Tories and the far-right Wildrose are splitting the right-leaning vote almost perfectly.

At the same time, the center-left Liberal Party has finally died. That means you have a unified left under the NDP banner but a fractured right—a situation that almost never obtains under the U.S. two-party system. It's a proverbial perfect storm for the NDP, but it means a bright new day for Alberta progressives.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 7:57 PM PT: To give you an idea of what a Tory bloodbath this is, popular former Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel has lost longtime Tory stronghold Edmonton-Whitemud in a landslide to the NDP.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 7:59 PM PT: CTV is projecting the Wildrose to be the Official Opposition party of Alberta, relegating the PCs to third place in Alberta's legislature. Wow.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 8:01 PM PT:
BREAKING: CTV projects Wildrose official opposition, knocking PCs to 3rd place in Alberta
@CTVNews

Tue May 05, 2015 at 8:01 PM PT (Steve Singiser): Kids, here is but one small microcosm of the ass-kicking being visited on the PC tonight. In Edmonton-Glenora, the incumbent was Heather Klimchuk (PC), who defeated an NDP opponent in 2012 by a 38-26 margin. Tonight, her riding has already been called by the CBC. That's because, with about 25 percent of polls reporting, she is losing. By a 70-16 margin. Nothing like a little 66 point swing at the margin to take the wind out of your sails!

Tue May 05, 2015 at 8:01 PM PT: On local TV right now, I've seen more bodies at a farm equipment option. Empty chairs and dour faces everywhere. I love it!

Tue May 05, 2015 at 8:05 PM PT: For the beleaguered Liberals, their leader David Swann is leading, but longtime Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman, who has held Edmonton-Centre since 1997, has lost.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 8:17 PM PT: With 43 of 80 polls reporting, Jim Prentice is only leading by 40-33 in his home riding of Calgary-Foothills. Wow.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 8:22 PM PT: A couple of seats worth noting: The NDP appears to have won former PC Premier Ed Stelmach's riding (Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville), and the upstart centrist Alberta Party is leading by a significant margin in Calgary-Elbow, which was the seat of former Premiers Redford and Klein.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 8:23 PM PT: CTV is projecting PC leader Jim Prentice to win his home riding of Calgary-Foothills.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 8:25 PM PT (David Nir): Unlike 2012, when the polls badly blew the final results by 20 percent or more, this time, they were quite accurate. Our own Drew Linzer created the chart below, which found the NDP polling at an average of 41 percent. Right now, they're taking 40. Not bad.

Chart of 2014-15 Alberta provincial election polling
(click to enlarge)

Tue May 05, 2015 at 8:27 PM PT: CTV has called Calgary-Elbow for the Alberta Party, and Fort McMurray-Conklin for the Wildrose. With that, it appears that every leader will win their seat -- as long as David Swann can hold on in Calgary-Mountainview, that is.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 8:34 PM PT: CTV has called Calgary-Mountainview for Liberal leader David Swann. The Alberta Liberal Party lives on!

Tue May 05, 2015 at 8:48 PM PT: Check out our man Stephen Wolf's visualization of the riding-by-riding results so far, in map form!

Tue May 05, 2015 at 9:03 PM PT: Jim Prentice just announced that he is resigning from elected office, effective immediately.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 9:24 PM PT (David Nir): You'll want to check out this map (and follow Daily Kos Elections' Dan Donner on Twitter):

The Alberta election results as they were 20 minutes ago... http://t.co/...
@donnermaps

Tue May 05, 2015 at 9:31 PM PT (David Nir): Check out that massive orange blob:

Map and cartogram of preliminary 2015 Alberta provincial election results

Tue May 05, 2015 at 10:06 PM PT: The biggest winner tonight? Canada's pollsters, who desperately had to salvage their reputation after 2012's Alberta polling debacle.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 10:16 PM PT: CTV is reporting that trays of unopened champagne bottles are being carted away from the PC election headquarters, where all attendees have gone home and staff are tearing down Alberta flags from the walls.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 10:20 PM PT: It doesn't get any closer than this: In Calgary-Glenmore, PC incumbent Linda Johnson is in a literal tie with her NDP opponent, Anam Kazim, with both candidates scoring 7,015 votes with all polls reporting. This one's going to a recount, of course!

Tue May 05, 2015 at 10:30 PM PT (Stephen Wolf): Here's an updated interactive map of the results: https://www.google.com/...

Tue May 05, 2015 at 10:36 PM PT: Other close ridings: Little Bow, where the Wildrose won by 12 votes with all polls reporting and Chestermere-Rockyview, where the PCs lead by 7 votes with 84 of 92 polls reporting.

Tue May 05, 2015 at 11:01 PM PT: Folks, the DKE crew is signing off for the night. What an amazing election night – the most exciting campaign I've witnessed since the 2008 Presidential race! To recap, at present, with only a handful of polls outstanding province-wide, the NDP are leading or elected in 54 seats, the Wildrose in 21, the PCs in 10, and the Liberals and the Alberta Party with one seat each. A truly historic finish.

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Chart of 2014-15 Alberta provincial election polling
(click to enlarge)

Today's the day, friends: We're finally at the finish line of the craziest three-way race Alberta has ever seen, and a surprising front-runner has emerged to dominate the polls.

