Voters line up to cast advance ballots at Edmonton’s City Centre Mall (Photo: Kendra Slugoski, Global Edmonton, Twitter).

One of the mysteries of the 2019 Alberta election campaign that comes to an end with today’s election is the truly astonishing number of advance ballots cast.

Nearly 700,000 Albertans voted in advance polls. That is close to 30 per cent of the electorate.

This is unheard of in Alberta, and almost certainly in the rest of the country as well, where growing voter apathy combined with vote suppression by conservative parties has been situation normal for years.

We can speculate about why so many people voted early this year, and what it means, but for the moment at least, speculation is all it is.

As a result, for a brief but happy moment, it can mean whatever you want it to! You can say whatever you like about what it means too, and no one can convincingly prove you wrong … at least until the votes start to be tallied tonight.

Accordingly, if you listen to what you hear on social media, conservatives will tell you it is a massive vote against the government and a wave of support for United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney’s Back-to-the-Future vision of the 1950s in the 2020s. New Democrats will say it’s young people with cell phones unreachable by conventional pollsters flocking to a Rachel Notley’s sustainable new Alberta.

Some others suspect it’s just the same old mix of party activists, encouraged by new voting rules that made advance voting easier and even allowed voters to cast a ballot outside their electoral districts, and at the end of the count it’ll be a wash.

Or maybe it’s just that competitive elections in Alberta are still a novelty after 44 years of uninterrupted Progressive Conservative governments and 36 years of Social Credit before that.

It beats the heck out of me and I’m not going to venture a guess. It could mean a startling new twist to the conventional wisdom about voting in the Westminster Parliamentary system. Or not. The results tonight will probably tell us more. Or maybe not.

Of those advance votes, more than 220,000 vote-anywhere ballots won’t even be counted until tomorrow night. That means in ridings with tight races and large numbers of advance ballots of this type, the decision won’t be known for another day.

According to Elections Alberta, more than 70 of Alberta’s 87 electoral districts have more than 1,000 of these vote-anywhere ballots. Eight have more than 5,000 and 28 show more than 10 per cent of the vote already waiting in ballot boxes.

So it’s possible – although unlikely – we’ll have to wait until Wednesday or even Thursday to find out who won!

Now, about John Horgan’s studied indifference about Alberta’s vote

B.C. Premier John Horgan (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Alert readers will have noticed the studied indifference about the principal rivals in Alberta’s election by B.C. Premier John Horgan, a New Democrat, but one with significant differences with Rachel Notley.

“I will work with whoever comes out the other end,” Mr. Horgan told the CBC, affecting a lack of interest that bordered on a North Pacific chill. “Will it be positive or negative? That’s for the future to decide.”

Count on it, Mr. Horgan has an opinion about this and his preference is most likely not Ms. Notley. As he well understands, nothing rallies the folks around the home team like a good enemy, and Mr. Kenney makes a far better one from the B.C. NDP perspective than the more sympathetic Ms. Notley, who has been able to move the dial considerably in that province on the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Having caved on LNG exports and the Site C Dam on the Peace River, Mr. Horgan may need to reestablish his environmental cred to stave off the danger of a Green sweep in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island in the not too distant future.

What better way to do that than a war with a Conservative who can be convincingly portrayed as a bully, a climate change denier, and an ally of your principal rival for control of the B.C. Legislature?

Join the Conversation


  1. My wife and I took advantage of the ‘vote anywhere’ option, and loved it for its convenience! We were out for a bike ride and just happened upon a strip mall with a bunch of yellow signs outside, and in we went. We showed a driver’s license and voted almost immediately. It is certainly not a technique to be used by a regime determined to engage in vote suppression.

  2. Credit Rachel Notley’s pipeline hysteria for the large advance poll turn-out by UCP voters. Whether riling up Albertans over pipelines will help the NDP is another matter.

    Credit Jason Kenney’s dubious tactics and appalling policies for the large advance poll turn-out by NDP voters. Worse to come.

    Credit Rachel Notley’s and Jason Kenney’s pipeline cheerleading, oilsands boosterism, climate change denial, scientific illiteracy, and blatant anti-environmentalism for the large advance poll turn-out by Green voters.

  3. Whatever the reason so many Alberta voters chose to cast in advance polls, it most assuredly not a “new twist” of anything in the Westminster parliamentary system: voters do not vote in parliament, their riding representatives do. Nothing will be different about the Westminster-style system, used in all sovereign Canadian governments, when the votes are counted later today, no matter which party or Independent wins what seat(s). The election has nothing to do with the Westminster system and everything to do with voters populating parliamentary seats with whomever (that’s “whomever,” John Horgan) voters elect.

    The only systemic feature of note here is the voting system: the rules about how votes are cast have been changed—not how they are translated into winners of riding seats —that would be about the electoral system, here single-member-plurality or “first-past-the-post,” the electoral system used in all sovereign Canadian jurisdictions. It’s possible the conspicuous difference in voting habits is partly due to this change in how voters cast their votes.

