Two weeks ago, I said that the Alberta election was Danielle Smith’s to lose. Well, last night, that’s what happened.
In the last week of the campaign, Alison Redford stuck to her message of “real change” and Alberta voters shocked practically everyone by returning a majority PC government.
You would think that what has happened in the US Republican primaries would have been a lesson for the Wildrose party. Clearly, the path to victory is about the politics of inclusion, not exclusion.
The conservative family split down the middle in Alberta. Only in Alberta could two conservatives parties go head to head and not the divide the vote to the benefit of the liberals and socialists. Indeed , much of the Liberal vote seems to have consolidated behind the PCs in an unusually effective display of strategic voting.
This race is more significant to non-partisans because it heralds a victory for new Alberta over the province’s traditional support base. The PCs clearly appealed to the widest cross-section of society in every geographic part of the province. Danielle Smith’s decision to support narrow-minded candidates will be seen as a major mistake that might well have been a turning point in the last week.
Many ridings in the PC column were only won by a narrow margin, suggesting that the premier would be prudent to quickly tack to the right on fiscal issues so she can recapture her base before Wildrose lays down roots that really take.
Many Tory organizers ended up in the Wildrose camp. An early test of Redford’s leadership will be how decisive she is in bringing the whole party back together again.
Redford’s practice of reaching out to the rest of the country will also provide a far less challenging policy environment to the country’s always sensitive national unity coniderations. Redford is expected to be far more generous in continuing to support Alberta-funded entitlement programs than Smith would have been.
Allison Redford may be another in a long of PC premiers in Alberta, but something tells me that she has turned a very important page in Alberta politics.