Alberta election 2019: Jason Kenney has won. What happens now? A guide
- Jason Kenney’s United Conservatives rode a wave of economic angst and western alienation to power in Alberta on Tuesday, winning a decisive 63-seat majority. Mr. Kenney said in his victory speech that the UCP would “stand up and secure a fair deal for Alberta in this great country” and renewed attacks on the federal government, carbon taxation and critics of the province’s oil and gas industry.
- The NDP’s Rachel Notley, whose party’s seat count was cut by more than half, will now become Official Opposition leader after four eventful years in government. In her concession speech, she said the party had “fundamentally changed the politics of this province forever” and the fight against Mr. Kenney’s agenda was not over.
- Some oil executives are cautiously optimistic about a Kenney premiership after he promised a more aggressive stand on increasing pipeline capacity. But the industry is still divided over whether to keep some Notley-era plans in place for now, such as an oil-by-rail scheme and a curtailment policy aimed at reducing a supply glut.
- B.C. Premier John Horgan congratulated Mr. Kenney on Tuesday night as British Columbians braced for a renewed energy war with Alberta. Mr. Kenney had promised legal measures to “turn off the taps” on fuel exports to B.C. in retaliation for the Trans Mountain pipeline extension, which Mr. Horgan’s government and several First Nations oppose.
- The Alberta and Liberal parties were completely shut out in Tuesday’s election, including former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel, who failed to unseat the NDP incumbent in his Edmonton riding.
Alberta’s new political map
Alberta politics tends to be dynastic: One party holds majority rule for at least a decade until voters get tired of it and shift allegiance en masse to a party that’s never held government before. That’s what happened in 2015, when Rachel Notley’s New Democrats ended four decades of Progressive Conservative power. And on Tuesday, it happened again: Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party – a fusion of the old PC and Wildrose parties that which had 25 seats at dissolution – was elected in 60 ridings and leading in three, as of 5 a.m. (MT) Wednesday. That gives them 72 per cent of legislature seats. The UCP also captured more than 55 per cent of the popular vote, more than any governing party has earned in 15 years.
By Wednesday morning, the electoral map was a sea of UCP blue with pockets of NDP territory in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge. The New Democrats went from 60 per cent of legislative seats at dissolution to 28 per cent, and from 40.6 per cent of the popular vote in 2015′s election to 32.2 per cent this time around. Hers is the first Alberta dynasty to last only one term.
Most of the battleground ridings profiled by The Globe and Mail went to the United Conservatives:
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- In Red Deer, where the election debate focused on health care, both ridings were won by UCP candidates: Adriana LaGrange in Red Deer-North, Jason Stephan in Red Deer-South.
- Both ridings straddling Fort McMurray, where some voters shared their apprehensions about a Kenney premiership, were won by UCP incumbents: Tany Yao in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, Laila Goodridge in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.
- The two ridings in Lethbridge, where a supervised drug-consumption site was a wedge issue between the main parties, were split between NDP incumbent Shannon Phillips in Lethbridge-West and UCP challenger Nathan Neudorf in Lethbridge-East.
- In the NDP’s urban stronghold, New Democrat incumbent Lorne Dach held on to Edmonton-McClung, and Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel failed to win his sought-after seat.
What will Kenney do now?
What did he promise to do?
Alberta’s election was a divisive slugfest over climate, pipelines, social programs and the ailing Alberta economy. Here’s a full recap of where the parties stood on major issues. The big changes Mr. Kenney promised to make include:
ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
- Repealing Alberta’s carbon tax as the new government’s first act
- Filing a legal challenge against the federal climate framework, which taxes provinces without their own carbon taxes or cap-and-trade systems
- Imposing a new tax on large industrial emitters
- Cancelling Ms. Notley’s $3.7-billion oil-by-rail leasing program
ECONOMY AND JOBS
- Cutting corporate tax rates from 12 per cent to 8 per cent
- Cutting the minimum wage for workers 17 and under from $15 to $13 an hour
- Freezing government spending for four years
- Balancing the budget by 2022
- Maintaining health spending at current levels, but cutting administrative costs
- Reducing surgical wait times to no more than 16 weeks, down from the current 37 for hip replacements and 41 for knee replacements
- Suspending the creation of new supervised drug-use sites and reviewing whether existing sites should continue to operate
- Allowing teachers to tell parents whether children join gay-straight alliances in schools
- Reviving standardized tests for students in Grades 1-3
- Cancelling “discovery learning” methods for subjects like math
- Requiring universities to establish “free speech” policies like the ones instituted in Ontario
A Jason Kenney primer
Premiership is the latest of many political careers for Mr. Kenney. He’s been an anti-taxation activist and foe of Alberta premier Ralph Klein; an opposition MP for Reform, then the Canadian Alliance, then the united federal Conservatives; a cabinet minister at the right hand of Stephen Harper; the last leader of the defeated Alberta Progressive Conservatives; and the first leader of the United Conservative Party. The threads uniting all of these are social conservatism, bellicose populism and a belief that Albertans get less out of Confederation than they’ve contributed to it. “I think a lot of Albertans feel like they’re under siege,” Mr. Kenney told The Globe and Mail in an interview during the election campaign, though he denied that he’s been the one stoking anger in the province: “I’m trying to do the opposite. I’m trying to redirect the frustration into a positive political direction.”
