The Liberal Party has regained a toehold in Alberta after a well-known former city councillor flipped a seat in Calgary’s northeast, giving the province a shot at having a representative in cabinet.
George Chahal beat the Conservative Party of Canada incumbent in Calgary Skyview, a part of the city that the Liberals claimed in 2015. The Liberals may also pick up Edmonton Centre, where their candidate led the CPC incumbent by 136 votes on Tuesday afternoon.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau on Monday secured a minority government that will be, once again, scant on representatives from the Prairie provinces. The CPC retained the majority of the seats in the Prairies, although the magnitude of support from its voters waned in this election. Mr. Trudeau gave cabinet positions to rookie members of Parliament from Alberta after the 2015 campaign.
Mr. Chahal served one term on Calgary city council before running for the Liberals. Because Mr. Trudeau is short on Liberal MPs in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Mr. Chahal could end up as the “voice of the West” in government, according to political scientist and communications professor David Taras.
“That is an immense role. If he plays it right, that’s a huge amount of power,” said Dr. Taras, who teaches at Mount Royal University in Calgary. “It is power that can’t be ignored.”
Mr. Trudeau has previously shown sensitivity to regional representation. Jim Carr, a Liberal MP from Winnipeg, previously served as the minister of natural resources. Calgary’s Kent Hehr and Edmonton’s Amarjeet Sohi both sat in previous editions of Mr. Trudeau’s cabinet.
Mr. Chahal, through a spokesman, declined to comment.
In Edmonton Centre, Liberal candidate Randy Boissonnault, who was elected in the riding in 2015 and defeated two years ago, had a narrow lead over CPC incumbent James Cumming.
Blake Desjarlais secured Edmonton Griesbach for the New Democratic Party, bumping the CPC incumbent. The rookie politician, who is Métis, will be Canada’s first openly two-spirit MP. The NDP’s Heather McPherson held on to her Edmonton riding, while the CPC swept the rest of Alberta’s electoral map.
The CPC’s share of voter support declined sharply in Alberta, where Premier Jason Kenney is deeply unpopular with residents of all political stripes. Across the province, 55 per cent of ballots cast in the 2021 race favoured the CPC, down from 69 per cent in 2019, according to Elections Canada.
Meanwhile, the NDP collected 19 per cent of Alberta’s votes, up from 11.6 per cent in 2019. The Liberals took 15 per cent of the vote, up from 13.8 per cent in the previous election. The far-right People’s Party of Canada, a home particularly for those opposed to coronavirus restrictions and vaccine passports, received 7.5 per cent of Alberta’s ballots.
Doreen Barrie, a political-science professor at the University of Calgary, is among the swath of observers who argue that Mr. Kenney’s pandemic performance hurt the CPC. Voters who believed Mr. Kenney dithered, creating the crisis sweeping ICU wards in Alberta, could have shifted to the Liberals or NDP. Electors who argue Mr. Kenney overstepped with the province’s most recent restrictions, which include a vaccine passport system, could have protested by backing the PPC.
“I think he was an albatross around Erin O’Toole’s neck,” Prof. Barrie said.
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