Wednesday, April 4, 2012

2012 Alberta election analysis - Edmonton

Map of Edmonton's ridings
Alberta's capital is going to be the main battleground for the upcoming provincial election. Polls have shown the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative Parties are in a dead heat in the city, and it appears as the only part of the province where the Tories are getting good poll numbers. In contrast it's the worst part of the province for the Wildrose Party. Despite that, they are still on the heels of the Tories there, with the odd poll giving them the lead in the city. Edmonton is also the best region of the province for New Democrats and the Liberals. This means that nearly every seat is going to be a battle; and some ridings are going to even be 4 way races where the winners in some seats might not even break 30%. As it stands, most polls of the city show the leading party mark for the whole city at just 30%.

Recent Edmonton polls:
Party 2008 election Abacus Data (03/26-28) Forum Research (04/02) Think HQ Public Affairs (04/02-03)
Wildrose Party 2 29 26 31
Prog. Cons. 43 30 33 30
Liberal 35 20 16 18
NDP 18 18 18 17

In analyzing Edmonton, it might just be easier to start with saying what ridings will not be one's to watch. With the NDP polling at the same mark as they were at in the 2008 election, I think it's safe to say they should be able to keep both of their seats (Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood and Edmonton-Strathcona). The Tories should also be able to keep some of their best showings from 2008 like Edmonton-Castle Downs, Edmonton-Mill Creek and Edmonton-Whitemud.

Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview will be one of two seats the NDP will have a good chance of picking up in this election. This riding is located in northeastern Edmonton, and went NDP in 2004 when Ray Martin won it. Martin lost the seat to the Tory's Tony Vandermeer in 2008 in a close race, which was decided by less than 400 votes. If the Tories continue to poll around 30% in the city, they will probably end up losing this seat, although the NDP aren't running Martin again, and Vandermeer is running for re-election. Of course, vote splitting might cause the Wildrose Party to win the seat as well.

Along with Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview, Edmonton-Calder is the second NDP target riding in Edmonton. Just like in Beverly-Clareview, the NDP held this seat from 2004 to 2008 but lost it in a close election. This northwestern Edmonton seat was decided by just 201 votes in 2008. The NDP will have a better shot at picking this riding up because they are running David Eggen again, who was the man who represented this seat from 2004 to 2008. Meanwhile, the Tory incumbent, Doug Elinski will not be running for re-election, making the seat easier for the NDP to pick up.

Edmonton's downtown riding has not been represented by a Tory in 26 years. The Liberals have held this riding continuously since 1993. The incumbent, Laurie Blakeman won this seat in 2008 by a comfortable margin of 15% over her Tory challenger. The Liberals should be able to keep this seat, but vote splitting could cause the Wildrose to surge to a shallow victory here. But I doubt it, the riding's fairly left leaning.

This northern Edmonton riding has gone Liberal in the past, but the true race here will be between the Tories and the Wildrose. The WRP didn't run a candidate here in 2008, but won 8% of the vote here in 2004, which was pretty good for the then Alberta Alliance at the time in the city. The PC incumbent Janice Sarich will be in trouble, as she only won 46% of the vote last election, and so there won't be much room for her to lose votes here.

Edmonton-Ellerslie is another riding with a Liberal past that the Tories were able to pick up in 2008. But, the Liberals probably don't have a shot at the riding with the poll numbers down, and so this will be another Wildrose vs. PC race. The WRP will be coming into the election at a disadvantage in this suburban southeast Edmonton seat, having only won 4% here in 2008. But Tory incumbent Naresh Bhardwaj will also be at a disadvantage having only won 42% of the vote in 2008.

If there's a four way race in the city, this west Edmonton riding will be it. The 2008 election was decided by just 96 votes when Tory candidate Heather Klimchuk defeated the Liberal incumbent, Bruce Miller. Those two candidates will be running once again this election. However, the race won't be constrained to both of those candidates. The NDP will also be challenging this seat, as they are running former MLA Ray Martin here. And finally, the Wildrose Party may be the eventual victor after all that vote splitting could allow them to pick up the seat with less than 30% of the vote. This won't be one of their stronger seats however, as they won just 2% of the vote here in 2008.

Edmonton-Gold Bar
This central Edmonton riding is a Liberal stronghold, having voted Liberal in every election since 1986. That doesn't mean it's a safe Liberal seat though, and in fact they might just lose it this time. Incumbent Hugh MacDonald will not be running again, leaving the seat open and vulnerable to being picked up. The Tories did fairly well here in 2008, losing the seat by just 1000 votes. However, it could be the Wildrose Party that wins the seat. They didn't run a candidate in 2008, but won 4% of the vote in 2004.

Edmonton-Manning, in the city's northeast corner was certainly an interesting race in 2008. The Tories were able to pick up this Liberal seat thanks to the Liberal vote being split between their candidate Sandeep Dhir, and the Independent incumbent, Dan Backs who had been elected in 2004 as a Liberal. Backs had actually run for the Tory nomination in the riding, and lost. The PC candidate, Peter Sandhu was elected with just 36% of the vote. The combined Dhir plus Backs vote totaled at 40%. Anyways, it's important to note this, because it shows that the Liberals won't actually be starting at the 20% they got here in 2008, but somewhere in the 30s. Again, the Wildrose could win the seat thanks to vote splitting, though they got 3% here in 2008.

