ALBERTA

Political scientist says tin ear, misread voters, Notley popularity led to NDP win

05/06/2015 02:04 EDT | Updated 05/05/2016 05:59 EDT
CALGARY - Alberta Progressive Conservatives and pundits were left to take stock Wednesday of what led to the demise of a 44-year dynasty.

Lori Williams from Mount Royal University said there were several missteps by PC Leader Jim Prentice, who she said had a "tin ear politically."

Prentice, who resigned after the defeat, was criticized harshly in the leadup to the campaign for suggesting Albertans needed to look in the mirror when placing blame for province's financial woes.

Williams said Prentice also misread the potential of voter backlash when he called the election a year earlier than required by law.

But she suggested the real reason for the loss was the campaign of NDP Leader Rachel Notley, whom Williams sees as having the ability to connect with voters the same way former premier Ralph Klein did.

Notley was able to sell her message that the election was not about ideology, but about a vote for grassroots democracy and populism.

"This isn't a massive shift to the left," Williams said. "A lot of people who voted Wildrose last time voted NDP this time, and that's because it's a vote against elitism and entitlement.

"The NDP in Alberta is a very centrist party, very moderate, very pro-business. She's to the right of Peter Lougheed. She's not out of step with the history of the province."

The executive director of the Progressive Conservative party said he needs a few days to determine what went wrong.

"I don't know if it's (mistakes) or if Albertans simply thought it was time for a change and were willing to take a gamble on fairly radical change," said Kelley Charlebois.

Defeated education minister Gordon Dirks noted that the PCs and the Wildrose together took more than 50 per cent of the popular vote, He suggested it may be time to reunite conservatives in Alberta.

The NDP were also probably helped by collapse in Liberal support. The party's popular vote fell to four per cent from just under 10 per cent in 2012 after a campaign in which interim leader David Swann asked people to vote for anybody but a Conservative. Swann was the only Liberal to retain his seat.

Former PC leadership candidate Ric McIver was one of just 10 PC MLAs to secure re-election.

"I'm just Citizen McIver now," said the former cabinet minister.

He said "mistakes were made," but he wasn't willing to discuss what they were until he'd had a few days to mull — and pick up his election signs.

"There's obviously some decisions made that the public was unhappy about ... and we need to learn from that.

"We need to learn from a number of things and move forward with those learnings in mind. There's a lot of mistakes I can think of, but I think I'm going to reflect for a couple of days."

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