Yesterday we talked about the crazy right party and the crazy left party in part 1. But did you know that there are more than two parties in Alberta? I know! Crazy. In fact, for the 2019 election there are 11* total parties officially registered. Truthfully, none of these other parties have any chance of winning the election. In fact, only a few of them have any chance of even getting a single seat. But one of the biggest problems with the political system we have is that people reduce it to a binary this or that choice. There is a veritable smorgasbord of choices so vast that the Swedish Chef from the Muppets would think it was overkill.
So, let’s discuss these other parties in two groups. First is the group that has a realistic shot of electing a member to the legislature. These are the parties that held a seat in the last term (even if only technically in one case). I’ll try to give a decent amount of information on each, with more time being given to the parties doing better in the polls. The second group are the “also rans”. These are the parties that haven’t elected anyone and have no real chance of electing anyone. But these parties can be fun, so let’s give them a quick look. Check back for a post on the also rans.
First the parties that may sound vaguely familiar from your Aunt Karen’s ramblings at family gatherings.
The Alberta Party
Who they are: They’re the party with best/worst name in politics. “We need a name for our party. Something that people will respond to but doesn’t box us into a political position.” “Well, I’ve always loved Alberta.” “First of all, I love it.” The AB party is a relative newcomer to the ball. Although they’ve been around longer than most people think, they’ve only recently started to get their name and new message out there. They are a centrist party. What does that mean? It means they can’t make up their minds about which side of the aisle they should sit in. Mostly they are socially progressive and fiscally conservative.
Why people love them: I don’t know, go ask one of the 3 people that does. Just kidding. The AB party is kind of like the cool uncle of politics in Alberta. People love the cool, younger uncle and put up with his weird antics because he only shows up periodically. No one would even think to leave him in charge of the kids. The AB party has a platform that people love. A daycare voucher program that is tied to income. Doubling the number of TAs in classrooms. Free dental care for minors. They can have that platform because there is no chance they’ll ever get to enact it. But perhaps the biggest reason people love them is that the AB party is the only party that doesn’t force its members to vote a certain way on most bills.
Why people hate them: They don’t. Cool uncle and all that. Not satisfied? Well, people have accused the AB party of splitting the vote. These accusations have come from both the conservative and progressive sides though. The party currently has 3 MLAs. One was elected as an AB party candidate in the last election. One crossed the floor from the NDP (see here for a refresher on floor crossing). The other crossed the floor when the PCs merged with the Wildrose. So, the AB party isn’t so much splitting votes as much as playing spoiler. The idea that if it ceased to exist that would benefit either the NDP or UCP in any significant way is ridiculous. But mostly people should hate them for their name. It’s really dumb.
The bottom line: The AB party will be looking to make some modest gains this election. They have recruited some legitimate star candidates and are running in all 87 ridings, just like the grown ups. But for the AB party, even a shot at forming the opposition is a pipe dream. Most likely they get few seats and try to keep building momentum.
The Liberal Party
Who they are: The oldest party in Alberta, the Liberals actually formed government over a century ago. Since then they have struggled to gain traction and the party has taken on a variety of different personas. The current incarnation tries to separate itself from the pack by being more socially progressive than the NDP. Note the use of “tries”, not “is”. They have tried to stake out expansion of healthcare as issue number 1.
Why people love them: The Liberals have taken on a more left-leaning stance on many major issues than the provincial NDP. This has endeared them to many progressive leaning folks who in many cases are disillusioned with the reigning NDP. Their promises are many and they are grand and flashy, especially when it comes to healthcare. Also, a small segment of people have grown up voting Liberal at various levels and do it out of habit. That’s the kind of thing that a 110-year-old party gets.
Why people hate them: Their name. Honestly that’s the biggest reason. There is a related Liberal party at the federal level. It’s led by a guy with nice hair that most Albertans hated before he ever spoke. The Liberals have a brand problem that dates back to our current Prime Minister’s dad. As I mentioned, they have tried to be more socially progressive in recent years. While that endears them to a small segment of people, there is a much larger segment of people that it alienates. These people will be mostly white and mostly male. Please feel sorry for them. They have it hard.
The bottom line: The reality is that the Liberals could promise to do away with taxes, get money from a magic genie, and give everyone their very own unicorn and they wouldn’t get any traction in Alberta because most people simply will not mark an X next to their name. In the last election they only got one seat. It’s entirely possible that they don’t get any this time.
The Freedom Conservative Party
Who they are: Oh boy. Here we go. The FCP has existed for about 20 years under various names. Most of those names include some variation of “separatist”. Seriously. This party believes that Alberta should separate from the rest of Canada if we don’t get our way. And that stance is softened from where it used to be. This is the party that even your drunk uncle thinks is crazy. But they technically have one seat in the legislature because their leader was so crazy and had so many legal battles that both the Wildrose and the UCP kicked him out (I’ll have much more to say about this guy when we discuss the party leaders… because it’s too fun).
Why people love them: Mostly, people don’t. Some fringe people do. Even among Libertarians, they’re often seen as a joke. But there is a small segment of people in Alberta who have always believed that Alberta should leave Canada – or at least threaten to like a child who doesn’t get his way and threatens to run away. “More Alberta, less Ottawa” is literally their motto.
Why people hate them: Honestly, most people don’t. Instead of hating them, most people just laugh at them. Not with them, but at them. They have no significant support and have no real prospects of causing a dent this election, so most people tolerate them at the court jester. Some supporters of the UCP even like having them around so their own more extreme policies seem normal.
The bottom line: They aren’t a real party. I mean, they are officially. But in reality, they have very little support. But if you’re bored of doing the awesome Buzzfeed quizzes I found for your pleasure, just google them. It’s way better than even the trashiest reality TV. Except it’s actually real. So it’s a little scary.
*Update: There are technically 13. But not really. See here.