So how did we get to this point in rock-ribbed, conservative Alberta? How exactly does a province that has elected, and re-elected, Progressive Conservative governments for 44 years find itself on the precipice of electing a left-wing New Democrat as premier? If you're scratching your heads, our recent Alberta politics primer is a good place to start, but this already unusual campaign has managed to shift dramatically even in the past two weeks.

During this stretch, Albertans have witnessed the strongest NDP effort of their lives. Led by the charismatic Rachel Notley, who by all accounts won the election's only televised leader's debate, the NDP has surged to historic polling highs in Alberta in rapid fashion, as the chart above shows. The NDP has only been growing stronger by the day and even appears to be drawing support from some former Wildrose Party voters who are eager to back a horse that can finally put an out-of-touch regime to pasture.

As for the far-right Wildrose, their one-note anti-tax message, trumpeted by former federal Conservative MP Brian Jean, has failed to catch fire in the same way that their insurgent campaign did in 2012. However, to the NDP's advantage, the Wildrose appears to be almost perfectly splitting the right-leaning vote with the PCs. At the same time, the predictable Tory fear mongering aimed at portraying the NDP as a radical socialist party has fallen on deaf ears. Along with the imminent demise of Alberta's Liberal Party, that's allowed the NDP to consolidate centrist and left-leaning voters under their big orange tent.

One stunning story illustrates just how bizarre this election has been. The NDP received a last-minute gift from the electoral gods on Friday, when five Tory-connected business executives held a press conference in a penthouse boardroom to attack the NDP's plan to modestly raise the corporate income tax rate. These CEOs even warned that they would stop donating to charitable causes (specifically threatening a prominent children's hospital!) if the NDP were to win. The backlash to this startling, Romney-esque debacle was so severe, it felt almost as if the NDP had scripted the presser themselves. Few parties are blessed to see their opponents immolate themselves with a catastrophe of this caliber.

When planning our election preview coverage, we had initially intended to provide an overview of the top races to watch. But as we approach zero hour, there are very few races where the PCs, who currently hold a commanding 70 of 87 seats in Alberta's legislature, are not threatened—or at least, so it appears.

In 2012, pre-election polls showed wide leads—often double digits—for the Wildrose, which looked set to end the Tories' long reign. But the PCs managed to terrify left-wing voters with the prospect of a Wildrose victory, and many abandoned the Liberals and NDP to vote for the one party that could stop the Wildrose, the Tories. That shift wasn't picked up in the polling, leading to a huge embarrassment for multiple firms when the PCs scored a 10-point victory.

Could it happen again? We can't rule it out, though a replay of 2012 would represent the polling industry's worst disaster of all time in pretty much any country. But in the absence of contradictory information, the PCs appear to be on the verge of destruction, and that renders the idea of bucketing seats into categories like "safe Tory" pointless. Instead, we'll go on a brief geographical tour of Alberta to give you the lay of the land. Head below the fold to join us on this journey.

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The Doors -- "People Are Strange"
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Alberta Premier Jim Prentice addresses ranchers and farmers at an oil well site near Three Hills, Alberta, April 13, 2015. Prentice was campaigning during the Alberta election. REUTERS/Todd Korol  - RTR4X7HF
Alberta Premier Jim Prentice of the Progressive Conservative Party
It wasn't supposed to be this way. It was supposed to be easy. Five months ago, Alberta's long-governing Progressive Conservative Party was at the peak of its power. After dispatching an aggressive challenge by the far-right Wildrose Party in 2012 by a 44-34 margin, the PCs held a dominant 61 seats in the province's 87-member legislative assembly, the equivalent of a state legislature. While their leader, Alison Redford, had grown extremely unpopular thanks to far-reaching allegations of arrogance and abuses of power, the party itself seemed to put Redford's troubles behind it when it replaced her last year with Jim Prentice, a banking executive and former cabinet member in the federal government.

(There's truly nothing "progressive," by the way, about the "Progressive Conservatives," at least by Canadian standards. They're a right-wing party aligned with the Conservative Party that currently holds sway under Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the federal level and are better known as the Tories, just like their counterparts in the UK.)

Prentice soon solidified his grip on the legislature. After leading his party to a sweep of four critical by-elections (that's Canadian for "special elections") last October, he negotiated a stunning mass defection of 11 members of the 16-member Wildrose caucus to the PC ranks, including Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, shortly before Christmas.

With the Wildrose in disarray and the right wing seemingly consolidated once again under the PC tent, many Alberta election observers were expecting Prentice to call a snap election (Canadian political leaders have wide discretion when it comes to the timing of elections) and score a massive majority in the process. But a funny thing happened on the way to the coronation: The expected Tory cakewalk has turned into a legitimate three-way race, with a resurrected Wildrose and an unexpected threat from the left in Alberta's surging New Democratic Party squeezing the PCs from both sides.

How did we get to this point, you ask? Head below the fold for the complete backstory on this stunning turn of events.

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Swingnuts... we're home.

Sun Apr 19, 2015 at 7:57 AM PT (Jeff Singer): WV-Gov, Sen: Here's a surprise: Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin announced on Sunday that he will forgo a 2016 run for governor and will instead stay in the Senate.

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Bob Marley -- "Waiting in Vain"
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The Nazz -- "Open My Eyes"
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Junior Boys -- "In the Morning"
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Superstar -- "Feels Like Forever"
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