Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party decisively beat Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP in the provincial election. The former won 63 seats and 55 percent of the total vote, compared with the latter’s 24 seats and 32 percent.
Notley won the 2015 election thanks to a massive protest vote against the political establishment. Her province is conservative in its political orientation, and had been run by either the right-leaning Social Credit Party or Progressive Conservatives for 80 consecutive years. Although left-wing politicians have won seats in Alberta, there’s really no history of left-wing support on a large scale.
Notley’s support for a carbon tax, enhanced union control, an increased minimum wage and higher taxes on the wealthy was, therefore, out of step with most Albertans. So was her notable disenchantment with private enterprise and free-market economics — other than building pipelines, that is.
This was a huge contrast to her political opponent. Kenney is intelligent and articulate, and has a solid record of support for fiscal and social conservatism. He’s a former president and chief executive of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and cabinet minister under former prime minister Stephen Harper. He won the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta leadership in 2017, quickly united the right with the Wildrose Party and became the first UCP leader.
Kenney represented Albertan political and economic values in a way that Notley could never have.
In March, an Angus Reid poll unsurprisingly had Kenney’s UCP ahead of the NDP by a staggering 25 points. Yet, the Alberta election turned out to be competitive for a spell due to several UCP missteps.
Kenney was widely criticized for his role in overturning hospital visitation rights to the gay partners of dying AIDS patients in San Francisco in the 1980s, even though he regrets it today. Unproven allegations that he helped put up a stalking-horse candidate during the UCP leadership race haunted him. And while two UCP candidates resigned due to controversial remarks made on social media, he continued to defend one candidate, Mark Smith, who once questioned whether gay love was real during a 2013 sermon.
The NDP, which had failed to make inroads in a campaign largely about economics and good governance, desperately switched gears to ride this wave. It released a slew of vicious ads and personal attacks against Kenney, claiming his views didn’t represent Albertan values — or Canadian values.
It didn’t work. Kenney recovered from this series of political wobbles, regained his footing in the provincial leaders’ debate and never looked back. Alberta’s experiment with socialism can therefore be chalked up to a one-time fluke.
Back in Ottawa, the Liberals realized Kenney’s pro-business, pro-free-enterprise message would resonate with Alberta’s conservative mindset. They had likely hoped in private the personal attacks on his character and ideas would have had more effect and led to a minority government. This is what they’ve been trying do with Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives, in hopes of distracting voters from the SNC-Lavalin controversy and Trudeau’s massive collapse in popularity.
As usual, Canadian progressives stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that many voters see through age-old strategies such as fear-mongering and accusations of "hidden agendas” against the right. They failed against Harper in 2006, as they did with Kenney — and they will likely fail with Scheer.
Kenney will surely become the fifth premier (out of 10) to oppose and legally challenge Trudeau’s federal carbon tax. The premier-elect will vigorously fight against Trudeau’s political and economic agenda by opposing government intervention, high taxes, unions, left-wing activists and others. He will also work with Scheer and other right-leaning premiers such as Ontario’s Doug Ford and Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe to ensure that an intelligent and well-constructed conservative message is heard from coast to coast to coast.
If this happens, Trudeau could be joining Notley on the political sidelines before long. The tide has turned in Canada, and the political pendulum is clearly swinging to the right.