It took more than three hours, thanks to tight races and slow reporting of results by Elections Alberta, but the media finally declared a UCP majority government just after 11:00 p.m. local time on Monday night. In her victory speech, Danielle Smith borrowed a phrase from former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein and declared a UCP victory by saying, “Welcome to another miracle on the Prairies!”
The UCP won a majority of the 87 seats in the Alberta legislature, according to the latest count, q by a 49-38 margin. The popular vote across Alberta was about 53% to 44%, representing a bigger gap than many pundits had expected, although the final percentages and seat count may not be known for several days. There are at least eight seats that have a margin of victory of a couple hundred votes or less, in one direction or the other, so recounts in several ridings are likely.
The story of the night: The blue wall of conservative ridings in the north and northwest area of Calgary held… but barely, with the outcome in at least a couple races still in doubt by the end of the evening. The UCP’s bench strength also took a hit on Monday night by losing several key Calgary ministers, including Jason Copping (Health) and Nicholas Milliken (Mental Health and Addictions), while Tyler Shandro (Justice) was still “on the bubble” as of midnight. Deputy Premier, Kaycee Madu, also lost in Edmonton SW, making Edmonton now completely NDP.
The NDP always had a tougher road to victory in this election than the UCP. They needed to take at least 17 of Calgary’s 26 seats but wound up with 10 or 11. As expected, the votes for the fledgling Alberta Party fizzled and largely folded into the NDP’s numbers in Calgary, and it was still not enough. The breakthrough the NDP required in the north and northwest area of Calgary never quite materialized.
The NDP also needed to win all of the so-called “donut” ridings that encircle the city of Edmonton. While they won Sherwood Park, the party failed to take Strathcona-Sherwood Park or Morinville-St Albert.
By the end of the night, one thing was clear – the UCP are back in government with a renewed four-year mandate. But they will also face a strong official opposition, comprised of a mix of veteran MLAs and fresh voices.
In her concession speech to the NDP faithful in Edmonton late Monday night, NDP leader Rachel Notley took full responsibility for the loss, but vowed to stay on as opposition leader by saying, “Now is not the time to let up, now is the time to step up!” She also took solace in the fact the NDP has the largest popular vote it has ever had in Alberta, and she will lead the largest official opposition in the province’s history.
A new cabinet is expected to be sworn in as early as next week, but the legislature will not likely sit until the fall. If the last four weeks of electioneering are any indication, one thing is for certain: Alberta politics will continue to be a wild ride.
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For more information and insights about what these developments mean for Alberta’s political landscape, please contact:
Elysa Darling – Senior Strategy Advisor
Richard Feehan – Senior Strategy Advisor
Rick Fraser – Senior Strategy Advisor
Colleen Potter – Senior Strategy Advisor
Mat Steppan – Senior Strategy Advisor
Jeff Sterzuk – President
Ben Thibault – Senior Strategy Advisor
Richard Truscott – Vice-President
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