Four years after Alberta’s political landscape was turned upside down in the 2015 election, the pendulum has swung back the other way.
Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party, which rose from the ashes of the Progressive Conservative dynasty toppled by Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party in 2015, knocked the NDP from its perch last Tuesday night while rolling to a majority government. The UCP swept to 63 seats in the legislature (based on preliminary figures) while the NDP collected all the rest — 24 seats, 30 fewer than what the Notley crew had claimed in 2015. It could be later in the week before final results from out-of-constituency advance ballots are tabulated.
A strong desire for change fuelled the “orange wave” that carried the NDP to power in 2015, and it seems the same sentiment swept them out again as the tide changed. Kenney tapped into Albertans’ concerns about jobs, the economy and making the pipeline a reality, and in a province heavily reliant on the oil industry, that spoke volumes. Projections indicate that voter turnout could be as high as 70 per cent, an eye-popping figure that stands in stark contrast to a record-low turnout of 40.6 per cent in 2008. Advance polls which saw record numbers gave hints that this election would produce a strong voter turnout.
While the UCP regained many of the formerly PC strongholds claimed by the NDP in 2015, Shannon Phillips is projected to retain her Lethbridge-West seat in a tight battle with UCP challenger Karri Flatla. In Lethbridge-East, UCP’s Nathan Neudorf outlasted NDP incumbent Maria Fitzpatrick, leaving the city divided politically, not a new situation. In years past, the city featured both PC and Liberal representatives in the same legislature.
It was a short but intense election campaign in which emotions ran high, with plenty of biting attacks by the two contending sides. Hopefully the fighting can be forgotten and the two parties can put differences aside for the good of the province in the months to come.
Notley hinted at such in congratulating Kenney on his election win. “I assured him that we will do everything that we can to ensure the transition to a new government is smooth and productive,” Notley said in a story from The Canadian Press.
For Kenney, the victory marked a successful conclusion to his efforts to “unite the right” in Alberta and rebuild the province’s conservatives into a force capable of regaining power. Just three years ago, there were many obstacles to overcome in bringing members of the Wildrose Party and the former PCs together. Consider it mission accomplished.
Now the challenge falls to Kenney and his team to get Alberta’s economy humming again. A major part of that effort will involve bringing the long-awaited pipeline project to fruition.
Albertans, with a wearying election campaign behind them, likely just want to get back to day-to-day life, which, for many, has enough challenges of their own. It’s up to the new government to do what they can to help Albertans deal with those challenges.