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PCs and Wildrose are dancing to the same tune
Tuesday, 11 October 2016 - 9:00am
Since the May 2015 election, political pundits and activists have been actively discussing whether or not there is enough common ground for the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose to join together in a single party.
A new report by the Manning Centre delves beyond speculation about commonalities between the two parties, and instead explores statistical evidence – we analyzed their voting records in the legislature. The results were quite surprising.
Since the 2015 election, the voting track record of the PCs and Wildrose is nearly identical.
After analyzing more than 120 recorded votes in the legislature, we discovered the majority of Progressive Conservative and Wildrose Party MLAs voted together just over 90 per cent of the time. For two parties that have historically been at loggerheads, this high degree of overlap is noteworthy.
Critics might dismiss their voting similarities, noting that opposition parties in Canada regularly oppose the government, so of course their voting track records would be similar. While it’s true that opposition parties in Canada regularly oppose the government, what’s interesting is that the Wildrose and PCs have regularly supported each other’s motions and amendments.
The Wildrose may have been one of the most vocal opponents of the former PC government, but since the 2015 election, they have supported 100 per cent of amendments put forward by Progressive Conservative MLAs. Similarly, Progressive Conservative MLAs reciprocated by voting for 91 per cent of Wildrose amendments.
When voting on financial issues, there was even more resounding consensus between the PCs and Wildrose – a reassuring sign to all Albertans given the dire financial situation the province faces. All told, the two parties voted together 96 per cent of the time.
However, that figure comes with a caveat. When voting on the NDP government’s departmental budgets, one PC MLA broke ranks with her own party 11 times (out of 23 votes) to instead vote with the NDP government to not reduce spending. If you include Sandra Jansen’s 11 votes in support of the Notley government’s spending plan, the 96 per cent figure would drop significantly.
This finding indicates that the challenge for small c-conservatives in the current legislature may be an internal matter for the PCs to manage, as opposed to a major difference between the PCs and Wildrose.
Seven policy areas were debated in the legislature and tracked through recorded votes: accountability, agriculture, economic development, education, environment, finance and labour. Given that a wide array of policies were voted on nearly unanimously by both parties, there is even more legitimacy to suggestions of consensus.
If we examine the votes by policy area, the highest level of agreement pertained to economic development (100 per cent) and financial matters (96 per cent) – a positive sign, given the urgent need to get the province’s finances back on track.
Regarding disagreements, there was no consistent pattern in the votes where the PCs and Wildrose opposed one another. Some examples include disagreement over the appropriate amount of consultation undertaken, disagreement over long-term saving versus debt repayment, etc.
To be sure, our analysis does not suggest there wouldn’t be any policy differences if the two parties decided to come together. It could be the case that some of the more contentious issues haven’t yet come up. Again, our analysis only focussed on recorded votes to date in the legislature.
What our analysis does show, however, is that based on the wide array of policy issues that have been discussed since the NDP took office, the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative Party seem to find themselves on the same page nearly every time. Could this change be chalked up to the fact that almost all of the MLAs in the legislature prior to the last election are no longer there? Who knows?
What is clear is that as pundits continue to debate the commonalities and differences between the two parties, they now have some statistical data to draw on.
John Whittaker is a policy analyst with the Manning Centre
This column was published by the Calgary Herald on October 11, 2016