“Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” A West African proverb popularized by Teddy Roosevelt 1900
The outcome of the Alberta election was entirely predictable if you follow the polls. The United Conservative Party (UCP) led the polls from July 2017 after the merger of two right wing parties until election day. The UCP usually polled about 50% of the vote. The New Democratic Party (NDP) was supported by 30 to 35% of decided voters. The Alberta Party lagged behind in single digits and the Liberal Party struggled at the very bottom. When the smoke cleared, a million people voted for the UCP, 600,000 for the NDP and 170,000 for the Alberta Party. The Liberals scraped together 18,000 diehards.
In the campaign, the UCP didn’t take the NDP bait to discuss Jason Kenney’s (leader of UCP) ethics or voting history or RCMP investigations. The sewer that is social media raised innuendo and fear. But most voters, particularly those in rural Alberta and Calgary believed the NDP had to go!
The two larger parties successfully ignored the Alberta Party – who helped them out by keeping its platform under wraps until far too late.
The ballot question turned out to be “Who can best protect Alberta from federal interference with Alberta’s economic prosperity”.Premier Rachel Notley just could not make the case based on her record. And when voters looked past the economy to fiscal management; the mountain of public debt ($58 billion and counting) will take 25 years to pay off.
The UCP claimed 63 seats – all of rural Alberta and all but three seats in Calgary. In Edmonton, the NDP held on to 21 seats with those three in Calgary. The Alberta Party didn’t elect a single candidate.
But fulfilling those Campaign Pledges…
The UCP’s campaign called for a fight with Ottawa (and British Columbia and Quebec too) on five main battlegrounds:
- Carbon taxes – Alberta will kill the current tax and join other provinces to fight the federal government about a universal tax.
- Approving the TransMountain pipeline to the BC coast – Alberta will push the feds to overcome provincial, environmental and indigenous obstruction tactics by threatening BC’s gasoline supply.
- Stopping environmental legislation that appears so onerous that no further pipelines in Canada will be possible.
- Removing a ban on tanker traffic in Northern BC that blockades Alberta.
- Re-negotiating the massive transfer of wealth from Alberta to “have not” provinces through a flawed equalization program. And this is linked with Quebec’s resistance to a pipeline to the East coast.
The problem for the UCP is they have no direct control over any of these issues and the levers they do have, are uncertain.
- A threat to “turn off the taps” for gasoline might not be legal.
- The Liberal will still be the ‘adult in the room” regarding a national price on carbon. It is key to reaching climate change objectives!
- The Liberals are unlikely to fully abandon their regulatory reforms that are popular with their environmental voting base.
- While the position of the Quebec government may be highly hypocritical on energy policy, they are unlikely to see the wisdom of taking lower equalization payments from the federal government.
So the risk for the New Premier is he will be speaking loudly but carrying a small stick!
The rhetoric in the election was very confrontational and based on increasing voter frustration.
Severely Normal Albertans might find that as these problems continue without resolution the sentiment around separatism will grow.