During the campaign, Mr. Kenney had to distance himself from controversy over UCP candidates’ past remarks using white nationalist, homophobic and transphobic talking points. He was also dogged by questions about how he came to lead the UCP in 2017. Leaked e-mails purported to show the Kenney camp supported one rival, Jeff Callaway, as a stalking horse to oppose another contender, Brian Jean. Mr. Kenney denied any impropriety. Elections Alberta and the RCMP are investigating Mr. Callaway’s campaign donations.
Is he officially the premier yet?
Ms. Notley is still the Premier until Mr. Kenney is sworn in by Lieutenant-Governor Lois Mitchell. Until then, you can call Mr. Kenney the “premier-designate.” (Resist the urge to call him “premier-elect,” because there is no such thing in Canada. No province directly elects its premiers, they’re just the leaders of whichever party or coalition forms government.)
What will Notley do now?
With the NDP’s seat count cut by more than half, Ms. Notley – who made clear before election day that she wouldn’t resign if the NDP lost – pivoted quickly into her new role of Official Opposition leader. On Tuesday night, she congratulated Mr. Kenney and rallied her supporters to oppose his political agenda. She invoked the legacy of her father, Grant Notley, who was the NDP’s lone MLA in the 1970s and briefly led the party in Official Opposition before his death in 1984:
I was seven years old when my Dad was first elected to the legislature of this province, and that was the same year that the Conservatives first took power. I was 51 when we ended the era of one-party rule. Today, politics in Alberta has changed forever. Governing in Alberta should never again be a divine right but always, always an earned privilege.
What will the smaller parties do now?
For centrist parties hoping to claim middle ground in the election, Tuesday night was a total drubbing. The Alberta Party failed to gain any seats, and the Liberals went from one MLA to none. Mr. Mandel, who failed to unseat the NDP incumbent in his Edmonton riding, said the polarized election made it hard for the Alberta Party to find support, but it would regroup and run a full slate in the next election:
I really believe deeply this is the party of the future in this province when people get away from this polarization and start looking at ideas, and what our party and our province can do.
What this means for the rest of Canada
Alberta’s election was as much a referendum on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as it was on Ms. Notley’s NDP: Mr. Kenney routinely denounced the “Trudeau-Notley alliance,” accused Ms. Notley of having “sold us down the river” by agreeing to the federal carbon-pricing plan and campaigned alongside Mr. Trudeau’s Conservative rival, Andrew Scheer. With a federal election coming up in October, Mr. Trudeau now has a determined enemy in Alberta who has promised a legal and political battle against carbon taxation.
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Alberta has chosen a new government, and I congratulate @jkenney on his election as Premier-designate. I’m looking forward to working together to create jobs & tackle the issues that matter most to Albertans – and all Canadians. https://t.co/pMwhH4ybHS
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) April 17, 2019
After months of political tensions over the Trans Mountain pipeline extension, which his government opposes, NDP Premier John Horgan had a hard time getting enthusiastic about either candidate in Alberta’s election. Whereas Ms. Notley wrote legislation that would let Alberta throttle B.C.’s supplies of oil and gas, but didn’t use it, Mr. Kenney says he would bring those measures into law at his first cabinet meeting and play hardball with the B.C. and federal governments until Trans Mountain is built. Mr. Kenney’s election could soon ignite more legal and trade conflict between the neighbouring provinces.
Congratulations to UCP Leader Jason Kenney on his election by the people of Alberta. I look forward to working together in the interests of both of our provinces.
— John Horgan (@jjhorgan) April 17, 2019
The Gang of Four, now the Furious Five
Mr. Kenney now joins the ranks of provincial premiers – Ontario’s Doug Ford, Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe, Manitoba’s Brian Pallister and New Brunswick’s Blaine Higgs – who have balked at the federal carbon tax and are fighting it in court. Mr. Kenney had promised to scrap Alberta’s carbon tax and file a legal challenge to the federal tax.
Congratulations to my friend @jkenney, the next Premier of Alberta!
Albertans finally have a leader to make their province open for business & open for jobs.
And Ontario has another strong partner that will fight for Canadian families against the job-killing federal carbon tax! pic.twitter.com/obM7XGCUpx
— Doug Ford (@fordnation) April 17, 2019
Congratulations Premier-designate @jkenney!
Tonight Alberta has chosen a free enterprise government, and Saskatchewan is pleased to have another ally at the table fighting for pipelines and standing against the disastrous Trudeau carbon tax. #abvotes #ableg pic.twitter.com/z2BecC8fTy
— Scott Moe (@PremierScottMoe) April 17, 2019
Analysis and commentary
Compiled by Globe staff
With reports from James Keller, Justin Giovannetti, Jana G. Pruden, Jeffrey Jones and Justine Hunter