The Alberta election, held last Tuesday, may or may not prove to be a seismic shift in Canadian politics.
The governing Progressive Conservatives, in power under seven different premiers since 1971, were dramatically thrown out of office by voters — capturing just 10 seats and coming in third. Taking their place as the government of Alberta is the Alberta NDP, a party which has never held more than 16 seats in the legislature. In the past, most of its electoral strength has been confined to the Edmonton area. The NDP won 54 seats, although there was a tie vote in one Calgary riding. Final results there are not yet official.
Political scientists are having a field day with the election. There are many reasons for the fall of the PCs and the rise of the NDP, but the overriding one seems to be that the PCs took power for granted after 44 years.
While new PC leader Jim Prentice was capable and experienced, his actions in luring most of the opposition Wildrose Party’s MLAs to his caucus, and bringing in a budget that punished ordinary Albertans, seemed to infuriate voters. The NDP under Rachel Notley seemed the best option for many of them.
This election could have implications for the federal election in October. The Conservatives won all but one seat in Alberta in 2011. If there is a significant shift away from them (although they are not directly connected to the Alberta PCs), it could hurt the party’s chances of being re-elected as government.
The federal Liberals could also be hurt by the shift to the NDP provincially, while the federal NDP in Alberta, who now hold just one seat there, are likely to benefit.
In B.C., there are also implications. Notley opposes the Northern Gateway pipeline, which would now seem to have little chance of being built. She backs the twinning of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, and she also wants more Alberta oil processed in Canada — something many people of all political stripes agree with.
It is quite likely that she and B.C. Premier Christy Clark can work well together on many issues, including pipelines and adding value to resources extracted in Canada.