Election outcome in critical Edmonton-South West riding still undecided
UCP candidate Kaycee Madu claimed victory, but 5,600 votes still to be counted
It is a critical riding that may decide whether Alberta's new United Conservative majority government has any Edmonton representation in its caucus.
If the UCP wins Edmonton-South West — one of two Edmonton ridings still too close to call — it may be the only seat the party captures in the capital city. One expert said that makes it likely the party's candidate, Kaycee Madu, will be appointed to premier-designate Jason Kenney's cabinet.
If the NDP manages to hold onto the riding, the party may once again completely shut out their conservative opposition in Edmonton.
Only 768 votes now separate Madu, who has already claimed victory, from NDP candidate John Archer, a former CBC Edmonton reporter. More than 5,600 advance-poll votes, cast outside the riding, must still be counted. Elections Alberta began that work Wednesday afternoon.
Concordia University political scientist Elizabeth Smythe said Madu's victory announcement is premature.
"It is going to be really hard to predict the results because we have no way of knowing which way those votes are going to go," she said. "And it is a significant chunk of votes."
Madu abruptly cancelled a Wednesday afternoon interview with CBC's Radio Active. His spokesperson said the UCP directed Madu not to speak about his riding's race.
Archer said his campaign is still awaiting the final results.
"I think that at this point, we just let the good people at Elections Alberta do the job that they do very well for the people of this province," he told CBC News. "And when they have a final number, we will all see what the final number is."
Smythe said if Madu wins, he would be a serious contender for a cabinet position, which would send a message that the UCP government would "recognize and want to represent the interests of Edmonton, even though they don't have very many seats."
If the UCP fails to win the seat, the party will "have a hard time claiming that they are representing all Albertans," she added.
The NDP are leading in the other undecided capital riding, Edmonton-West Henday. Incumbent Jon Carson has only 113 votes more than the UCP's Nicole Williams. Nearly 4,000 votes still need to be counted from the advance polls.
Employment law experience
Madu, a Nigerian immigrant, is a lawyer with a background in civil litigation and employment law. His law firm's website states that he has worked for the provincial government under the Progressive Conservatives, helping review and develop laws and policies around the minimum wage, Alberta's temporary foreign worker program, employment standards for firefighters, and youth employment.
During the election campaign, the UCP's proposed changes to employment standards were especially contentious.
Premier-designate Kenney said his government would cut the minimum wage for young workers to create more jobs, rolling back the $15-an-hour rate to $13 an hour for workers aged 17 and younger.
The party would also revert to old employment standards around banked overtime, re-introducing the straight hour-to-hour exchange. If workers aren't able to take the time off within six months, their banked overtime would be paid out at time and a half.
The New Democrats and other critics called both proposed policies an erosion of hard-won workers' rights.
Smythe said Madu's experience in employment law may make him a natural choice for labour minister.
"If this is one of the areas where the UCP, as they claim, are going to aggressively roll back, in a short period of time, some of the Notley measures," she said, "he is a good fit to probably take on that portfolio and that issue — if indeed, again, he does win the seat."
Alberta's deputy chief electoral officer, Drew Westwater, could not provide a timeline for when the advance-poll results will be released, but it is expected to be later this week. Officials stopped counting the votes at 6 p.m. Wednesday and will resume Thursday morning.