On his trademark campaign chariot, a blue pickup truck, United Conservative Party (UCP) leader Jason Kenney wheeled into the Big Four building in Calgary Tuesday night, victorious after Alberta’s bitter 28-day election campaign.
It was a flip flop of the last seat count at dissolution – and then some. The NDP dissolved the Alberta Legislature with 52 seats, and the UCP holding 25 seats.
“Alberta isn’t just a place on a map… Alberta is an idea. It’s an idea of a free society that believes in the creative power of human potential; people unleashed to pursue their greatest strengths and passions,” Kenney said in his victory speech.
“Albertans have given us a mandate to implement our positive ideas in our platform, to bring bold change that gets Alberta back to work.”
The UCP, formed two years ago by a merger of the Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose parties, claimed the lion’s share of rural seats, and was leading or had captured many seats in Calgary.
Chants of ‘UCP! UCP! UCP!’ from a crowd of more than 1,000 filled the building as broadcast outlet had already predicted a UCP win, not 30 minutes into the count.
Despite leadership vote scandals and instances of homophobia and racism among some of the UCP members, Albertans put the economy, debt and pipelines in the forefront, with the party capturing 63 of 87 seats in the Alberta Legislature.
One of the party’s internal pollsters told LiveWire Calgary prior to the count they had predicted a 63-seat win. Polls during the campaign had the UCP with a substantial lead throughout.
While there were still nearly 700,000 advanced votes to count, in most of the ridings it’s expected it won’t have a dramatic effect on the outcome.
“We will strive to be a government for all Albertans, not just those that voted for us,” Kenney said.
“In implementing our policies, we will reach out to those who disagree in the spirit of dialogue to find common ground where possible, to listen, and when we are wrong, to change course.”
Kenney talked at length about the economy during his speech but offered a conciliatory message to now-former Premier Rachel Notley, who will take over as the leader of the official opposition.
He also took aim at foreign-funded special interest groups campaigning against Alberta’s energy industry, saying he’d take action to ban foreign contributions to election campaigns.
It was a night of firsts for many new candidates, similar to the NDP’s takeover back in 2015.
Tyler Shandro, UCP candidate for Calgary Acadia, said the victory was still sinking in. He said he’d knocked on thousands of doors during the campaign and had good response, but still was anxious about the outcome.
“Up until this very moment, I had no idea where I stood,” Shandro said.
“Still not quite sure what everything we’re seeing here means.”
Shandro said despite the negative campaign run by the outgoing Alberta NDP government, he believes the platform the party put forward was moderate and resonated with people at the doorstep.
“It’s now about earning the trust of Albertans with those anxieties,” he said.