Consequence of Alberta’s new age
It’s fair to say last week’s election result in Alberta shocked Canadians from this end of the country all the way to Victoria Island in British Columbia.
Anyone asked to identify this country’s most staunchly conservative province would most likely name Alberta. It’s a province that thrives on minimal taxation and sweet oil revenues. Tory governments have almost exclusively run the show.
Now, we suddenly find Albertans embracing the unthinkable — a majority left-leaning New Democratic Party government.
It’s a dramatic changing of the guard for the province to elect a new premier whose party was considered to be a marginal political player prior to the writ being dropped on a spring election. There are a variety of storylines that factored into the results in Alberta — we won’t get into that here.
What we will consider here are the implications federally and in this province.
The federal NDP remain the official opposition in Ottawa, though they’ve consistently polled in third place since Justin Trudeau became leader of the Liberal Party. Tom Mulcair has not been able to build on the momentum generated by his predecessor Jack Layton in the last general election.
The NDP’s fortunes federally will rest on holding on to the many seats it won unexpectedly in Quebec in 2011 and making further inroads into Western Canada. The result in Alberta could bode well for the party’s fortunes there, though it would seem electors are more than willing to separate federal and provincial voting habits.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, long-time labour leader Earle McCurdy is hoping to sweeten the NDP’s fortunes in the face of a resurgent Liberal party and internal missteps that resulted in caucus defections.
In his first few weeks as leader, McCurdy has been quick so far to jump on issues as they come up for public debate. His ability to engage crowds was honed through years of leading rallies and taking questions from media as the face and voice of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union.
Whether those skills can translate into tangible gains for the party is debatable. The NDP brain trust is fairly St. John’s-centric, though the party’s fortunes may also benefit from McCurdy’s contacts in rural communities.
The main challenge for the NDP provincially will remain the party’s ability to extend its reach beyond the overpass and attract solid candidates for all ridings. As the Alberta election shows plainly, a party’s fortunes can change rapidly.