Tories de­liver bolt from blue

Red­ford’s Con­ser­va­tives defy poll pre­dic­tions to em­phat­i­cally re­pel threat from up­start Wil­drose and ex­tend 41-year dy­nasty in Al­berta pol­i­tics


In a dra­matic out­come that sur­prised even the most ar­dent Tory sup­port­ers Mon­day night, Al­ber­tans re­turned the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives to power and ex­tended the party’s 41-year lock on power.

With Danielle Smith’s Wil­drose lead­ing opin­ion polls for much of the 28-day elec­tion con­test, many ex­perts had pre­dicted the new, right-wing party would be the one to fi­nally top­ple the long-rul­ing Tories.

But in what one ob­server dubbed a “sec­ond mir­a­cle on the Prairies,”

It was Premier Ali­son Red­ford who was cel­e­brat­ing an­other ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ment for the PCS.

The Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives are now on track to be­come the longest­serv­ing pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment in Cana­dian po­lit­i­cal his­tory.

It’s also the first time that Al­ber­tans have elected a woman as premier.

“To­day, Al­berta, you spoke. You spoke loudly. And I want you to know, I heard you,” Red­ford told roar­ing sup­port­ers at Cal­gary’s down­town Met­ro­pol­i­tan Cen­tre.

“This elec­tion was about choice, a choice to put up walls or build bridges . . . tonight Al­berta chose to build bridges.”

In High River, Wil­drose sup­port­ers were dis­ap­pointed to have lost, but Smith wel­comed the op­por­tu­nity to hold the gov­ern­ment to ac­count as the new of­fi­cial op­po­si­tion, a role the Lib­er­als held dur­ing the last leg­is­la­ture.

“Well, folks, tonight we found out change might take a lit­tle longer than we thought,” Smith told sup­port­ers at the High­wood Golf and Coun­try Club in High River.

“I rel­ish the op­por­tu­nity and I am grate­ful for the re­spon­si­bil­ity that Al­ber­tans have be­stowed upon us. To­day, I stand at the helm of the of­fi­cial op­po­si­tion.”

With votes still be counted in many Al­berta rid­ings at press time, the Con­ser­va­tives were on track to form a ma­jor­ity with 61 seats, fol­lowed by the Wil­drose with 18, the NDP with four and the Lib­er­als with four.

The pop­u­lar vote, as of 10:45 p.m., saw the Tories with 44 per cent, the Wil­drose at 35 per cent, the NDP and Lib­er­als at 10 per cent, and the Al­berta party at one per cent.

When the leg­is­la­ture dis­solved in March, the PCS had 66 seats, Lib­er­als eight, Wil­drose four, NDP two, and Al­berta Party one. There was also one in­de­pen­dent and one va­cancy.

Four new seats were added for this elec­tion, tak­ing the to­tal to 87.

NDP Leader Brian Ma­son, who Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive party Leader since 2011 Rid­ing: Cal­gary-el­bow Age: 47 Born: Kiti­mat, B.C. Cur­rent home town: Cal­gary Ed­u­ca­tion: Law de­gree from Univer­sity of Saskatchewan Work out­side pol­i­tics: Worked in Ot­tawa as a pol­icy ad­viser in the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice. Opened law firm in Cal­gary, spent much of 1990s in Africa, fo­cus­ing on hu­man rights lit­i­ga­tion, con­sti­tu­tional re­form and ed­u­ca­tion. In 2005, she was ap­pointed by UN to help ad­min­is­ter Afghanistan’s first par­lia­men­tary elec­tion. Po­lit­i­cal ca­reer: Won close race in 2008, was named jus­tice min­is­ter in Ed Stel­mach’s cab­i­net. Won vic­tory in Oc­to­ber 2011 lead­er­ship race to re­place Stel­mach. was on pace to dou­ble his party’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion to four seats, said he was ex­cited by the party’s per­for­mance.

“We’re go­ing to need a slightly big­ger phone booth,” he told his sup­port­ers in Ed­mon­ton. “We’re go­ing to have a re­newed NDP op­po­si­tion in that leg­is­la­ture.”

But Lib­eral Leader Raj Sher­man, who was look­ing at a de­cline in the num­ber of seats his party held from the pre­vi­ous leg­is­la­ture, said the re­sult was not the one that the Lib­er­als were hop­ing for. But he said he re­spected the decision of the vot­ers.

“The peo­ple are wise,” he said. “And it is out of def­er­ence and re­spect for that wis­dom that I con­grat­u­late premier-des­ig­nate Ali­son Red­ford on an elec­tion well fought.”

