What will it take to get a 3rd-party MLA in Alberta? Probably a breakup, consultant says
It's no surprise Alberta's election was a two-horse race, but the rate at which every other party stumbled out of the gate is something not seen in the province in more than 100 years.
The UCP or NDP were selected on nearly 97 per cent of all Alberta ballots, according to unofficial results the day after the vote.
The Green Party was sitting third with just 0.8 per cent of popular support, the lowest total for a third-party percentage in the province's history.
A major factor was the party only ran candidates in 41 of 87 ridings and the UCP and NDP were the only ones with a full slate.
After earning nearly 172,000 to finish third in the 2019 vote, the Alberta Party, which last won a seat in 2015 was expected to finish with less than 13,000 votes in 2023.
"That doesn't surprise me, because once you're out of the house, when you're no longer in the legislature, you don't have a platform," said Tom Vernon, communications strategist and former politics reporter.
"That makes it very difficult to fundraise. And if you can't fundraise, you can't advertise, you have a hard time sharing your message."
The first-ever vote in Alberta was in 1905 when "others and independents" combined for five per cent of the vote. In the past 50 years or so, third-party support has ranged between eight and 26 per cent.
On Monday, zero candidates not representing the UCP or NDP were even close to winning.
Alberta Party Leader Barry Morishita grabbed just six per cent of the vote, while Green Party Leader Jordan Wilkie and Liberal Leader John Roggeveen failed to crack five per cent.
On the right side of the spectrum, Solidarity Leader Artur Pawlowski managed just 0.4 per cent, Wildrose Coalition Leader Paul Hinman grabbed five per pent and Wildrose Independence Leader Jeevan Mangat finished with one per cent.
'DISAPPOINTED, FOR SURE'
Alberta Party candidate Sue Timanson tallied 1,293 votes, the highest total of anyone not representing the two big parties. Still, she was almost 12,000 short of victory in Sherwood Park.
"I'm disappointed, for sure. But you know what, I feel proud. My job is to make sure people know that they had a third choice, that they had an option," Timanson told CTV News Edmonton.
"And ultimately, it's up to the voters to get in the booth and colour the right circle."
Timanson believes most Albertans voted out of "fear of the other guy" with the NDP and UCP both campaigning hard against each other's leader.
She spent countless hours knocking on at least 85 per cent of the doors in her riding. Timanson did it because she feels Alberta desperately needs another voice in the legislature.
"Will I be the candidate next time? I don't know the answer to that. It's really difficult. You kinda put your life on hold," she said. Timanson also ran in 2019, grabbing 3,509 votes.
"But do I believe in the need for the Alberta Party and a third choice? I believe passionately about that. So I can't give up on that part of it, at all."
'A HARD TIME STAYING TOGETHER'
Alberta Party officials had discussions with other parties about merging to beef up support before the vote, Timanson said, but explained it's difficult to make that happen when remaining supporters are set in their ways and traditions.
Vernon believes the chances of any party without a seat breaking through in Alberta is very small.
He said it's more likely that a third party becomes a legitimate option when an elected MLA splits off and either joins a small party or starts something new entirely.
"Conservative parties in Alberta tend to have a hard time staying together. They'll come together but they have a hard time staying together," he said.
"Maybe it's the rural base or the more progressive base of the party wanting to have another choice on the ballot because the party currently in power doesn't match with their values."
The UCP was expected to win 49 seats in the Alberta election, with one candidate already told she will not sit with the party.
Elections Alberta said official results will be released on June 8.
A previous version of this story said the Alberta Party finished third in the 2023 Alberta election, but it was the Green Party, according to unofficial results on Tuesday. We apologize for the error.
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