Make that a 45-year dynasty.
Albertans made quick work of predictions by pollsters and pundits Monday, handing Alison Redford’s Progressive Conservatives a 12th-straight majority government with 61 seats while stifling the surging Wildrose.
Through a 28-day campaign, Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Party had established itself as the one to beat come election day, believed by many to be on the cusp of taking over power after four decades of Tory rule. But when it came time for the ballots to be counted, Albertans had a different idea. Whether it was a late push by the PCs to capture the support of 20% of undecided voters or a successful strategic voting campaign aimed at sending Liberal votes to the PCs to thwart the Wildrose, the 2012 provincial election surprised many, including the now-leader of Alberta’s Official Opposition.
“Tonight, we found out change might take a little longer than we thought,” said a disappointed Smith, whose party battled accusations of being “redneck bigots” after an archived blog post from one candidate and controversial race-related remarks from another put the party in damage control mode just days before the election.
Change at the Legislature is inevitable, albeit on a smaller scale than some envisioned. A gain in popular support for the Wildrose (from 7% to 34%) has to be encouraging for the party who will now sit as Official Opposition with 17 seats. Despite holding on to majority government status, Redford’s PCs will be without more than a dozen retiring MLAs and a handful of prominent former cabinet ministers who lost their seats (Ted Morton, Ray Danyluk, Evan Berger and Jack Hayden). Alberta’s NDP doubled its caucus (from two to four seats), perhaps at the expense of the Alberta Liberals (from eight seats to five). The centrist Alberta Party will no doubt use this election as a case study for next time, failing to secure a single seat in government after being shut out of the leaders’ debate.
So what does this election say about Albertans? Even closer to home, what does it say about Edmontonians? A few interesting points to consider:
- Despite expectations the Wildrose would see support in Calgary, the party secured just two seats in that city (and zero in Edmonton).
- When it comes to voting for people over party, NDP leader Brian Mason won Edmonton-Highlands by a landslide while Liberal leader Raj Sherman eked out a victory in Edmonton-Meadowlark. Former Hinton mayor Glenn Taylor, now leader of the Alberta Party, failed to topple incumbent PC candidate Robin Campbell in the West Yellowhead riding.
- While a record (total) number of Albertans showed up to vote, it appears the province will fall short of the magic number of 50% voter turnout. Regardless, “everyone got engaged in the future of the province,” said Redford. “Every Albertan knew this election was about choice. A choice to put up walls or build bridges. A choice about Alberta’s future…Alberta chose to build bridges.”
Did the 2012 provincial election unfold as you expected?