Danielle Smith leads UCP to Alberta majority government
'Welcome to another miracle on the Prairies,' Smith tells jubilant crowd in Calgary
A victorious Premier Danielle Smith promises she will work for people of all political stripes — and hopes Albertans will stand together against Ottawa and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The United Conservative Party was elected for a second term in Monday's election despite losing seats in a tight battle against the Alberta New Democrats.
As of Tuesday, CBC projected UCP victories in 49 ridings with 38 going to the NDP. Smith's party took 52.6 per cent of the popular vote with 44 per cent going to their main rivals.
"To paraphrase our dear friend Ralph Klein, 'Welcome to another miracle on the Prairies,'" Smith said to a cheering crowd at the UCP's Calgary victory celebration.
Smith said many had written off her campaign but Albertans had chosen to "move our province forward by re-electing a strong, stable United Conservative majority government."
She struck a conciliatory tone, promising to work to improve for those who had chosen not to support her and offering kudos to her rival, NDP Leader Rachel Notley.
"The election is now over," Smith said.
"It is time to put partisanship, division and personal and political attacks in the rear-view mirror. It is time to move forward together as all Albertans, no matter who we voted for."
Smith repeated many of her party's goals — including diversifying the economy, improving health care, and keeping taxes low — before shifting to challenge the federal government and prime minister.
"And finally, my fellow Albertans, we need to come together no matter how we have voted to stand shoulder to shoulder against soon-to-be-announced Ottawa policies that would significantly harm our provincial economy," she said.
Without going into detail, she said the policy would involve restrictions on electricity generation from natural gas. She called on Trudeau to halt the plan and work with Alberta on an emissions strategy.
"Now Alberta is willing to be that partner and we need our federal government to show it is willing to partner in good faith as well," Smith said.
Notley plans to stay on as NDP leader
Notley conceded the election in a speech late Monday in Edmonton. The NDP leader said she had called Smith and congratulated her on the UCP's victory.
Notley told a crowd of supporters in Edmonton that she felt mixed emotions, highlighting the growth of the NDP caucus.
"I also know that we are very deeply disappointed in the overall result," she said.
"We had all hoped for a different one."
Notley said the NDP would form the largest Opposition in the province's history — an expansion that made her optimistic for the work to come.
"Let me be clear: now is not the time to let up. Now is the time for us to do the work that has been asked of us," she said.
"It is my honour to serve as your leader and it is my privilege to continue to serve as leader of the Official Opposition."
She also took responsibility for areas where the campaign fell short.
While the NDP is projected to flip 11 ridings in Calgary — including former justice minister Tyler Shandro's Calgary-Acadia by a razor-thin margin of seven votes — the path to victory remained out of reach.
"Our values will be represented in the legislature — we will have a say in the future of this great province."
UCP loses significant ground
At the dissolution of the previous legislative assembly on May 1, the UCP had 60 seats to the NDP's 23.
The election results confirmed the tight race proclaimed by pollsters and pundits but despite losing seats, the UCP managed to hold the line.
Smith inherited a party divided and worked to reunite the right, even offering cabinet positions to many of the Jason Kenney old guard who had battled her during the leadership race.
Whether that effort at unity — or her own leadership — will survive this diminished victory will undoubtedly be the talk of political watchers for weeks to come.
Pollster Janet Brown predicted the UCP leader could weave a narrative of return to strength.
"She can say, 'We lost a little bit of ground compared to 2019 but, my gosh, didn't we claw our way back from the depths of unpopularity that the UCP had under Jason Kenney,'" Brown said.
In Calgary, several of Smith's former cabinet ministers were defeated: Jeremy Nixon (Calgary-Klein), Nicholas Milliken (Calgary-Currie), Josephine Pon (Calgary-Beddington) Jason Luan (Calgary-Foothills) and Jason Copping (Calgary-Varsity).
Former cabinet minister Kaycee Madu lost Edmonton-South West to NDP's Nathan Ip. Madu had held the only UCP seat in the capital, now solidly NDP orange.
Most of Alberta outside the two major cities remained firmly blue, with the exception of projected flips in Sherwood Park within the greater Edmonton region and Banff-Kananaskis.
Elections Alberta will announce official results on June 8.
The UCP has promised to make its first legislation an amendment so income taxes can only be raised through referendum.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement Tuesday morning congratulating Smith and the UCP.
"I look forward to continuing to work with Premier Smith and the provincial government to deliver results for Albertans – including growing the economy, creating good jobs for the middle class, improving health care, continuing to position Alberta as a leader in clean energy, and making life more affordable," Trudeau said.
"We will also continue to build on the progress we have made to deliver affordable child care to families in Alberta and move forward on the path of reconciliation."