As the election numbers rolled in Monday night at Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Alliance headquarters in High River, party staffers queued up the music preparatory to their leader’s concession speech.
Then they made a mad dash to the sound system when “Another One Bites the Dust” blared out over the speakers. Someone had called up the Wildrose victory tape, instead of the less celebratory version needed to acknowledge a 12th consecutive Progressive Conservative political victory.
Smith supporters at the Highwood Golf and Country Club had hoped to take part in the victory party predicted by most polls throughout the 28-day election campaign. But the outcome was decidedly glum when Alison Redford’s Conservatives won 62 seats, a handy majority. Wildrose came out with 17, the New Democrats four and the Liberals four. All four party leaders won their seats.
Mainstream media flocked to interview Rod Love, political strategist who served as Ralph Klein’s chief of staff. But Love was his usual cryptic self, saying he was there out of interest, and not necessarily as a supporter of Wildrose. Make of that what you will.
The upstart right wing party dominated the southern part of the province, winning all non-city ridings south of Calgary except Banff-Cochrane. Three former PC agriculture ministers were defeated by Wildrose candidates. Evan Berger was displaced by Pat Stier in Livingstone Macleod, Jack Hayden was defeated by Rick Strankman in Drumheller Stettler and Ty Lund lost to Joe Anglin in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre.
It will now be interesting to see who Redford names as agriculture minister and who Smith taps as agriculture critic. Southern Alberta farmers will be represented in the legislature by the official opposition, an unaccustomed position for most of them used to PC government representation.
Smith was gracious but brief in her concession speech. Despite what must have been a grueling campaign culminating in a disappointing outcome, she looked rested and energetic as she addressed the crowd, acknowledging that Albertans had clearly decided they needed more time to consider the changes that Wildrose could bring to the province.
While I was at Smith headquarters, colleague Barbara Duckworth covered Redford’s victory speech, in which the PC leader said she’d heard the message loud and clear from Alberta’s voters. Alberta’s first female premier looked ready to take charge, taking with her a large majority and the largest opposition Albertans have seen in years.
Things could get more interesting in Alberta politics.