This riding, located in the southwest part of the city will feature a re-match of the 2008 election. Tory incumbent David Xiao will once again be facing Liberal Mo Elsalhy who won this seat in 2004. Xiao beat Elsalhy by 1200 votes in 2008. The race will be another close one, and it might be one where the Wildrose won't be able to come up the middle. Both Elsalhy and Xiao got over 40% in 2008, and Xiao himself got a strong 49% of the vote. It will be very difficult for the WRP to overcome this advantage, as they only got 2% here in 2008.

This is the riding that Liberal leader Raj Sherman represents. Located in west Edmonton, the interesting thing about this race is that Sherman was actually elected as a Tory in 2008. He then crossed the floor to join the Liberals, and then subsequently was elected leader of the party. It really makes one scratch their head in terms of whether or not he will win here. Now, Sherman won 55% of the vote here in 2008. How much of his vote was for himself, and how much was for the Tories? Figuring this out will tell us how good his chances of being re-elected will be. Now, he will probably get a boost as being the party leader. Plus, this riding has gone Liberal in the past. In fact, Sherman picked this seat up from the Liberals, who had previously represented the riding since 2004. In fact, between 1986 and 2008, the Liberals represented this seat for all but 3 years. This fact alone really boosts Sherman's chances of winning. For the record, the Liberals won 30% here in the last election. And, as always, we will have to keep our eye on the Wildrose Party, which won 3% here in 2008.

Edmonton-Mill Woods
This south Edmonton riding will be another thriller. This riding is a former Liberal seat, which the Tories managed to win under Carl Benito in 2008 defeating the Liberal incumbent Weslyn Mather by 700 votes. The gaffe ridden Benito lost the Tory nomination for this riding to Sohail Quadri, but will be running as an independent, further complicating this race. Only a bit though- I don't expect Benito to win very many votes. The Liberals are targeting this race, as Mather will be running once again for the seat. All that vote splitting will benefit the Wildrose Party, who could come up the middle. But they only won 3% of the vote last election.

This West Edmonton riding is a Liberal stronghold, and is currently represented by former Liberal leader Kevin Taft. Taft was re-elected in this seat in 2008 with 51% of the vote. Taft however, is not running for re-election. Without an incumbent, what would probably be the safest Liberal seat in the city now becomes a toss up. The Tories were 16% behind the Liberals in 2008 here, and it will be very difficult for them to make up this difference, especially with the Wildrose Party taking up a lot of their support base. The Wildrose Party may win this seat, although they won just 2% of the vote here in 2008.

This seat, located in the south end, has gone back and forth between the Liberals and the Tories in the last few elections. The 2012 election will be a re-match of the 2008 race where Tory Fred Horne defeated the Liberal incumbent, Rick Miller by just 58 votes. While those two duke it out, look for the Wildrose Party to make things interesting. They won 3% of the vote here in 2008.

Edmonton-Southwest will be the only new riding in the city. The riding is being created out of Edmonton-McClung and Edmonton-Whitemud, both Tory seats. Being a brand new riding, without any incumbents, and being a suburban riding made up of mostly new homes, the Wildrose Party stands probably their greatest chance of winning a seat in the city here. The Wildrose Party will be running Allan Hunsperger, founder of Heritage Christian Schools in Alberta.


  1. FYI: The NDP will be a contender in Edmonton Gold Bar. That riding is entirely within the federal NDP riding of Edmonton-Strathcona and redistribution shifted some good NDP territory from Strathcona to Gold Bar.

    1. DL has a point, but if you look at the polls, the Gold Bar portion of the riding was where most of the Tory vote came from. I think the NDP will be much more in contention this year mainly because the Liberal incumbent is not running and the Liberals have nominated a newbie-Iggy-esk candidate (at least on paper thats how she sounds). The NDP has a history of polling strong but Earls right, unlike most of Edmonton in the late 80s they never held this riding. The NDP has a young hydrologist running too but has a year head start on the Liberals, and is fully using Linda Duncan to his advantage i suspect. I think Gold Bar will be like Glenora; a 30% winner

  2. That's a good point. However, the party has never won the seat provincially. Do you know anything about their candidate, and their ground game?

  3. Speaking as someone who was on the ground in Edmonton-Decore in 2004. The then Alberta Alliance poured in big resources to try and help their then incumbent Gary Masyk who had represented neighboring Edmonton-Norwood to try and keep his seat. It was easily their most heavily targeted seat in the city for that party.

    Fortunately Masyk was replaced by Paul Hinman in Cardston-Taber-Warner and the rest is history.

  4. I think you forgot about Sue Huff running for the Alberta Party in Edmonton-Glenora. She is definitely a strong candidate with a lot of history in the area. Guess it makes it an exciting 5 way race!

  5. Yes, Huff will get up to 10%, making the winner of Edmonton-Glenora almost assuredly getting less than 30% of the vote.

    As for Edmonton-Decore, their 8% showing in 2004 was probably their best in the city (will have to double check that), but remember the AA was more of a populist rural party at the time. Now it has urban credentials.