Corbella: The liberals finally win another Alberta election

For the first time in 91 years, the liberals have won an election in Alberta.

Yeah, sure, the name of the party that won a majority of seats last night is actually called the Progressive Conservative Party. But make no mistake, Alison Redford won last night's election in much the same way she won the leadership of the PC party. She appealed to both big and small-L liberals to back her. Her strategy worked, obviously.

Big public sector unions, like the members of the Alberta Federation of Labour, took out ads and robocalled much of the province urging all "progressive Albertans" to keep the Wildrose Party out by voting strategically for the PCs.

During the last provincial election, the AFL urged its members to vote NDP. My, how things change.

Videos of young people swearing and saying that though they hate to do it, they're voting PC, is another example of the political left throwing their support behind a party that has long been their most hated enemy.

What's interesting about the commentary of this historic election is how many pundits are declaring this a "crushing" defeat for the Wildrose. But that's sophistry. In just a little more than three years, an upstart party with a leader who has never sat in the legislature gave the oldest political dynasty in Canada's history a real fright. That's a huge win in many ways.

As Danielle Smith said last night during her concession speech, "change might take a little longer than we thought."

But as she pointed out, "today I stand at the helm of the official opposition." Not bad for a party that was born out of the anger of the oilpatch because of the changes former Premier Ed Stelmach made to energy royalties.

Smith admitted in her speech in her riding of Highwood in High River last night that she was disappointed. "Am I discouraged?" she asked rhetorically. "Not a chance."

Remember, just a little more than one month ago, predictive website stated that the Wildrose would win only 17 seats — which was considered a healthy gain for the upstart party that was expected to win maybe 10 seats late last year, if they were lucky.

They won more than that last night, but the numbers weren't official at deadline. That some polls had her winning a majority up until Saturday, meant that the Tories should have learned a lesson. But they likely won't.

Had Smith and her advisers spent more time focusing on the cronyism and corruption that plagues the PCs today, it's possible they might have been able to pull off the upset. But another C-word crept into this campaign — clowns — as in bozos.

The so-called "bozo eruptions" by two Wildrose candidates took Smith off message and off her game. But that's not all. Many of the Wildrose policies simply represented too much change, too fast. Smith and her party must now re-examine their platform and make adjustments away from the ones that unsettled too many Albertans.

The Wildrose would have done well to heed the wise words of Dalton Camp when he said: "In my experience, governments are not defeated. They must grab themselves by their own lapels and hurl themselves from office."

The Tories did that to themselves. But the Wildrose hauled them back in, mostly owing to the disgraceful, bigoted comments by those two Wildrose candidates that Albertans simply won't abide.

While Redford may have won the election — and many Tories are relishing this hard-fought win — the Tories should be humbled by what happened last night. But don't count on that. After so many examples of corruption, arrogance, bullying and entitlement, it's likely many in the party will assume it's business as usual. Why change something that's worked for them repeatedly?

So, Redford will proceed with her national energy strategy. Just imagine what a political football that could wind up being — should Quebec's separatist PQ government win the next provincial election in la belle province.

Redford, if she keeps her promises — which thankfully, she doesn't always do — will spend billions more than she budgeted to spend in her deficit budget, which she passed just days before dropping the writ.

Last night in her victory speech, Redford made no mention of the party being humbled at all. Why would she? They won at deadline time 61 of a possible 87 seats. That's less than Ed Stelmach won in 2008, but with voter turnout much higher, it can be viewed as a much stronger mandate.

So, the big unions, the big spenders, the social engineers and the nanny statists finally have won power in Alberta.

The big difference now, compared to years past, is there will be a strong opposition party on the right holding this government to account.

Calgary Herald, Tues Apr 25 2012
Byline: Licia Corbella

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