Editorial — Alberta voters send mixed messages

Many clearly chose to go with the party they were familiar with, as opposed to a new and untried approach to governing.

Monday night’s Alberta election results can be interpreted in numerous ways, but a few overarching messages sent by voters in our neighbouring province are pretty obvious.

One is that the election results are determined by voters, not pollsters and media pundits. Most pundits and pollsters were predicting a Wild Rose Party win. Instead, the ruling Progressive Conservatives won a comfortable majority of seats, although the vote totals were closer than the seat total.

It is obvious that most voters were not stampeded by the polls, and in fact most polls had suggested that there were a large number of undecided voters, even in the last week of the campaign. Many of them clearly chose to go with the party they were familiar with, as opposed to a new and untried approach to governing.

Another message is that Albertans are a mixed group of people, and are not quite the one-size-fits-all rednecks that they are often portrayed as. In fact, the Liberals and NDP continue to attract committed voters and win seats in each provincial election, and some of their usual supporters switched to the PCs to prevent Wild Rose from getting more of a foothold.

This also highlights the fact that Albertans have some of the same concerns that their B.C. neighbours do. Yes, the oil industry is the dominant factor in Alberta’s economy and political life, but many Albertans have serious concerns about some aspects of the oil and gas industry.

A third message is that candidates who make off-the-wall comments can do a lot of damage to a party brand. Two Wild Rose candidates made comments that at the very least angered a large number of people, and those comments were pondered by many potential voters. In the end, they cost the party votes.

The BC Liberals may be hoping that B.C. voters will offer them the vindication the PCs in Alberta received. While that is not impossible, the Liberals here have a much steeper hill to climb.

They are much further behind in the polls than the Alberta PCs were, and they are facing two opposition parties with significant voter support. In addition, they have lots of baggage,  which many voters have grievances with.

B.C. politics is also much more of a hardball match than in Alberta. After all, the prairie province has only changed governments three times in 107 years.