It was vic­tory that sur­prised politi­cians, pun­dits and poll­sters.

Univer­sity of Cal­gary po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Doreen Bar­rie called Red­ford’s vic­tory “a sec­ond mir­a­cle on the Prairies,” a ref­er­ence to for­mer premier Ralph Klein’s vic­tory in the 1993 pro­vin­cial elec­tion.

“It’s very sig­nif­i­cant,” said Bar­rie, adding that the win gives Red­ford a strong man­date to im­ple­ment the changes that she wants.

“She will be able to clean up the party in a way that she wasn’t able to be­fore the elec­tion.”

Bar­rie said the PC party must be happy with the out­come.

“She has faced the fiercest op­po­si­tion of any Con­ser­va­tive leader,” Bar­rie said.

“This party, the Wil­drose, has sort of blown the whole thing apart in this elec­tion cam­paign and they thought they were blow­ing up the Con­ser­va­tive party as well.”

It was a hard-fought, spir­ited and of­ten nasty 28-day race.

The PCS stag­gered out of the gate, bur­dened by a string of con­tro­ver­sies — in­clud­ing lim­it­ing the terms of a public health-care in­quiry, news of a “bul­ly­ing” let­ter sent by Tory MLA Hec­tor Goudreau to a north­ern school board and Gary Mar’s star­tling sus­pen­sion as Al­berta’s en­voy to Asia. She also had to deal with on­go­ing fall­out from the so-called “no-meet” com­mit­tee.

But fol­low­ing a charged tele­vi­sion de­bate, the fo­cus sud­denly switched from the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives to the poll-lead­ing Wil­drose.

Smith’s op­po­nents took aim at what they called Wil­drose’s in­su­lar “fire­wall” poli­cies — such as its ag­gres­sive stance on fed­eral equal­iza­tion.

Op­po­nents also charged the party with plan­ning to in­ject more pri­vate care into the health sys­tem, though Smith in­sisted Wil­drose is com­mit­ted to mak­ing any changes un­der the Canada Health Act.

Smith then faced a back­lash over is­sues con­cern­ing racial iden­tity and gay rights, thanks to Cal­gary can­di­date Ron Leech say­ing re­li­gious mi­nori­ties couldn’t rep­re­sent the whole com­mu­nity as well as Cau­casians could, and Ed­mon­ton can­di­date Al­lan Hun­sperger who had blogged that ho­mo­sex­u­als would end up in a “lake of fire.”

Smith fired back at crit­ics by stress­ing that a Wil­drose gov­ern-

To­day, Al­berta, you spoke. You spoke loudly. And I want you to know, I heard you CON­SER­VA­TIVE LEADER ALI­SON RED­FORD

ment would not tol­er­ate dis­crim­i­na­tion against any in­di­vid­ual re­gard­less of eth­nic­ity, re­li­gion or back­ground.

But in the end, it was the Tories that came out on top.

“I con­grat­u­late Premier Red­ford and the PC party on a strong race. I guess the polls played jokes on all of us,” said the Wil­drose’s Rob An­der­son, who won his Air­drie seat. “The peo­ple of Al­berta have spo­ken, but maybe the fear­mon­ger­ing worked bet­ter than we thought it would.”

Smith said she knew when they started out that the party had their work cut out for them, but they ran a great cam­paign.

“We ran on our ideas ... and we ran with our ideas with con­vic­tion and clar­ity,” Smith said.

“That be­ing said, I ac­knowl­edge that we wanted to do bet­ter and we ex­pected to do bet­ter. Am I sur­prised? Yeah. Am I dis­ap­pointed? Yeah. Am I dis­cour­aged? Not a chance.”

Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives were de­lighted — and a bit as­ton­ished — by the re­sults.

“Wow is about the best I can say,” said PC party pres­i­dent Bill Smith as the re­sults con­tin­ued to roll in.

“It’s been a bat­tle and our folks came through and our leader hit the right chords with peo­ple about what the fu­ture of Al­berta looks like with an Ali­son Red­ford gov­ern­ment and now it’s up to the PC gov­ern­ment to ful­fil those prom­ises.”

Dean Bick­nell, Cal­gary Her­ald

A jubilant Ali­son Red­ford speaks to Tory sup­port­ers at PC head­quar­ters in the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Cen­tre on Mon­day night, vow­ing a new era of change for Al­berta.

Dean Bick­nell, Cal­gary Her­ald

Tory sup­port­ers cheer as they watch early re­sults come in at PC head­quar­ters at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Cen­tre in Cal­gary on Mon­day.

Ali­son Red­ford


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