What happened last week is nothing short of a tectonic shift in Alberta’s political landscape and it will probably remain a topic of discussion for weeks and months to come.
There are several broad repercussions that will emanate from this result both provincially and nationally.
First within our own neighbourhood, it has emerged that everybody, including local politicians failed to read the changing mindset of the electorate: In the Lacombe-Ponoka riding there were four candidates for nomination as the PC candidate, but many people learned the name of the new MLA Ron Orr only a few days before the polls opened. That certainly strengthens the view that the outcome was the result of a protest vote against the PCs, their complacency, their taking of the electorate for granted and very poor communications skills of the now former premier Jim Prentice, the man who PCs turned to as a savior but turned out to be the unwitting grave digger.
Nationally, NDP victory in Alberta could turn out to be a major wind to fill the sails of the national NDP ship, but Tom Mulcair and his leadership should be very careful not to be complacent about how much they can hope to win from their Albertan cousins. They should remember that NDP’s success in the province was at least partly the result of the division of the right of centre vote between the Wildrose and PCs whereas in the federal elections next fall, Harper’s conservatives will be the sole political force vying for the right wing vote with Liberals and the NDP dividing the left.
Coming back to the province, PCs will probably have a very hard time to rebuild their strength after this disastrous showing. They have announced that Ric McIver was named the new PC leader, but let’s just remember that McIver was one of the least popular contestants for the PC leadership race, which brought Prentice to the leadership of the party. PCs might find their ranks further weakened by those who will hope to revive their political fortunes with Wildrose in the future.
As for Wildrose, they have probably been heartened with the voter support they received from Albertans and they will hopefully take their role of official opposition at least as seriously as they did during the time of PC governments. That will be very welcome news and it will probably prove once again that an effective opposition is one of the best mechanisms to create vibrant and sound democratic governance.
With regard to Premier-elect Rachel Notley and her party, they have a gigantic task in front of them and very little experience to handle it with the required seriousness. Coming from a family involved in provincial politics for many years, Notley should be able to command respect from the people of the province if she can overcome one big hurdle, one that was key in the collapse of the PC dynasty of 44 years: Communication.
There are a lot of cynics drawing parallels between the Notley’s NDP and the NDP experience in Saskatchewan, which is not fondly remembered by a lot of people.
Notley and NDP leadership could be successful in building up and implementing sound policies but success will never stick to their names unless they manage to tell all stakeholders what they are doing and why they are doing it. Engaging the population of the province, rural and urban, and making people believe that there is a government listening to them will be vitally important for the Orange leadership to generate a feeling of trust in them, something PCs forgot to do for the last decade or so.
But in order to be able to have the ears of the population, NDP has to be the party of all Albertans, including corporate Alberta and not only of unions.