Electoral history was made in Alberta on Tuesday night when the provincial NDP toppled the reigning Progressive Conservative (PC) party with a stunning majority government win.
The NDP claimed 53 ridings, Wildrose formed opposition with 21 seats and the PCs were decimated to third place with just 10 seats. There was an urban-rural divide, with major urban centres including Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, and Medicine Hat falling to the NDP.
“Friends, I believe that change has finally come to Alberta. New people, new ideas and a fresh start for our great province,” said newly elected Premier Rachel Notley during her victory speech.
“Albertans have voted for change and one of the changes that they voted for is a new kind of respect and a new kind of relationship with their government.”
“Albertans across the province have told me that they are tired of old, entitled approaches that leave them out of conversations about their livelihoods, about their services and about their families. Whether you are a business leader, a union leader, a municipal leader, someone who leads in our civil society or whether you are a plain-old just great wonderful Albertan, let me say this to you: Our legislature belongs to you.”
Few people believed the polls ahead of the election, which predicted the NDP would have a double digit lead against the PCs and Wildrose.
After running consecutive government mandates since 1971, the future of the PCs is now in question following this crushing defeat.
In his post-election speech, outgoing Premier Jim Prentice announced he would step down from his positions as the government leader and MLA for his riding, effective immediately.
“As leader of the party, I accept responsibility for tonight’s outcome. I also accept responsibility for the decisions that led up to this evening,” he said. “Clearly… my contribution to public life is at an end. It is time for me to dedicate my time to other responsibilities I have as a husband, and as a father and a grandfather.”
Prentice became Premier last September, replacing interim leader David Hancock who had stepped in following Alison Redford’s resignation over a spending scandal.
The election was held a year earlier than what is legally required as Prentice wanted Albertans to approve his budget consisting of tax increases and a massive $5-billion deficit, which is partially to fund public projects.
But provincial voters instead went for the NDP who had vowed that corporate income taxes would be hiked to raise revenues for education and health care programs. The province’s energy sector royalties would also be reviewed given that royalty levels are currently below the market value of other jurisdictions.
The Wildrose Party won the opposition seats with their platform of no tax increases, a balanced budget by 2017, and spending cuts.
It remains to be seen how the Alberta NDP win will affect British Columbia, however it is likely that discourse between both provincial governments on pipelines will change drastically.
The Alberta NDP win could also have an impact on the federal election scheduled for this fall. The provincial-level party is affiliated with the federal NDP.