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Who wins if the Alberta Legislature's fit to be tied?

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If you think the Alberta election campaign has been exciting up to now, just wait. Any minute now, someone's going to start shouting the C-word.

That's right: "Coalition."

Leastways, if the election is as close as is now being suggested, there’s a good chance the Progressive Conservatives under Premier Alison Redford and the Wildrose Party under Danielle Smith will emerge from the voting on April 23 with approximately the same number of seats.

Indeed, maybe those two right-wing parties should be listed in the opposite order. In yesterday’s edition of his Threehundredeight blog, polling analyst Éric Grenier argued that based on an aggregation of all recent polls, if an election were held tomorrow the far-right Wildrose Party would emerge when the dust settled holding a very narrow majority of 44 seats. Too narrow…

The Conservatives under Premier Doug Horner … whoops, I mean under Redford … would be down to 36 seats in Grenier's scenario yesterday. The NDP would hold four and the Liberals three.

That margin is not just slim, it's not even razor thin. Since somebody has to be the Speaker of the House, it's potentially a dead heat!

Chances are good, of course, that things won't work out exactly like that -- or even remotely like that. But that doesn't make this kind of speculation any less interesting. That's because there are lots of other scenarios possible if the current polling results remain roughly the same that could see the smaller opposition parties effectively holding the balance of power between the two conservative camps.

Grenier is basing his conclusions on an aggregation of all polls. It's a fact that some of those polls are better than others, and the polls that are most favourable to the Wildrose chances aren't necessarily the most methodologically sound. So, there could be a few more seats for Redford's Conservatives in that.

On the other hand, the neo-Con federal government of Stephen Harper is now seriously caught up in supporting its Wildrose ideological doppelganger. If the Harperistas haven't thrown in everything but the federal army to make sure change is in the Wildrose Party's favour on voting day, they're trending that way.

Already there are reports that when desperate Redford Tories approach trusted old retainers to take over the faltering PC campaign from strategist Stephen Carter, their former friends won't touch the job with the proverbial bargepole. The reason? They've been told clearly they'll never do another stick of work for Ottawa if they do.

This kind of thing may work and tilt things toward the Wildrose, which additionally seems to have more momentum than the PCs.

But by election day Alberta New Democrats and Liberals could see some growth too and end up holding more seats than Grenier's current analysis allows them -- say, five or six for the New Democrats and four or five for the Liberals.

In other words, there are several ways we could very well emerge from this exciting election with a minority government of either the Wildrose or Conservative variety and either the New Democrats or the Liberals in possession of enough seats to create an uneasy voting alliance with one or the other of the potential governments.

In such a situation, Alberta's Lieutenant-Governor -- Harper's man Don Ethell -- might actually have to do his job and ask both major contenders if they’re prepared to try to form a government.

Now, not one of the parties in this election has breathed a word about such an obvious possibility, though this should hardly surprise us.

The right-of-centre Liberals and left-of-centre NDP presumably fear this kind of talk will weaken their chances in ridings where the PCs will need moderate votes to defeat the Wildrose.

But since Redford's party will be pleading for those votes anyway, the negatives could be outweighed by the positives, at least in the NDP’s case. Surely NDP campaigners should be invigorated by the thought of their party holding the balance of power, even if it's a very thin-edged wedge, something that has benefited the party and the country whenever it has happened.

As for the Tories and the Wildrose Party, it's a certainty that neither of them would like this possibility even whispered in public because they're sure to be forced by both their hard-core supporters and their right-wing opponent to deny they'd ever consider such a heresy.

But that would mean they'd have to say a firm "No" now to something they might badly need to say "Yes" to later.

So, whether anybody likes it or not, the C-word is on the agenda, at least until the polls make another move that cancels out the possibility.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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