Albertans have spoken, and it’s clear they wanted a new direction for the province and new leaders to take them there.
Looking back at the 2019 provincial election, premier-elect Jason Kenney earned a comfortable and reassuring mandate from Alberta voters to move ahead with his campaign promises, the list of which is heavy with removing or altering laws and policies brought in by the former NDP government.
So much for social license.
It turns out the UCP won 63 electoral divisions. The only other political party to win any seats was the outgoing government NDP, which won 24. A total of 44 electoral divisions were needed to secure a majority government. It was interesting to see no other party won seats, although there were many parties running. In the Drayton-Devon constituency, for example, there were eight different parties represented.
Anyhoo, predictions before the election ranged from interpretation of opinion polls (most polls had the UCP far ahead of the NDP, but some predicted the UCP was barely ahead of the NDP, and predicted the UCP would be lucky to form a minority government) to fairly intense arguments on social media platforms such as Facebook. One comment I saw attracted my interest, as it seemed to strongly contradict what opinion polls were saying about UCP support, especially in rural areas like Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin.
I quote verbatim: “Out and about today chatting with different pple, about the Election. Most said NO UCP. I am quite shocked. Don’t trust Kenney seems to be the reason. Thinks he corrupt. Will be interesting to see who makes it in.” Kenney made it in.
Calgary, small city and rural vote was so overwhelmingly UCP, the Canadian Press was already declaring UCP candidates elected within about an hour of the polls closing, so that illustrates how many people wanted change. Contrary to what the FB commenter said above, polls showed that the majority of Albertans leading up to the election preferred UCP’s Jason Kenney to the NDP’s Rachel Notley and election night results confirmed that, which makes one wonder if the FB comment above was based in reality, or a lie.
Some of the commenting on why the UCP won decisively amuses me. Commenters in Edmonton (who one wonders ever leave the city limits) are explaining to people why rural Albertans voted overwhelmingly for the UCP.
Albertans want a focus on major issues that matter to them,.. like the economy, jobs, prosperity, the oil and gas industry, agriculture and pipeline projects, while other political parties were talking about issues like high school gay-straight alliances, social license, UCP candidate comments from years past and ensuring union jobs were secure. No doubt these are also important issues, but are they the issues the majority of voters are concerned about?
Leading up to the election, a steady stream of old dirt was being dug up and paraded around from certain UCP candidates’ past lives, while Premier Notley harped on the “You can’t vote UCP, you don’t like them and they’re bad people.”
Stupid strategies like this, ignoring the needs of the majority and catering to tiny side issues, were employed in the last U.S. presidential election, mostly by Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton. On national television, she stated she wanted nothing more than to put coal miners out of business by closing coal plants, then campaigned in areas of the United States where the coal industry employed huge amounts of people. So these people cornered Clinton, asking, “Why are you putting me out of work? I have a family to feed.” What a moron.
The dirt-digging didn’t work. You can look at the Drayton-Devon constituency where UCP incumbent Mark Smith was under a lot of fire in the Edmonton media for comments he made in 2013 that critics claimed were intolerant which, if you know Smith or have ever worked with him, you know is ridiculous. Obviously voters agreed, as Smith eared 17,766 votes on election night. The next closest competitor was NDP with 4,421. Pretty damn decisive.
Stu Salkeld is editor of The Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.