Watching the Alberta provincial election unfold from the West Coast was initially a bland affair. Jim Prentice, the lifetime conservative and recent Progressive Conservative leader in that province, had inherited a mess from his predecessor, Alison Redford, whose laissez faire attitude to burning through public money led to a justified backlash and her resignation.
Our neighhours over the Rockies were then hit with tumbling oil prices late last year, thanks in part to an increase in U.S. oil production and a refusal by Saudi Arabia and other OPEC nations to curtail their output.
That meant Alberta companies in the oil sands were scrambling to cut costs on their expensive production to ride out the price fluxuation. (Remember when the oil sands were known as the tar sands? You can thank a successful PR campaign for that lingo shift.)
Prentice – as a novice Premier who worked a lifetime to rise to the top – needed to slice spending and raise taxes in the face of dismal oil revenue. He committed to an early election so his party could get its mandate to swing the axe.
But Prentice and his people never saw the Orange wave coming. In fact, nobody did. The pollsters hinted at the destruction of the 44-year Progressive Conservative dynasty midway through the campaign, but the memorable fake-out from B.C.’s 2013 election meant few were willing to bet on that unlikely outcome. Even Premier-elect Rachel Notley refused to trumpet the poll results before election night.
Yet here we sit with an NDP government in what many still call the most conservative province in Canada. Of course, Tuesday night’s election results clearly show Alberta is no longer the diehard conservative province we once knew. Now, a fresh crop of Alberta MPs will be delving into complex portfolios and the most severe financial crisis in that province in a generation. The election went from bland to unbelievable, but you can be sure an NDP government in Alberta will soon be shaking up the status quo.