The United Conservative Party will be Alberta’s new government, receiving a majority mandate from voters Tuesday night.
The party, with premier-designate Jason Kenney at the helm, will send at least 60 MLAs to the legislature this spring with a strong rural voice.
“Our province has sent a message to Canada and the rest of the world, Alberta is open for business,” Kenney declared to supporters in Calgary.
“To the unemployed, to those who have given up, to the small business owners hanging on, to the people who got degrees and cant find work, to those who have lost their homes and their hope after years of economic decline and stagnation. To them, we send this message: Help is on the way. Hope is on the way.”
Kenney’s government will shift Alberta significantly, as the leader plans to take on a brutal fight with Ottawa over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and equalization, as well as cut corporate taxes and undo the NDP’s signature environmental policy, the carbon tax.
For agriculture, the UCP win puts familiarity back into the legislature.
Kenney has promised to repeal and create new farm safety legislation, following years of contention between farmers and the NDP government over the issue.
Expect his government to allow farmers to choose WCB coverage or private insurance, as well as exempt small farms from having to abide by the new regulations.
Kenney has also promised to cancel former Premier Rachel Notley’s $3.7 billion rail car deal to move more oil, a move likely to ease anxiety among farmers who felt it would affect grain movement.
As well, the UCP is putting agriculture research on the agenda, promising to let farmers lead initiatives.
It will also conduct a review of the Agriculture Financial Services Corp., potentially finding efficiencies that aim to streamline services.
The UCP will push for ways rural Albertans could use reasonable force as self-defence, which would require changes to the Criminal Code of Canada.
The provincial carbon tax, which has been costly for farmers, will finally end, but it’s expected the federal levy will kick in.
“The carbon tax is economic pain and no environmental gain,” he said. “We’re going to scrap this carbon tax grab.”
What isn’t clear is what will now happen to the numerous agriculture energy efficiency programs that were funded by the tax.
NDP leader Rachel Notley will stay on as opposition leader in the legislature, facing off against Kenney.
“This is not the result we hoped or expected, or worked so hard for,” she said to supporters. “As I look out to you, I feel an enormous sense of gratitude and pride.”
Notley’s party has so far managed to retain around 25 seats, largely in Edmonton and a few in Calgary.
She said during her four years as premier, she did the job well despite the harsh economic times.
“I am enormously proud of our record and you all should be, too,” she said.
It’s expected the province’s divisive politics won’t subside going forward. The campaign was polarizing and the ideologies of the NDP and UCP are extremely different.
Other items on the UCP’s agriculture agenda include potentially auctioning more crown land, aim to strengthen property rights, work to eliminate interprovincial trade barriers and fight back against attacks on the industry.
As premier, Kenney will continue to be dogged by scandals involving the 2017 UCP leadership race.
The RCMP are investigating potential voter fraud and the election commissioner continues to look into irregular political contributions to Jeff Callaway’s leadership campaign.
This is the first time in decades Alberta has only elected two parties to the legislature.
The Alberta Party and Alberta Liberals were wiped out Tuesday night.
“One thing is true. We have changed the politics of this province forever,” Notley said.