May 13th, 2023 | RYAN TYLER

A Final Analysis Of Alberta's Election

Polls show a tight race, but is an NDP majority really even possible?
The deeper we dive into analyzing Alberta's 87 seats, the more the NDP's 2015 win looks like a fluke. However, I tread with caution and remain skeptical of the UCP's chances. Albertans will need to show up for Danielle Smith to pull off a win. This analysis assumes that sentiments haven't changed enough to significantly shift Alberta's trajectory to the far left, or that enough conservatives are not so disenfranchised that they would allow an NDP victory. With the exception of a few seats in Calgary, a strong majority of seats are safe for the UCP—as long as a massive and radical shift hasn't happened across Alberta. More importantly, this analysis depends on a minimum of 600,000 anti-NDP voters.
A few months ago, I talked about how my faith in Albertans has deteriorated since I moved to the province in 2010. That still stands and my doubts about enough Albertans being smart enough to pull together to stop Rachel Notley are strong. However, I'm looking forward to being proven wrong. In fact, I've never been so eager to be wrong in my life.
With that said, let's get to the numbers.
To start you off, just so you know what Alberta's overall electorate has looked like, here is an average of raw conservative and progressive votes from the past few elections:
At the barest of minimums, Alberta's raw conservative votes need to stay above 600,000 for the NDP to lose. In 2008, the Wildrose Alliance was just getting started, the PC dynasty was beginning to fracture, and progressives were split between the Liberals and NDP. Together, the two conservative parties pulled in only 565,000 votes and the progressives just over 331,000. Four years later, in 2012, the two conservative parties pulled in over a million votes. Much of that, which went to the NDP-lite Redford PCs, was progressive voters trying to block a Wildrose win. Since then, the NDP has consolidated most of Alberta's left-leaning progressive vote. That number will always hover around 600,000, without a massive shift in sentiments. 
A more clear picture of Alberta's conservative votes exists in the 2015 results, when the NDP squeezed out a majority government through vote splitting.
The 2019 results are too skewed, because so many Albertans came out of the woodwork to end Rachel Notley and turnout almost hit 70%. However, Jason Kenney's victory proved that over a million Albertans, or a quarter of the province's population, wanted to defeat the NDP. That election revealed how unfriendly Alberta is for the NDP. 
Since then, a pandemic happened and Alberta conservatives have again been divided down the middle. On the old PC side, you have the “Covid Karens”. On the old Wildrose side, you have the “Covid deniers”. The Karens are more likely to shift their support to Rachel Notley based on Danielle Smith's positions on mandates, vaccines and restrictions. Even if many of them disagree with Notley's economic policies, they could cast protest votes against Smith in the hopes that she will be forced to resign. In four years, they might plan to vote for the UCP under a new leader.
That strategy manifests itself in Westminster politics more often than pundits might realize.
On the other hand, the pandemic is over for a majority of Albertans and even the Karens might not care so much about what Danielle Smith said about it. If a lot of the old PC voters have moved on, they may see the detriments in handing the province back to Rachel Notley more clearly.
As the campaign rolls on, though, issues about private healthcare could stir fear among the same PC Karens. In recent weeks, the NDP has gone hard at Smith for things she has said in the past about user fees and private hospitals. To the smarter voters, there is an understanding that the Canada Health Act prohibits Smith from doing a majority of what the NDP says she will do. However, the more low-info voters should be expected to fall for the NDP's lies and fear-mongering.
These low-info PC voters could tilt the scales in key ridings.
On the bright side, in most rural and Calgary ridings, PC Karens would have to show up for the NDP in large numbers—or abstain in large numbers. A majority of Calgary's suburban seats, and almost all of Southern Alberta's rural seats, will be next to impossible for the NDP to crack.
Again, assuming that no major shifts in sentiment have happened, the NDP's path to victory is extremely narrow. They will take most of Edmonton and its suburbs, leaving most of Northern and Central Alberta's rural ridings to the UCP. Even if they crack a few of those, they still can't win a majority.
Up to seven of the NDP's seats in 2015 were won with less than 35% of the popular vote.
In 2015, the NDP won 54 seats. In seven of those ridings, the conservative vote was split directly down the middle and the NDP was able to sneak up the middle with less than 35%. In 2019, those seats went to Kenney with massive margins. That puts the NDP at a maximum of 47 seats—but there is another catch.
Even more NDP seats in 2015 were won with less than 37% of the popular vote. When we factor in conservative vote splitting in the same seven ridings and add another five where the NDP won with less than 37%, we have 12 seats that the NDP should have lost in 2015. That puts them at a maximum of 42 seats. It takes 44 for a majority.
But wait, it gets even worse for the NDP.
If we bump the NDP threshold of popular votes to just under 40% in 2015, there are 21 seats the NDP won in which the conservative total would have surpassed 40% without vote splitting. That puts the NDP's ideological maximum at only 33 seats. I call it that because there is a strong enough socialist presence in those ridings to help the NDP, based on past election numbers.

Right Now

All the latest polls show a dead heat in popular support across Alberta. Some polls have even put the UCP at 50%, which is exactly where Kenney was a week prior to the 2019 election. In fact, Kenney averaged only 47% for the majority of April 2019, but went on to win 55% of the popular vote. If Danielle Smith can keep the UCP polling at no less than 45% until election day, she will probably go on to handily defeat Rachel Notley.
For raw votes, if Smith pulls in less than 600,000 votes, she will lose to Rachel Notley. Notley herself could pull in more than 630,000—but she would still probably lose the UCP strongholds across Alberta if Smith pulls in 600,000. In such a case, we would have to listen to NDP voters piss and moan for months about a “corrupt” and flawed electoral system where winning the popular vote counts for nothing.
The possibility of Smith winning more seats but losing the popular vote is high!
However, using past election data and the most current polls, even in the worst case scenario, the NDP has a ceiling of 37 seats (33 if the ideological maximum holds true). The best-case scenario puts the NDP at only 29 seats and the UCP at 58.
There is still a lot of time left for things to change, so it's important for conservatives to vote. Anything fewer than 600,000 UCP votes puts Rachel Notley in power. But, I'm looking forward to waking up on May 30th with the realization that the NDP never really stood a chance in Alberta and that all this doubt was the product of media manipulation.

Projection: UCP Majority (between 50 to 58 seats)

Here are the seat projections based on this analysis (click to download and share):