Political observers in Alberta are calling it remarkable and opposition politicians are wondering what hit them after Ed Stelmach guided his Conservative party Monday to one of its biggest majorities ever.
The amiable farmer-turned-politician from Andrew, east of Edmonton, will preside over a Tory caucus with 72 of the 83 seats in the legislature, leaving only a handful to the Liberals and NDP.
"This is such a massive majority," said pollster Bruce Cameron, of Cameron Strategy Inc., on Tuesday.
It took former premier Ralph Klein three elections to gain that kind of majority, Cameron said, comparing the victory to the 2001 election when Klein won 74 seats and declared Alberta "Ralph's world."
"This is Ed's empire, he said.
The key to the Tory success was the party's ability to present its leader as a cautious, straightforward and hard-working man with a plan for Alberta's future, Cameron said.
He also said the Liberals failed to convince the voters they were a credible alternative.
"I would say it's not only Kevin Taft's leadership that will be questioned. It's the existence of the party itself," Cameron said.
Taft has no plans to resign
Taft continued Tuesday to sidestep questions about his future. He told a news conference the party ran a "great campaign" even though it lost seven of its 16 seats. He plans to lead the Liberal caucus in the legislature until the party decides otherwise, he said.
"There's an automatic leadership review after every election at the first annual general meeting. That certainly will happen at the pleasure of the board within six or eight months," Taft said.
The Tory tide also hit the NDP hard, cutting the caucus from four to two.
"It's unbelievable to me," said Ray Martin, a former NDP leader, who was defeated in his seat of Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview.
"They can be such screw-ups, you know — in terms of housing, everything else around — and be rewarded for more," Martin said.
Monday's election not only cost the party seats, but also its status as an official party in the legislature.
Most people are satisfied: Premier
In his first news conference since the election, Stelmach said the results showed most people are satisfied with his government and the quality of life in Alberta.
"Generally speaking, when people see opportunity, [and] they have jobs, they're not angry with government," he said.
The premier did say it was unfortunate that so few people voted. The turnout for the election was about 41 per cent, a record low.