Alberta Votes

Alberta election: Top 5 PC gaffes in the 2015 campaign

The PCs actually came in second in Alberta's election when it comes to popular vote, but ended up in third place. So what went wrong? We look at five faults of the long-governing party during the campaign.

How did it all go so wrong?

Alberta PC leader Jim Prentice speaks to party faithful before resigning his seat after a major election loss for the long-governing party. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Alberta's Progressive Conservative Party ended up with roughly 28 per cent of the popular vote — ahead of the Wildrose Party and about 12 per cent behind the NDP.

In the end, the NDP claimed a majority government with 53 seats, while the Wildrose became the Official Opposition with 21 seats. The PCs ended up in third place with 10 seats, although they could pick up one more in a vote recount after a tie in Calgary-Glenmore.

​So where did the party go wrong?

1) Bad-news budget

Former PC leader and premier Jim Prentice, who resigned last night after a historic election loss, had asked Albertans to give him a mandate after bringing in a "bad-news" budget when the election was called. 

But he was running on a budget that brought in 59 taxes for the average Albertan, and no tax increases for corporations. The budget also introduced a health-care levy and made some controversial plans to separate the Calgary Cancer Centre into two locations.

Obviously it didn't please Albertans, and they let Prentice know that he was not getting his mandate.

2) 'Look in the mirror'

Prentice's image has also been mentioned as a reason why Albertans redirected their support from the long-governing PCs.

A senior executive for CIBC before being recruited by the PCs last year, Prentice was seen as a saviour to the flailing PC party but also a friend to corporations. But being an "outsider" elected to lead the PCs gave Prentice the ability to say the mess the party created under former premier Alison Redford was not his fault. 

But then he bought a vintage T-bird while advising Albertans for weeks that belt-tightening was needed after an oil price collapse since last summer — which raised some eyebrows.

That was followed by a now infamous "look in the mirror" comment during a CBC Radio interview where Prentice said Albertans have to take ownership for the financial state of the province. It didn't make Albertans happy.

He then joked about the situation at a conference in Ontario.

"Why should I look in the mirror? I don't go to legislature. I don't pass laws. I don't deal with oil companies," retired aircraft technician Leonard Jalbert told CBC.

Prentice also caused a stir when he told NDP Leader Rachel Notley that "math is difficult" during a leaders debate, which trended online as #mathishard and seemed to have an air of "mansplaining."

3) Wildrose floor-crossing 

During the campaign there were indications in the ridings south of Calgary that the mass defection of Wildrose MLAs to the Tories last December was not water under the bridge for many voters.

In the 2012 election, much of southern Alberta was painted Wildrose green. The party won 17 seats, most of them in the south.

But when this election campaign kicked off, only five Wildrose MLAs remained. 

Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, who led eight other MLAs over to the PCs, believes it wasn't a factor. It appears not all Albertans agreed.

4) Internal PC cohesion 

Right before election day, the PC party was embroiled in a couple of controversies. 

A Calgary businessman who was blocked from running for the PC nomination in a southern Alberta riding says he was blindsided by a late-night text message telling him he was kicked out of the race — and the texts seem to tell a tale of backstabbing.

It was later revealed by the PCs that Jaime Lall was disqualified because he did not inform the party of a prior restraining order.

Former justice minister Jonathan Denis also had to interrupt campaigning to appear in court for legal proceedings involving his estranged wife. She alleges he was violent, but a judge decided Breanna Palmer was not in danger and didn't need an emergency protection order.   

5) Early election call

Prentice also ignored Alberta's fixed election legislation and triggered an election that many thought was unnecessary.  

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi criticized the Tories for calling a costly early election, saying residents in Alberta's biggest city "are not happy" about it.

Opposition parties agreed.

"This election call by Jim Prentice is not motivated by a quest for good government or accountable government," said Wildrose Leader Brian Jean. "It's about Jim Prentice's belief that he can manipulate the system in order to gain personal advantage for himself."

Obviously Albertans had the same sentiments.

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