No one had a bigger win on Alberta election night than Danielle Smith. Her UCP (and this is definitely her party now) won a solid majority of seats and a majority of the popular vote (how many parties win elections in this country with over 50 percent of the popular vote?). And she won the way she said she would—sweep the rural areas and win enough seats in Calgary to tie the knot.
She overcame her own nay-sayers. Former premier Jason Kenney had warned about the party crazies and one conservative pundit warned that if Smith became leader the NDP would win the next election and rule for 20 years. She has put the lie to that.
Indeed, she won double. Her party not only won the election but she moved it much further right, i.e. in her direction. Some moderate conservatives voted NDP because of her, but she more than made up for that by sweeping up the supporters of the far right parties who virtually disappeared in this election. As a result, the UCP’s popular vote was almost as strong as in 2019.
In Calgary the party lost seats, including a handful of cabinet ministers, but they were mostly urban moderates and their loss simply leaves the right-wing stronger.
I’ve lived most of my life in Alberta and that means most of my life under Conservative provincial governments. They have followed, to a greater or lesser degree, the political credo set by Peter Lougheed when he first brought the party to power in 1971—moderate conservatism.
The UCP is not that party. This is the most rural-based and right-wing government since Social Credit. I fear Alberta could be a very different province in 2027.
I have one consolation. The incumbent in my riding, former NDP finance minister Joe Ceci, won handily. I will, at least, be represented by the Orange. But the province as a whole is solid Blue, and in Danielle Smith’s shade. It is truly her government.
So what will the lady do? Plunge us into four years of right-wing populism? Or will she follow the Lougheed path, reflect most Albertans, and sensibly govern with moderate conservatism? Unfortunately, sensible is not one of Danielle Smith’s strong points. The province’s future awaits.