    I think this anomalous advance-poll turnout —and we won’t know if the total turnout itself is as anomalous until tonight—might mean Albertans think this is an important election. I’ll hazard to guess that some would like to return to a right-wing government, even though the United Conservative Party is nothing like the Progressive Conservative Party UCP leader Jason KeKKenney had won the leadership of—by hook or crook—only to intentionally destroy it and replace it with his new party (some former PC supporters are not UCP supporters); the PCs were in power over 43 years until upset by the NDP in the last election—the real twist in voters’ choices; I’ll assume one of the largest blocs of support will be cast by those who don’t want the UCP and, among that, NDP supporters form the bulk.

    The anomalous prevalence of advance-voting could simply mean that many voters wanted to beat the rush—most of us still cast at designated voting places where their might be lineups on the Big Day. Let’s call it another indication that Albertans figured this is such an important election they expected a big turnout—and they wanted to avoid lineups by voting in advance polls in larger proportion than “normal.”

    It can’t mean voters consider this election a done-deal or shoe-in. Obviously they don’t—or at least as far as we can tell; if there’s any vote-killing complacency going on it’d have to be on the UCP side, pre-election polls having given them the lead for the entire campaign.

    Let’s wait see how the fragmented right is reflected in voting—I’ll be looking for vote-splitting on the right as some of the renegade parties pick up the anybody-but-UCP-and-NDP vote. And of course I’ll check the anybody-but-anybody vote—the so-called “NOTA vote”—as per usual. I bet this time it’s lower than “normal.”

    This is a big day for Alberta and the whole country.

    BC Premier John Horgan is, like Rachel Notley, a lifelong politician. Nothing either does ever flirts with anything that puts him or her off-game. His coolness toward a supposed co-partisan—and, for that matter, hers towards him—marks both as less ideological and more practical, something all NDP parties need to recognize as a recipe for success. Horgan’s posturing is genuine; he doesn’t want co-partisanship with Rachel Notley to be misunderstood: official opposition to TMX is as solid and real as widespread opposition on the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island—his region of greatest support.

    It is absolutely true that Albertans should consider which of their parties can deal with Premier Horgan: JKKK can rattle his sabre angrily as he wants, but Horgan, though cheery, is very tough-minded. As my MLA and his lifelong friend has told me, “John doesn’t put up with any shit,” and, certainly, he’s demonstrated this many times (my own conversations with John concurr). If somebody takes a shot at him, British Columbians of all stripes expect him to punch back—and any lifelong politician worth his or her salt relishes the opportunity to transcend partisanship. Aggression against Horgan on a UCP government’s part would probably not be profitable.

    Good luck to my Albertan friends. Bless Canada and GSTQ!

  4. I have a feeling that Albertans, who should know better, are going to elect a sham. As an old and sooner then later dead citizen? I am shedding tears for our stupidity! Thanks to what? Stupid? Ok then! Would you like to regulate mugging?

  5. Here’s a fact that all alt-right political parties and politicians know to be true:

    The more votes cast, the less likely they are to win. That is why the strategy is to suppress the number of people who vote.

    There is undoubtedly people in Alberta who are intolerant fanatics, but they are vastly outnumbered by reasonable, caring, Albertans.

    Therefore, the higher the number of votes cast, the less likely we will be lead by fascists. That also means if reasonable people don’t vote, then we are screwed, just as Ontario is.

    1. Well, well, well either not enough reasonable people voted, or…

      Or, there aren’t enough reasonable people living in Alberta. I’ve never been so embarrassed to be an Albertan. perhaps, the rest of Canada is right, we are a province full of ignorant, racist homophobes.

      Thank the imaginary sky fairy (aka god) that I’m rich, white, educated, and straight. The brown shirts won’t come after me will they?

      1. Hillary Clinton called anyone not supporting her “deplorable.” The Alberta NDP (and people like “Athabaskan”) just spent 28 days calling Albertans who don’t support their views a bunch of “Ignorant, Racist Homophobes.” These tactics and rants are immature, wildly overblown, insulting, unproductive, politically unwise, and electorally unsuccessful.

  6. I suppose we will know what this means this evening, unless it is a really close race and we have to wait for all the ballots cast outside the electoral districts to be counted. Clearly there were some motivated voters this time, maybe because this race is closer than usual by Alberta standards and people who didn’t bother to vote because well the same party always won for 40 or so years, realized their vote may actually make a difference and they faced clearer choices this time. Of course this is also the first time for voting outside the electoral district so it might have been convenient for say people working to go vote during their lunch hour. In this case it will just be shifting voters who normally stood in line at the end of the day on election day to being advance voters. Even if this is all that is happening, shorter lines and more flexibility are not a bad thing. I have a feeling in this case both factors are at play. My bold prediction is turn out will be up, but not by quite as much as the increased turn out for advance voting would indicate.

    Another important question is which party will benefit from the increased turn out. I suppose that depends on who you ask – the UCP may say people were more motivated to vote because they were angry. The NDP may say turn out increased more for those groups with lower turn out in the past, perhaps people who would not have bothered to vote in the past, but realize Kenney will not be good for them. It is even possible these two different groups of more motivated voters will partly offset each other. Whether all this is already reflected in the polls or not is also another good question. I guess we will soon see. As I haven’t perfected my fortune telling skills yet, I will not make any more last minute predictions.

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