As the dust settles on the 2019 provincial election, there will be a slurry of emotions around the province – joy, sadness and even outrage – at the results.
During the week-long advance polling 700,000 Albertans voted. That number is more than just a record, it represented almost half of the total votes cast in 2015.
As of Wednesday morning a little more than 2.6 million votes were counted, representing 63 per cent of Albertans, that is the highest voter turnout since 1982 when 66 per cent of the electorate went to the polls. However, once the rest of the votes are tallied its quite possible we will climb past the 1982 record. Alberta's best turnout in election history was 81 per cent in 1935.
That type of voter engagement almost always means a change in government, except in 1982 when voters were motivated to the polls in response to re-elect Peter Lougheed who rode the wave of fear over the emergence of the separatist Western Concept Party, He also capitalized on the hatred of the liberals at that time over the federal liberal government's National Energy Program under Pierre Trudeau.
It is uncanny how much this election mirrored that one. Again the liberals were demolished barely gaining one per cent of the vote and that can be somewhat attributed to Premier-elect Jason Kenney playing on Alberta's frustration with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (another uncanny parallel). This election also brought us a resurgence of a separatist party in the province.
While those similarities definitely helped Kenney ride his wave of populism despite the NDP's efforts to point out concerns over his and his candidates social records, the biggest factor is Alberta's frustration over the economy, continued high jobless rates and a recovery that is moving slower than many would like.
It's easy to govern in hindsight and say the UCP would have done better, the basis of Kenney's platform, and maybe he would have, but now he has a chance to prove it and prove it he must. The UCP has made some very lofty promises from balancing the budget in his term to constitutional changes that will renegotiate transfer payments to ridding Alberta of the carbon tax. Some have suggested there are aspects to Kenney's platform that are not possible, such as scrapping the federally legislated carbon tax by fighting Ottawa in court. However, Kenney might get a little help from his friends on that one if the controversy-saddled Liberals lose the next election to the federal Conservatives, who have also vowed to scrap the tax.
With 55 per cent of the popular vote – and a possible 63 seats – Albertans have sent a strong mandate to the UCP and their trust that a new government will speed up the province's economic economy. Conservative supporters might be inclined to puff up over the results and chant accidental government and orange flush in the street, propping up the notion this province is populist by nature. Or, there might be a deeper story here.
It might be that Albertans have woken up to the fact that they need to start holding their politicians to account and they are no longer going to support ineffective political dynasties. If that is the case, the UCP have one term to get results or it too might find itself a one-and-done government.
Either way, it's time to get to work and hopefully the hateful rhetoric from both sides will be put to rest and there will be a co-operative effort to work for the betterment of all Albertans. With no real opposition, as the NDP's 24 seats are all that exists in the Conservative dominated assembly, it will be up to the public to hold the government to account.