NDP win in Alberta 'stunning' says U of S professor

History has been made in Alberta the province's first NDP government.

Professor Daniel Béland sees lessons on Alberta, Canadian politics, in historic election win

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley vaulted her party over the former ruling PCs to win the provincial election. (The Canadian Press)

Election history has been made in Alberta with the province's first NDP government, and it's a majority government to boot.

"That's not something that I think most observers would have predicted just four weeks ago, so it's pretty stunning" said Daniel Béland, Canada Research Chair in Public Policy at the Johnson-Shoyama School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan.

The Progressive Conservatives had a grip on power in Alberta for nearly 44 years, while the NDP held just four seats before the election making the upset even more striking.

So, how did this happen? Béland has offered a few thoughts on the election result, and what it means not only for politics in Alberta, but in other parts of Canada as well.

Verdict on party performance, vote for change

"Alberta is not the province we associate with the left or with the NDP obviously so I think that we should give credit to Rachel Notley the leader of the NDP," Béland said.

According to Béland, voters were dissatisfied with the performance of the government and at the same time, the Wildrose Party was in a state of disarray following the defection of its former leader Danielle Smith and eight other MLAs to the PCs.

Meanwhile, voters liked what they heard from Notley, while Wildrose leader Brian Jean "was not that impressive" Béland said.

It created a bandwagon effect, he added.

"Notley was able to reassure people that she was someone credible, and someone who was not a radical who would try to really do things that the majority of the population would strongly oppose," Béland told CBC News on Tuesday.

Alberta not so deep blue

Béland said Alberta's political history shows a deep populist streak, going back to the Social Credit. That populism was missing from former Alberta PC premiers Ed Stelmach and Jim Prentice, he added.

And according to Béland the province's demographics have changed. A significant portion of the population was not born in Alberta.

"It's a province that's way more diverse than we think," Béland said.

Lessons for Saskatchewan and federal NDP

Here in Saskatchewan, it's not a foregone conclusion that the once-governing NDP will fade into oblivion. But the party's victory in Alberta does not necessarily foreshadow a resurgence here. At least not while Saskatchewan Party premier Brad Wall maintains his current popularity, Béland said.

According to Béland, the results in Albert last night may be more reflective of the future of federal politics "because Alberta is the Conservative stronghold."

In fact, both Alberta PC leader Jim Prentice and Wildrose leader Brian Jean were in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government.

"It doesn't mean of course this will be replicated at the federal level, but it shows that this Conservative stronghold cannot be taken for granted by Harper," Béland said.