In a landslide win for Alberta, Canada’s historically most conservative province broke a 44 year habit of voting in oil-driven leadership.
Winning 53 seats— nine more than needed for a majority government — New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley will now oversee Alberta’s provincial government. Notley beat out Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice, who was widely criticized for running Alberta’s economy into the ground.
Failing to diversify its tar sands-heavy economy, Alberta reached a financial low point following the oil market crash earlier this year, leading most Albertans to seek drastic change. Alberta’s leaders placed big bets on the tar sands industry’s ability to drive the economy, only to have them fall through when plummeting oil prices ushered in economic catastrophe.
Some are expecting the NDP to run the provincial government by favouring a different approach, including proposed energy royalties, increased corporate income tax, and decreased governmental support for tar sands pipelines.
This drastic change in political landscape has left oil industry giants shaking in their boots as they approach a future of uncertainty — a prophecy that is already taking shape in today’s tumbling tar sands stock prices.
Expecting the new leader to be “more attuned to [..] social issues” in his city, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said:
“Albertans had a real choice between very different visions of what this province should be and it looks like they voted for the Alberta they wanted, not the Alberta they didn’t want.”
Canadians headed to the polls with the environment—and their pocketbooks—in mind. Drawing in the strongest voter turnout in decades, this victory is being called one of “the most seismic shifts in Canadian political history.” In Canada, opposition to tar sands pipelines is spreading from coast to coast and provincial leaders are finally beginning to get the message.
Despite this major turning point for Alberta, some are cautioning that it might be too soon to know what energy proposals lie ahead.
Andrew Leach, an economist at the University of Alberta said:
“This is why you’re seeing so many different reactions right now […] You get people who say the NDP will turn Alberta into Norway. Or that it will be a complete disaster for the oil industry. Or others arguing that the election won’t change the industry that much because there’s not that much room to move.”
As history unfolded in the province commonly known as “the Texas of Canada,” many will be watching the country closely in upcoming months as the federal elections in October approach.