Alberta Politics

NDP should recalibrate their line of attack after Kenney’s crushing landslide in Calgary-Lougheed

Attempts by Jason Kenney’s opponents to paint him as an extremist social conservative failed to stop the United Conservative Party leader from winning a crushing landslide victory today in Calgary-Lougheed.

Phillip van der Merwe NDP Calgary Lougheed
Phillip van der Merwe

With 22 of 22 polls reporting, Kenney had earned 7,760 votes, 71.51 percent of the total votes cast in the by-election. The UCP had a strong candidate, a strong organization and solid base of voter support in the district. And like the previous two by-elections held since the last election, this district avoided the New Democratic Party’s Orange Wave when voters re-elected Progressive Conservative Dave Rodney in 2015.

NDP candidate Phillip van der Merwe placed second with 1,822 votes, 16.79 percent of the votes cast. van der Merwe was a high quality candidate for the party in Calgary, but his chances of upsetting Kenney were always slim to none.

The NDP were spared the embarrassment of placing third, a spot that fell to newly elected Liberal Party leader David Khan, who earned 1,009 votes, 9.3 percent of the total vote. Khan’s showing was only a small improvement on the party’s showing in 2015, but it should be enough to concern the NDP that even a Liberal Party on life-support can eat into their vote share.

Despite support on the campaign trail from Premier Rachel Notley and a handful of high-profile cabinet ministers, NDP support was cut in half from the 2015 election, which is not a good sign for the governing party.

David Khan Alberta Liberal Party Leader
David Khan

The NDP should use the Calgary-Lougheed by-election as an opportunity to recalibrate their line of attack against the UCP leader. Kenney is a professional political networker unlike we have ever seen in Alberta politics, and he should not be underestimated.

While the NDP have been racking up easy wins against fumbling and confused UCP MLAs on the floor of the Legislative Assembly, Kenney has been activating a network of conservative political activists and supporters he has built over the past twenty-five years.

Two months ago, I wrote that the NDP were betting Albertans would forgive their more unpopular policies when reminded of the Kenney’s more bizarre social conservative views. On the flip-side, Kenney was betting Albertans would forgive his social conservative views when reminded of the NDP’s more unpopular policies.

The NDP painted Kenney as an extremist during the recent debate over Gay-Straight Alliances, and while his social views are probably out of step with most Albertans in 2017, that does not appear to have had an impact on him or the UCP in this by-election. Kenney’s relentless attacks on the NDP’s fiscal and economic agenda appear to be resonating in Calgary, where NDP MLAs are expected to face a very steep uphill battle in their bids for re-election.

While I am sure the NDP’s strategists in Edmonton are hard at work preparing for the next election, it may be time to rethink how they approach the UCP leader as he enters the Assembly.

This may have only been one by-election in a district already held by the UCP, but it should be a wake-up call for the NDP. The next general election is only a short 14 months away.

Results of the Calgary-Lougheed by-election (December 14, 2017)

Jason Kenney, UCP – 7,760 (71.51%)
Phillip van der Merwe, NDP – 1,822 (16.79%)
David Khan, Liberal – 1,009 (9.3%)
Lauren Thorsteinson, Reform – 137 (1.26%)

Romy Tittel, Green – 60 (0.55%)
Wayne Leslie, Independent – 42 (0.39%)
Larry Heather, Independent 22 (0.22%)

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Make sure to vote in the Best of Alberta Politics 2017 Survey. The first round of voting will close at 11:59pm on Friday, December 15, 2017. Voting for the top 3 results in each category will begin on Sunday, December 17, 2017. We will reveal the results of the survey on the next episode of the Daveberta Podcast, which you can listen and subscribe to on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and wherever you find podcasts online.

9 replies on “NDP should recalibrate their line of attack after Kenney’s crushing landslide in Calgary-Lougheed”

It’s less about finding a line of attack, but on pragmatic governance and highlighting that – that is the path to victory. And pragmatic governance means showing how the deficit will go down… sharply.

Yes, the NDP and other parties will need to adjust their message on the economic side, but Kenney picked this riding carefully. It is a comfortable area where economic issues like taxes and deficit are bigger concerns. Remember the NDP only raised income taxes on individuals making over $125,000 a year – that is not most Albertans. The PC’s, now actually part of the UCP, ran deficits since the Stelmach years and some before that. More than one Alberta government was re-elected while having a deficit. The Alberta economy is recovering and the news about jobs is getting better.

We are not out of the woods yet, but close to it. It is not as gloomy as it might appear for our economy or the NDP.

