Alberta election: NDP makes gains, UCP Cabinet to look ‘very different’

30 May 2023 | Politics | 175 |
Alberta election: NDP makes gains, UCP Cabinet to look ‘very different’

The Alberta NDP was able to make significant gains in the provincial election Monday night, but not enough to form government.

Global News projects a majority UCP government.

The unofficial voter turnout was 62.4 per cent, according to Elections Alberta. In 2019, it was 69.9 per cent.

“I think it shows the Conservative brand, particularly in rural Alberta, in Calgary, is still extremely strong,” said Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt. “The NDP underperformed for what they thought in Calgary (and) really barely made a dent in rural Alberta.”

However, the NDP picked up at least 11 new seats, forming the largest official opposition Alberta has ever had.

While the UCP held on to its rural and most of its Calgary seats, several ministers lost their ridings.

“There were Cabinet ministers who didn’t run again: Travis Toewes, Sonya Savage,” Bratt said. “And a number of them lost their jobs today: Jason Copping went down, Nicholas Milliken, Kaycee Madu went down, and Tyler Shandro and Rajan Sawhney and Nathan Neudorf — they’re in current tough battles.

“It will be a very different cabinet than what we saw before.”

Voting numbers also indicate UCP ministers Jeremy Nixon and Jason Luan were defeated by NDP candidates.

“With the UCP winning Calgary and winning rural, they got two-thirds of the province, but they’re absent in Edmonton and they’re even absent in some of the suburbs of Edmonton. That will be a challenge for the UCP,” Bratt added.

Former UCP MLA Leelah Aheer said there will be voices from the communities surrounding Edmonton.

“There’s going to be a strong Opposition that is very much in tune with what’s happening in Edmonton. I don’t think that it’s going to go quietly into the night without any representation. The voters have spoken tonight. The voter is the powerful person. It’s the only reason any of us get to serve. So we have to listen to people whether they voted for us or not.”

Former NDP MLA Deron Bilous said the party will be disappointed in not forming government but happy with the gains made.

“Nobody’s running for second place. But I know the team is incredibly proud that they ran a very, very strong campaign, gained a number of seats … The seat count will be closer to, I think, a high 30s, even maybe hitting the 40-mark, meaning that it’s going to be a much different legislature.

“Obviously disappointing for the NDP not forming government, but again, I do think that people feel that they’ve broken through in a lot of places, picking up many more seats in Calgary,” Bilous said. “It was a tight election.”

Aheer called it a “humble win.”

“Compared to where we were four years ago. That just opens the door to a lot more in-depth conversations and building your presence in Edmonton.”

Political analyst Jason Ribeiro says Premier Danielle Smith now has to try to appeal to all Albertans.

“Despite the fact that it’s a humble win, I fully suspect her to think of it as a very, very big win and not acknowledge that nuance whatsoever. But she will have to speak to the rest of Albertans. Those videos aren’t going away. People being a little bit mistrusting of her is not going to go away.

“Some of those candidates may have bandied about and said, ‘I’m not with Danielle on these issues’… She is now the premier. How she frames and brings a big blue tent all around is going to be an interesting balance,” Ribeiro said.

Meanwhile, Rachel Notley may have some decisions to make, Bratt said.

“Yes, they did gain seats. They got 43, 44 per cent of the (popular) vote. They’ve got 35 seats. It may rise to 36, 37 seats.

“But this was also a winnable election,” Bratt said.

For her part, Notley said in her concession speech that she was proud and honoured to stay on as NDP leader.

“I feel tremendous gratitude and pride,” she said. “As a movement, we have grown our support in every corner of this province.

“Where we fell short, the responsibility rests entirely with me. That’s ok,” Notley replied to murmurs in the crowd. “That’s part of being leader.”

During her victory speech, Smith promised to earn the trust of Albertans who did not vote for her. She encouraged people to reach out to her with their concerns and ideas.

“There is much more that unites us than divides us,” Smith said.

“There’s so much work ahead of us.”

On Tuesday, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she is committed to working with the new provincial government with a focus on moving forward and will be requesting a meeting with Premier Smith as soon as possible.

But Calgary’s mayor spoke out about a trend of increasing expressions of hatred, saying a city and province that is recovering from a recession has no room for hate.

“I remain concerned about a small but loud faction of Albertans who are espousing views that do not align in any way with broader society. The very values that hold us together and make places like Calgary welcoming and inclusive — those values are being compromised,” Gondek said.

She also said that, despite receiving no funding in the 2023 provincial budget, the Calgary downtown revitalization strategy “speaks for itself in terms of the success that it has seen.”

“We will remain steadfast in explaining to our provincial counterparts why investment is so significant here.”

Amarjeet Sohi said he looks forward to “building a collaborative and productive relationship” with Smith and the new government.

“While the election results show that Alberta’s capital city will have no representation in the UCP government, I truly hope that our new provincial government will govern for and represent all Albertans.”

Sohi said he’s ready and willing to help in any way he can and will be reaching out to Smith immediately to arrange a meeting.

“It’s more important than ever that the provincial government builds a strong, good relationship with city councils here in Edmonton as well as in Calgary,” he said at Edmonton City Hall on Tuesday. “We represent two-thirds of the population.

“Calgary still has representation. We don’t. I hope the provincial government will keep that in mind that a million people in our city — we’ve got to have a voice.”

Some of the key issues raised Tuesday by Sohi and Gondek include affordability, public transit, mental health and addictions.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau congratulated Smith Tuesday for her win.

“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I congratulate Danielle Smith and the United Conservative Party of Alberta on their re-election,” Trudeau said in a statement.

“I look forward to continuing to work with Premier Smith and the provincial government to deliver results for Albertans – including growing the economy, creating good jobs for the middle class, improving health care, continuing to position Alberta as a leader in clean energy, and making life more affordable.”

Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, who like Smith has tapped into voter resentment of Trudeau’s Liberal Party to expand his base, also congratulated Alberta’s premier.

“Last night Albertans rejected the woke NDP-Liberal coalition and instead voted to fight the carbon tax, stand up for our energy sector and unleash the full potential of Alberta’s economy,” Poilievre said in a tweet Tuesday.

“As the champion for Calgary businesses, the Calgary Chamber stands ready to work with the government as they strive to support Alberta’s economic growth and implement policies that strengthen Calgary’s business community,” said Deborah Yedlin, president of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. “Working collaboratively, we can build a prosperous future for our city and province, ensuring Alberta remains a magnet for capital, opportunity and talent.”

The group urged Smith to make progress on the policies and investments the UCP committed to during the campaign, including maintaining or decreasing taxes, addressing the labour shortage, fostering vibrant downtowns, diversifying the economy and strengthening tourism.

Both mayors of Calgary and Edmonton congratulated Smith.

–with files from Adam Toy, Global News, Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

by Global News