Albertans sent an unmistakable message last night by crushing every Liberal candidate in the province. In almost every case they voted emphatically against the Liberals and, in huge numbers, for the Conservatives. In 2015, Kent Hehr won Calgary Centre for the Liberals by 700 votes. Last night he lost it by 16,000 votes. The provincial popular vote totals speak volumes about the depth of Alberta’s frustration with Justin Trudeau’s record. Conservatives received a staggering 69.2% of the vote., 10 percentage points higher than the polls indicated. The Liberals limped in at 13.7%. The NDP managed just 11.5%.
There was good news for the NDP though. They saved the only seat they held, Edmonton Strathcona, otherwise every seat in Alberta turned Conservative blue.
So, now that Albertans have that out of their system, what comes next?
The election results will undoubtedly stoke the fires of western separatism. The “it’s time to leave” talk can be heard in every Tim Horton’s in the province, but without a credible leader it’s hard to see it going anywhere. That doesn’t mean that a clever Premier like Jason Kenney won’t try to leverage the anger at Ottawa to his advantage. The most obvious place to start is to advocate for pipelines, beginning with Trans Mountain. The Liberal Government’s willingness and determination to build the pipeline will be viewed as a test of their good faith toward the oil and gas industry and Alberta.
The Premier will almost certainly continue to work with his counterparts in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick to counter the Trudeau Government’s messaging on climate change and against fossil fuels. The Alberta Government’s energy war room, The Canadian Energy Centre, is as likely to be used to push back against Canadian government messaging as it is to fight radical environmentalists. Until now, Premier Kenney routinely faced pushback from Edmonton-based Liberal M.P. and cabinet minister, Amarjeet Sohi. Now Premier Kenney will have the floor to himself.
As one of the most able communicators in Canadian politics, Kenney is likely to become the leading voice for resource development and economic conservatism, at least until there is clarity around the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. As much as any leader of the opposition in the House of Commons, Premier Kenney is well-positioned to be Prime Minister Trudeau’s most dangerous political opponent.