Apr 302012
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Election results show a different face of Alberta.

by Penney Kome

From reading Facebook, you'd think that most of Canada heaved a huge sigh of relief when Alberta's election results came in — and then promptly forgot about the province. In fact, a dear friend reports that the local East Coast newspaper carried a headline about the Alberta election but there was no story attached.

Since most polls were wildly wrong and for most of the campaign, most media focused on the apparent sudden success of the four-year-old Wildrose Alliance party, my friend was understandably confused. Yet the election involved much more than a two-horse race.

Many, many stories played out as the ballots were counted. For starters, voter turnout increased by 50 percent, up from 41 percent in 2008, to 57 percent in 2012. This despite the end of door-to-door enumeration and the new requirement to show ID at the poll.

At a leap, Alberta has gained its first elected woman Premier, and its first elected woman Leader of the Opposition.

Up to a quarter of elected newly-candidates are women, most of them from the PC party.

As well, about a quarter of newly-elected candidates are women, most of them from the PC party. Dave Cournoyer counted 39 women running for the NDP, 23 running for the PCs, 11 for Wildrose, and he noted that the Liberals have run up to 22 women previously — 25 percent of their candidates.

Among the other parties, Liberals held their own, and the NDP doubled their numbers in the Legislature — from two, to four. Actually, the Liberals lost some seats — down from eight seats to five — and Leader Raj Sherman's riding results see-sawed up and down for hours before he won in a squeaker. But their losses could have been much worse. There's no doubt that some Liberal votes leaked to the PCs; indeed, people at the door said that that's what they intended to do, to switch from Liberal to PC, to block the Wildrose.

Many Wildrose party members greeted election day fully expecting to win enough votes to form a majority government, as some public opinion polls seemed to project. Even with an attractive leader and an ample treasury, Wildrose had to deal with public revulsion and horror at comments by party candidates Allan Hunsperger and Ron Leech. Wildrose won a measly 17 seats — four times its previous four seats, but nothing like the 50 or 60 seats that some pollsters were forecasting.

A clear lesson from this election is that pollsters are going to have to find a new way to conduct polls, and news media need to consider new ways to report them. The biggest story of the election was that one-fifth to one-quarter of voters were undecided, or irritated enough to hang up on the ubiquitous robocall polls. Yet that fact really surfaced in Alberta media only a day or two before the election.

Apparently, during the campaign, most news media and pollsters only reported what the decided voters said, throwing out the "undecideds" and treating the remainders as if it was 100 percent of the whole — so that if one party received, say, 20 percent of the overall approval, it might show as 33 percent of the smaller total. Surely the public has an interest in knowing the size of the swing vote.

© Copyright 2012 sgnews, All rights Reserved. Written For: StraightGoods.ca

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