Alberta byelections show United Conservatives kept support of separate parties before merger

A policy studies professor says the results for two Alberta byelections show it'll be hard for other parties to carve out space between the UCP and NDP.

'There’s no guarantee that’ll happen for other parties that unite,' says policy studies prof

Lori Williams is an associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary. She wasn't surprised that Thursday's byelections were dominated by just two parties. (Nelly Alberola/Radio-Canada)

A policy studies professor says the results for two Alberta byelections show it'll be hard for other parties to carve out space between the UCP and NDP. 

Alberta's Opposition United Conservatives won both byelections Thursday, maintaining hold of ridings the party represented before the vote was called.

In Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, United Conservative candidate Devin Dreeshen took about 80 per cent of the vote, with the NDP's Nicole Mooney running a distant second.

The United Conservative margin of victory in Fort McMurray-Conklin was almost as one-sided, with Laila Goodridge winning about 66 per cent of the votes.

New Democrat Jane Stroud was second with about 30 per cent of the ballots.

"We don't often get large numbers in byelections … People just had a sense they didn't need to vote," said Lori Williams, an associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary. 

Williams said she expects more people to be engaged politically next year. 

"I think a lot of people are thinking about the election closer to that date. When you have political activity in only isolated pockets it's not going to generate the same kind of interest."

The Liberal and Alberta party candidates gathered just a small per cent of the vote in each riding, something Williams said was no surprise. 

"I think it's going to be quite challenging for both the Alberta Party or Liberal Party to make any headway when we've got a very strong moderate, centre-left party in the NDP that isn't governing in a particularly leftist manner, it's quite pragmatic," she said.

Meanwhile, the United Conservative Party kept all of the support the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties had held separately. 

"There's no guarantee that'll happen for other parties that unite," Williams said.

UCP candidates Devin Dreeshen (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake) and Laila Goodridge (Fort McMurray-Conklin) were elected in byelections held Thursday. (Facebook)

UCP Leader Jason Kenney pointed out that the UCP vote was up in both ridings from the combined PC/Wildrose vote in the 2015 provincial election.

"These numbers confirm the new united party is bigger and has more support than the PCs and Wildrose combined," Kenney said Thursday.

"If I were the other parties, I wouldn't' be taking any solace from last night's results."

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley congratulated the winners and the losing candidates.

"Congratulations to all candidates who put their names forward and to the new MLAs Laila Goodridge and Devin Dreeshen," she wrote in a post on Twitter.

"I'm very proud of the [Alberta NDP] campaigns run by both Nicole Mooney & Jane Stroud and their teams. A special thank you to all of the volunteers."

Results won't change balance of power

The results will not change the balance of power in the legislature since Notley's NDP holds 54 of the 87 seats.

The winning candidates will have to run again in less than a year when the spring 2019 general election is called.

The byelections were called to replace two United Conservatives who had resigned.

Don MacIntyre stepped down as the member for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake in February when he was charged with sex assault and sexual interference.

In Fort McMurray-Conklin, former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean left in March after his unsuccessful bid to head the United Conservatives.

Both of their successors campaigned on a platform that was critical of NDP policies and on the need to bolster Alberta's economy.

The Alberta Party and Alberta Liberals also ran candidates in both constituencies.

With files from Nelly Alberola, The Canadian Press