What was expected to be the most exciting provincial election in history of our province turned out to be a continuation of the 41-year old Progressive Conservative dynasty. The pollsters, the media, and the pundits (including this blogger) appear to have completely misjudged the electoral climate in the final days of the election.
It appears that the PC Party call to moderate voters to vote strategically to block the Wildrose Party from forming government was successful in Calgary, Edmonton, and northern Alberta. While the Tories ran a completely lacklustre campaign, Albertans’ unease with the thorny social conservative views of Wildrose candidates Allan Hunsperger and Ron Leech undoubtedly drew moderates to cast their ballots for the PCs yesterday.
At least for now, Premier Alison Redford is secure in her position as leader of the PC Party. The PCs have re-elected a number of veteran MLAs, including Dave Hancock in Edmonton-Whitemud, and a new cast of rookie MLAs who will amount to about 1/3 of the governing caucus.
The golden rule of Alberta elections remains truth: never bet against the incumbent.
The Tories have lost many of their former strongholds in rural Alberta and cabinet giants, including Ted Morton in Chestermere-Rockyview, Evan Berger in Livingstone-Macleod, Jack Hayden in Drumheller-Stettler, and Ray Danyluk in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills. Successful use of wedge issues like property rights likely played a significant role in the Wildrose winning these rural constituencies.
With 17 MLA’s, Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party will form the Official Opposition in the Assembly. Ms. Smith’s challenges are two-fold. First, she must manage the expectations of disappointed caucus members who expected to be sitting in the government benches. Second, she must form a cohesive opposition consisting of mostly rookie MLA’s (including herself). Two of the Wildrose Party’s four incumbent MLA’s were defeated last night. Only MLA Heather Forsyth in Calgary-Fish Creek and Rob Anderson in Airdrie were re-elected.
The Wildrose caucus is almost entirely made up of MLA’s from southern rural Alberta constituencies, which breaks from the almost three decade-long tradition of urban-based Liberal or NDP official oppositions. This will be the first time since the Social Credit Party formed official opposition in 1971 that a large caucus of rural MLAs are the official opposition. Despite signs of a wave early in the campaign, the Wildrose Party only elected two MLA’s in Calgary, including Ms. Forsyth and Jeff Wilson, who defeated PC appointee candidate Farouk Adatia in Calgary-Shaw.
“It was a miracle that we survived” was Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman‘s comment on CBC Radio this morning. The Liberal Party elected five MLA’s last night, losing official opposition status for the first time in nineteen years. The Liberal vote collapsed across the province to 10% and the party lost long-time Liberal voting constituencies Edmonton-Gold Bar, Edmonton-Riverview, and Calgary-Varsity to the Tories.
Former Liberal MLA Maurice Tougas may have said it best on his blog this morning, “Liberals will now have to ask themselves what their place is in Alberta politics, or indeed if there is any place for them at all.”
The NDP probably have mixed feelings this morning. NDP leader Brian Mason ran a smooth campaign and his party has gained official party status by adding former MLA David Eggen from Edmonton-Calder and Deron Bilous from Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview to their caucus, but they are still one MLA smaller than the Liberals, who many New Democrats had hoped to surpass.
There are some pretty disappointed people in the Alberta Party camp this morning. Their hopes for electing an MLA were dashed, but the party earned 17,144 across the province, which leaves them with something to build on for the next election.
More to come…