There’s a chance that the federal election results in Alberta could end up being less than exciting, with the Conservatives winning most of the province’s seats, but there’s no doubt Alberta had an impact in this federal election: Premier Jason Kenney might have cost Erin O’Toole and the Conservatives their chance at forming government in Ottawa.
The former wonder kid of Canada’s conservative movement, Kenney spent a month in hiding to avoid embarrassing O’Toole only to emerge in the final few days of the campaign to drop a bomb in his federal cousin’s lap. Kenney’s Open for Summer plan that removed all public health restrictions in time for the Calgary Stampede in July led to a vicious fourth wave of COVID-19 that has seen a steep spike in new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
Intensive Care Units across Alberta are filling up and Kenney has had to plead with other provinces to take our sick patients if we run out of space.
All non-emergency surgeries in Alberta are cancelled and 75 per cent of the operating rooms at the Alberta Children’s Hospital are closing because doctors and nurses are being redeployed to take care of COVID patients.
Public sector health care unions are urging Kenney to ask the federal government for help from the military and the Red Cross.
O’Toole praised Kenney’s response to the pandemic and has refused to answer questions about it from reporters since Alberta once again declared a State of Public Health Emergency last week.
While the Conservatives are expected to sweep Alberta once again, O’Toole only visited the province once in this election campaign. He spent a morning in Edmonton during the first week of the campaign, making a policy announcement in Edmonton-Centre and stopping for a photo-op at a Jollibee’s before shuffling back to the airport for an afternoon flight to British Columbia.
But unlike recent federal elections, this time the right-wing of the political spectrum is pretty crowded in Alberta.
People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier has taken advantage of O’Toole and Kenney’s perceived political weaknesses by spending a considerable amount of time in Alberta during this election.
Appealing to groups ranging from the vaccine hesitant to indoctrinated COVID conspiracy theorists, Bernier has been attracting large crowds at his Alberta rallies. And his candidates have earned endorsements from former Conservative MP David Yurdiga and former Reform MP Cliff Breitkreuz.
Former Ontario MP Derek Sloan, who was kicked out of the Conservative Party for accepting a donation from a well-known white supremacist, has been embraced the COVID conspiracy theories as he campaigns as an Independent candidate in Banff-Airdrie with the full-support of former Conservative MP Rob Anders.
And then there’s the separatist Maverick Party led by former Conservative MP and oil industry lobbyist Jay Hill, which is still in the mix despite Alberta separatism not being the hot topic it was after the 2019 federal election.
Meanwhile, the silence coming from the United Conservative Party Caucus is deafening.
Aside from dissenting Tweets and Facebook comments from two already disgruntled backbenchers – former cabinet minister and Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer and Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried – the predicted caucus revolt has not yet spilled out into the public. But maybe that changes if Justin Trudeau’s Liberals form government on Monday.
Directors of the UCP association in Olds-Didsbury-Three-Hills, home of Speaker and former interim leader Nathan Cooper, near unanimously passed a motion calling for a leadership review and party vice-president Joel Mullen is reported to have called for a review.
Kenney’s supporters on the UCP provincial executive headed off previous calls by scheduling leadership review at the party’s Fall 2022 convention, only months ahead of the expected 2023 provincial election.
If O’Toole does not become Prime Minister after the federal ballots are counted, he might not be the only Conservative leader looking for a new job. Kenney’s already embattled leadership could become even more tenuous.
Kerry Diotte unites the NDP in Alberta
In what is likely his biggest single achievement of his political career, Conservative candidate Kerry Diotte has succeeded in bridging the political divide between the provincial and federal NDP in Alberta.
Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was back in Alberta yesterday for his second visit to the Edmonton-Griesbach, where the party believes candidate Blake Desjarlais can unseat Diotte to pick up a second seat for the NDP.
With NDP incumbent Heather McPherson believed to be secure for re-election in Edmonton-Strathcona, the party has been pouring its resources into Griesbach.
And Singh isn’t the only party leader on the campaign trail for Desjarlais.
Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley was on the doors last week helping Desjarlais get his vote out. While Notley tried her best to avoid being involved in the 2019 federal campaign, she and about a dozen NDP MLAs, including local MLAs Janis Irwin and David Eggen have been spotted door knocking with Desjarlais.
Pipelines and the carbon tax kept the NDP cousins apart in 2019, but the possibility of defeating Kerry Diotte has brought the provincial and federal NDP together in 2021.
Liberals have their sights set on Edmonton-Centre, Mill Woods and Calgary-Skyview
The Liberals hope to reestablish a beachhead in Alberta and if they are successful it will likely be in Edmonton-Centre, Edmonton-Mill Woods or Calgary-Skyview.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau only made one brief stop in Alberta during the first week of the election campaign to speak at a rally for Calgary-Skyview candidate George Chahal.
University—Rosedale Liberal candidate and former Edmonton native Chrystia Freeland visited Alberta twice to campaign with candidates in Calgary and Edmonton, including Randy Boissonnault in Edmonton-Centre and Ben Henderson in Edmonton-Mill Woods.
Also visiting Alberta during the campaign were Vancouver-South Liberal candidate Harjit Sajan, who campaigned in Calgary-Centre with Sabrina Grover, and Surrey-Newton Liberal candidate Sukh Dhaliwal, who campaigned with Henderson in Mill Woods.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson endorsed Henderson and campaigned with him in the final days of the election. The two men have served together on Edmonton City Council since 2007.
Voting stations are open from 7:30am to 7:30pm on Sept. 20, 2021.