Maybe Kenney’s “bizzare social conservative views” aren’t that far off from a lot of Albertans? There are people in this this province that believe abortion is murder, that universities suppress free speech, and that there is a God. Oh, and by the way, these Albertans don’t just reside in Cardston. Notley not apologizing for her consent comments on the Catholic church really showed her true colors. The NDP betting that Albertans will forgive them on unpopular policies (Carbon Tax, Bill 6, GSA’s, ) are diminishing by the day. What Albertans care most about are the economy, low taxes, and jobs. All this other stuff they have been focusing on (painting social conservative views as evil and outdated) are digging their grave deeper and turning their supporters away.

I do not think there is any particular lesson to be learned from yesterday’s by-election. Mr. Kenney has a powerful machine, endless amounts of money, huge amount of publicity and public awareness. Yes, he got more than 71% of the vote, but even with all his money, power etc, that is still less that the 74.19% that then-PC MLA Marlene Graham received in that riding in 2001. Almost no-one follows politics closer than you, Dave – and do even know the name Marlene Graham? That Kenney scored a huge win is as politically meaningful as the sun rising this morning. Both were foregone conclusions and neither should suggest anyone needs to re-think any plans.

This riding is a conservative stronghold. Jason Kenney used the old conservative networks and their extremely efficient ground volunteers to get the job done. Jason Kenney is a professional career politician. What astounds me is that he did this with no policies or platform. The current ND government looks more like an old red tory Alberta government. A purely socialist government it is not. This government has done a lot of good for ordinary people. I have travelled the province and I have seen with my own eyes many improvements to roads and to bridges. A living wage of $15 an hour while it hurts some businesses, overall, it is a just wage for the work provided by many people in the service industries.

So who is actually running this UCP? By amalgamating with the Wild Rose this new party is likely far right in its future social and economic policies. So it represents the far right wing from both parties who are being directed by wealthy business interests and right wing think tanks to formulate a distinctly Americanized Tea Party style of policy to implement once elected in 2019. The big lie in all this is that party members will decide policy. Policy has already been decided by conservative think tanks at Alberta universities and elsewhere.

And, finally, a dog is a dog. If I change the label and call this animal a cat, it is still a dog. My prediction is that the UCP will represent the worst kind of divisive politics that has ever been seen in Canada with resulting law suits for defamation, personal comments that degrade and sexual harassment on both sides of the legislature.


Bill has twigged on it – the efforts by the NDP to paint the UCP in social-issue colors aren’t getting traction with voters. Well, it is with people who would have voted NDP but not anyone else. It’s not GSAs and social issues so much. It’s Bill 6, the carbon tax, banning coal power, minimum wage hikes, the refusal to look at government operations for deficit reductions, corporate tax hikes. changes to WCB that could eliminate rebates, changes to OHS that seem to absolve a worker from any responsibility for an incident, the ludicrous and onerous notion of having to report all near misses that could have caused injury or death. All these things lead to a sense that the NDP is not business friendly – and not just unfriendly to big corporations but small business as well. You very quickly get the impression that the NDP loves workers but hates employers. That’s not a good impression to have, especially in Calgary or rural Alberta – any place that doesn’t have a large contingent of protected government workers.
If the NDP chooses to focus on specific social issues and painting the UCP as social extremists (to the cheering of left wing voters) they shouldn’t be surprised when they’re reduced to a bunch of Edmonton ridings after 2019. All the UCP needs to do is keep the focus on jobs and the economy because that is what is resonating with people now. Most couldn’t care less about GSAs.

You may be right, Darren, and Alberta is the worse off for it. Nobody cares about near misses until they lose a loved one and learn there were 3 similar events just like it that went ignored. Nobody cares about GSAs until a loved one outs him or herself, and then they learn about the bullying they endured. Nobody cares about climate change until they are driving through flames escaping Fort McMurray.

Meanwhile 2 workers in Alberta were killed yesterday – a logging truck driver in Hinton and a diesel mechanic in Parkland County. Have other logging truck drivers had near misses that could have served as a warning? Would a better financed OHS department been able to inspect the diesel repair shop for carbon monoxide?

The bottom line is that there are some unscrupulous business owners out there that are willing to take chances with their workers’ safety, and all business owners wind up suffering as a result. And yes, there are plenty of inexperienced, ‘it’ll never happen to me’ workers who need protection from themselves.

Although a Jason Kenney government would never have passed such legislation, I really can’t see the UCP being so irresponsible to repeal it now that it is in place.

I think Danielle Smith might have a thing or two to say about how well social conservativism resonates with most Alberta voters.

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