Alberta’s rural base showed up for Danielle Smith on Monday, delivering her United Conservative Party a majority government.
With a final tally to come, the UCP is winning or elected in 49 seats; Rachel Notley’s left-leaning NDP picked up 38 in Alberta’s 87-seat legislature.
The populist leader now joins Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and Ontario Premier Doug Ford at the forefront of Canada’s conservative movement.
She used her victory speech to call out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Liberal government climate and energy policies. “If he persists, he will be hurting Canadians from coast to coast, and he will strain the patience and goodwill of Albertans in an unprecedented fashion,” she warned supporters.
Trudeau congratulated Smith and said in a statement that he looks forward to collaborating with her, "continuing to position Alberta as a leader in clean energy, and making life more affordable."
Polls in the final days of the month-long campaign pointed to a short conservative majority that hinged on a dozen or so ridings.
The state of play: The NDP came up short. As of this writing, the NDP was ahead in eight of those ridings. Nowhere close to enough.
The NDP swept Edmonton, winning all 20 seats in the Alberta capital.
In Calgary, the NDP needed between 18 to 20 of the city’s 26 seats, but ending the night with a 14-seat tally. Many of those ridings were decided by tiny margins (the NDP won Calgary-Acadia by four votes); some may require a recount. The UCP defended just enough of its ground in votes and in seats.
The story of the election: The rural base for the Conservatives showed up and voted en masse for Smith.
Zoom out the Alberta map and one will find Edmonton and the NDP-orange parts of Calgary drowning in a sea of deep conservative blue. This rural blue wall delivered Smith a slew of safe seats that narrowed the NDP’s path to victory.
What’s next: The NDP has decisions to make on strategy. Does it stay the course and hope growth in Alberta’s two metropolitan centers along with demographic change through immigration and urbanization will realign the vote in favor of the NDP? Or will it decide to move toward the voters who eluded them — hoping for roots in rural areas?
Notley has vowed she’ll stay on as leader of the Alberta New Democratic Party.
“Where we fell short, the responsibility rests entirely with me,” she told supporters Monday night. “We ran a strong, principled campaign and it was based on our beliefs and our desire to create a better future for all Albertans.”
Smith’s election night speech warned Albertans that federal leaders in Ottawa are a threat to Alberta’s oil and gas sector and tens of thousands of jobs. “Hopefully the prime minister and his caucus are watching tonight,” she said. “As premier, I cannot under any circumstances allow these contemplated federal policies to be inflicted upon Albertans.”