Good morning! It’s James Keller in Calgary.
The United Conservatives’ Jason Kenney will be Alberta’s next premier, and he’s already preparing for a fight.
Mr. Kenney handily won last night’s election, capturing more than half of the popular vote and nearly three-quarters of the seats in the legislature. Rachel Notley’s New Democrats were reduced to just 24 seats and about 32 per cent of the popular vote, becoming the province’s only single-term government.
Mr. Kenney, who arrived at his election-night party by driving his blue pickup truck onto the stage, delivered a victory speech that assured struggling Albertans that help was finally on the way while painting a dark picture of a province that has been beaten down and held back by a variety of forces.
He singled out “foreign-funded” environmentalists and the government of Quebec, though he saved his harshest words for Ottawa. He had already spent the four-week campaign, and indeed his entire time as Leader of the UCP, making Prime Minister Justin Trudeau his primary target. The federal government, he told his supporters in a televised speech that likely earned him the widest audience of the campaign, had made an already bad situation in Alberta worse.
And he said the fight was about more than just economics: “It is also a moral cause.”
Mr. Kenney’s victory sets the stage for a confrontation with Ottawa that will begin almost immediately. He plans to cancel the provincial carbon tax, launch a legal challenge of the federal carbon tax that would replace it, sue the federal government over environmental legislation and potentially hold a referendum on equalization. On top of that, he plans to take on Mr. Trudeau in the federal election this fall by campaigning for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.
Mr. Kenney has also threatened to cut off oil shipments to British Columbia, and he plans to take on environmental groups by challenging their charitable status and setting up a campaign-style “war room” to counter what he sees as misinformation.
We’ll likely hear more today from Mr. Kenney about which of those fights he starts first and what his priorities will be as he prepares to form government.
Ms. Notley (who is celebrating a birthday today) conceded defeat in a speech that set her party’s time in office in historic terms, noting that her 2015 victory interrupted four decades of conservative rule. She said governing in Alberta shouldn’t be "a divine right, but always, always an earned privilege.” She is expected to lie low today. Previously, Ms. Notley said she had every intention of serving in the legislature regardless of the election outcome.
The third-place Alberta Party had a breakthrough of sorts under the leadership of former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel. The party received 9 per cent of the popular vote, its best performance ever, but was nevertheless shut out of the legislature.
The Liberals, led by David Khan, were wiped off the political map, ending the night with just 1 per cent of the vote.
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here. This is a new project and we’ll be experimenting as we go, so let us know what you think.
More on the Alberta election:
Platforms: Now that Mr. Kenney has been declared a winner, readers may find it useful to keep his party’s platform on hand to watch for how closely he sticks to his promises. For disappointed NDP supporters, the platforms are also useful as a reference for the inevitable time when the NDP needs to adjust its positions as it adapts to Official Opposition status.
Pipelines: Both leaders campaigned vigorously on promises to expedite the construction of a pipeline to get Albertan oil to alternative markets. But the candidates promoted two starkly different approaches, as James Keller reported.
“Mr. Kenney plans to sue Ottawa over the federal carbon tax and environmental legislation; threaten to cut off oil shipments to B.C.; hold a referendum on equalization; and challenge the charitable status of environmental groups. His plan also includes corporate tax cuts and a spending freeze to end years of deficit spending while also promising improvements to health care and education.”
Climate change: A national inventory report on emissions, filed this week with the United Nations climate-change secretariat, concluded that the return of oil and gas production in Alberta following the devastating Fort McMurray wildfire, along with a colder-than-usual winter, pushed Canada’s national greenhouse-gas emissions up in 2017 for the first time in several years, a new report says.
The uptick pushes Canada even further away from its Paris climate-change agreement pledge to slash emissions to 70 per cent of what they were in 2005 by 2030.
Cannabis: Activists in Vancouver who have spent decades holding smoke-ins to push for cannabis legalization say their work isn’t done. This Saturday, the annual 420 celebration will once again be held in a waterfront Vancouver park. Once again, it will be an unsanctioned festival featuring booths selling all manner of unlicensed cannabis products. And in a move sure to escalate tensions with the parks board, organizers have invited hip-hop legend Cypress Hill to perform. Vancouver’s mayor says everyone should relax and says efforts are under way to find a venue acceptable to all for next year.
Gary Mason on Jason Kenney’s win: “As the election smoke clears, it will likely become more apparent that there is little Mr. Kenney has offered that will do anything to fix his province’s ailing economy, in the short term at least. The announcements that drew the most fanfare, and engendered the most support from Albertans, were highly symbolic in nature.”
Justine Hunter on the future of B.C.-Alberta relations: "As Mr. Trudeau prepares for a fall federal election, Ms. Notley’s defeat means he has lost another ally on climate policy. Mr. Kenney’s election means B.C. Premier John Horgan is the only provincial leader west of Quebec to support a carbon tax. That makes Mr. Horgan the most important ally Mr. Trudeau has on environmental action.
And Mr. Horgan has his own needs, from federal support to combat money-laundering to cash for affordable housing and transit projects."
Campbell Clark notes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faces a challenge to make his climate-change plan heard amid the din from Ontario Premier Doug Ford and now, Jason Kenney:
"When Mr. Trudeau talks, he’ll have two prominent premiers shouting. They might drown him out.
Back in 2015, at his first premiers’ conference, Mr. Trudeau had a group of Liberals and New Democrats singing about the need to act on climate change. The objection of Saskatchewan’s then-premier Brad Wall was on a different page and barely came through the chorus that carried Mr. Trudeau’s message.
Now there’s a lot more noise over Mr. Trudeau’s voice."