Yesterday, Alberta’s ruling party managed to fend off an electoral insurrection by the new, fiscally conservative and quasi-libertarian Wildrose Party. Wildrose, formed only in 2008, was the first serious challenge in a long time for the Progressive Conservative Party, who have held Alberta’s government for more than 40 years.
Right up until the vote, polling indicated Wildrose had a small lead. But the final tally left Wildrose with only 17 seats, the Progressive Conservatives (PCs) with 62, and the centrist Liberals and the avowedly socialist New Democratic Party with 4 each.
The PCs were bogged down by the disappointment of the electorate with the inevitable corruption and inefficiency of the elected government. Not having ever governed, Wildrose had the advantage of maintaining a vague platform and tapping into broad discontent with the economic situation. Alberta, an oil-rich province, has long resented the “equalization payments” that Canada’s richer provinces pay to its poorer ones.
But some Wildrose candidates committed off-message gaffes of sexual intolerance and racial insensitivity, despite the party leadership’s attempt to focus on fiscal rather than social issues. The resultant image of uncouth social conservatism may have hurt the party with undecided voters, who, in the end, preferred the devil they know.