Wednesday, 6 May 2015

My analysis of recent Canadian state elections

While the British general election campaign has been going on (voters will go to the polls tomorrow), two provinces of Canada had assembly elections earlier this week: Prince Edward Island and Alberta.

In Prince Edward Island, the Liberal Party of Canada fell from 51.4% to 40.8%, yet because of first past the post they only lost two seats and easily maintained their majority. The Progressive Conservatives actually gained 5 seats despite losing vote share; my presumption is that the NDP's vote share rise split the Liberal vote,as it did in the last Canadian House of Commons election. Even though Prince Edward Island's Green Party did not field a full slate of candidates (there was no Green Party candidate in three of the ridings), it increased its vote share to 10.8% and gained one seat, meaning it is now represented in three provincial assemblies of Canada (the others are British Columbia and New Brunswick)

The Alberta general election which happened yesterday will be a defining moment for this reason: the Conservatives were finally defeated-and heavily as well, after 44 years of power in Alberta and 11 successive victories. The defeat of the Conservatives by the New Democratic Party, Canada's closest equivalent to the UK's Labour Party, was even more devastating than their own ousting of the Social Credit Party in 1971. Not only did the Conservatives fall to third place, but they managed to fall from 70 seats to just 10, despite finishing second overall in terms of vote share, with 27.8%. Although the Wildrose Party dropped from 34% to 24%, they actually won 16 extra seats (or rather managed to recover seats they had lost through defection in the previous Alberta legislature; there was a huge defection from the Wildrose Party to the Alberta Conservatives last year). Such was the scale of the NDP's victory, led by Rachel Notley, that not only did they gain a majority from having only won 4 seats in 2012 (and just 2 in 2009), they also won every single riding in Edmonton (the largest city in Alberta), but also half of all seats in Calgary, which for the past few decades had been assumed to be a rock-solid bastion of Canadian Conservatism (current Canadian PM Stephen Harper represents a Calgary riding, Calgary South-West, which will be abolished for the federal Canadian election that takes place later this year due to the redistribution that has taken place). Whether this breakthrough will have an impact federally remains to be seen, because so many federal ridings in Alberta are rock-solid Conservative, especially in rural areas (which provincially were captured or recaptured by the Wildrose Party for the most part). Meanwhile the Liberals were almost wiped out, and I am sure that only because of David Swann's leader status and his personal vote were they able to maintain representation in the Alberta legislature at all. The Green Party of Alberta unfortunately did not gain any seats, partly due to the fact it only fielded candidates in 24 ridings (it supported two of the Liberal candidates, in Edmonton Central and Red Deer North, for reasons unknown)

I believe the fact that many ridings of Alberta had only three candidates made it easier for the NDP and the Wildroses, both of whom benefitted from the heavy vote share loss suffered by the Conservatives. Incidentally, outgoing Premier Jim Prentice, who replaced Alison Redford (Alberta's first ever female Premier; Rachel Notley will be the second, and the first ever from an opposition party) in 2014, has already resigned from his riding and his leadership of the Progressive Conservatives in Alberta, such was the scale of the defeat he has just experienced.

It is not just in the UK that first past the post needs to be scrapped-it clearly needs to be scrapped in Canada as well, and everywhere else in the world. The FPTP system has repeatedly shown itself, especially in recent years, to be an unfit electoral system in any democratic nation.


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