The hotly-contested Alberta provincial general election is virtually complete, with the UCP, under the leadership of Danielle Smith, capturing the victory over the Alberta NDP in Monday’s vote.
More than 1.76 million votes were cast in the 31st Alberta election, driving the UCP to a 49 to 38 seat victory, according to Election Alberta results showing all polls reported on the morning of May 30.
It’s a much closer election than in 2019, when the Jason Kenney-led UCP won 63 seats, in a rout of the Alberta NDP, who swept to power in 2015 after 40-plus years of Progressive Conservative rule.
In her speech to supporters, Premier-elect Danielle Smith said even though political pundits had written the party off last month, they’d just come through a hard-fought election. Smith also won handily in her riding of Brooks-Medicine Hat.
“But you know what happened, despite it all, today Albertans chose to move our province forward,” Smith said.
“It is time to put partisanship divisions and personal and political attacks in the rearview mirror. It’s time to move forward together as Albertans.”
Smith said they will work every day to demonstrate they can be trusted on key issues. Though, she said she won’t be perfect. Still, she asked Albertans to be united.
“We must remember that there is much more that unites us than divides us. You will need to be unified in the days and years ahead because there’s so much work to do together,” she said.
Calgary-West candidate Mike Ellis, who won his seat over Alberta NDP candidate Joan Chand’oiseau, said that they could feel things shift after the leaders’ debate on May 18.
“After the leadership debate, we saw a positive shift at the doors and that was evident by seeing approximately 2,000 people show up at that rally (last week),” Ellis said.
Ellis said that public safety was a big topic at the doors – particularly LRT safety.
“But also affordability, jobs, the economy, ensuring that a conservative government would be best suited to be stewards of a government going into the future – especially when it comes to the economy,” he said.
NDP leader Rachel Notley had mixed emotions over loss
Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley said that she knows NDP supporters were deeply disappointed in the election result. Still, she said she has mixed emotions about it.
“On one hand, I feel tremendous gratitude and pride in the people of Alberta and those who stood up and put their support behind building a better future,” Notley told supporters.
She said as a party they earned the biggest opposition party in Alberta history and the largest percentage of popular vote in the party’s history.
“We have achieved tremendous growth and opportunity for our future and for the values that we all share,” she said.
Notley said she would shoulder the blame for the loss – which didn’t go over well with supporters. She thanked all candidates, and to the NDP winners she said they could rest up because there was work ahead of them.
“Our values will be represented in the legislature we will have a say in the future of this great province. We will continue to speak up on behalf of Albertans who struggle to have their voice heard we will fight for better health care, better education, better jobs,” she said.
“My friends we will be unequivocal in our demand for respect for the rule of law and an unqualified belief in an unqualified belief in the human rights and basic dignity of all Albertans.”
Notley said she would continue on as the leader of the Official Opposition.
Calgary Mountain-View NDP candidate Kathleen Ganley cruised to victory in her riding, nearly doubling the UCP candidate’s vote tally. She said that they offered Albertans a positive vision for the province.
“I think we saw people open their doors to us who had never ever opened their doors to us,” Ganley said.
“I think we saw a lot of people who were willing to think about the values a party represented rather than just his name and I think that that’s an incredible victory for us.”
The election that never was: Strategist Stephen Carter
Political strategist Stephen Carter said he believes the fear of economic downturn drove Albertans to vote UCP.
“We are constantly living on the knife’s edge between boom and bust, and because of that, we’ve always kind of been very cautious about government change,” he said.
“We’ve really doubled down on having the same government for a kajillion years.”
Carter said he believes the NDP being in power (2015) at a time of significant economic downturn has created a faux causal relationship.
“We just want to avoid having that negativity come back and haunt us,” he said.
Carter said he didn’t feel any shift in sentiment on the campaign trail. Generally speaking, pollsters have had the two-party race as a dead heat from the start. During the campaign, both parties shared ideas that they’d been talking about for the previous several months.
“I think that this has been one of the interesting conundrums of the polling. I haven’t felt anything shift the whole frickin’ time,” Carter said.
“I defy someone to tell me any different. Everything feels exactly the same as we kind of are moving through. It’s like an election that never was.”
Sarah Biggs, a political analyst with Olsen-Biggs Public Affairs, felt it was a repeat of some of the mistakes in 2019.
“I think that we saw that when you make a leader the personality of your party and trying to put your candidates at the backend, being very bullish on your strategy, and repeating the 2019 mistakes, that’s exactly what we’re seeing what’s going on again tonight,” she said.
Biggs said that the increase in corporate tax didn’t go over well with Calgarians. Plus, a good ground game in getting out the vote, Biggs said. Then, there was the debate.
“The debate, I think, really helped the UCP. The debate was a technical win for Danielle Smith,” Biggs said.