Out of the 20 Edmonton ridings in the Alberta election, 18 have elected NDP MLAs, according to unofficial results. The remaining two ridings — Edmonton-South West and Edmonton-West Henday — remained too close to call on Wednesday morning.
However, by amassing major support in rural Alberta and Calgary, the United Conservative Party won a majority government in Tuesday’s provincial election. At least 59 UCP MLAs will represent the party in the legislature.
So, what does that mean for Edmonton? Will the city’s voice still be heard at the provincial level?
“Mr. Kenney and I have discussed how important it is for Edmonton to be included in the government’s thinking and priorities,” Mayor Don Iveson said Wednesday.
“Particularly, the importance we play in Alberta’s economy compared to the last time the map looked sort of like this, in the 90s. Edmonton has become so much more important to Alberta’s economy — as a driver of innovation, as a driver of employment, as a driver of GDP.”
Iveson also said the surrounding region is more cohesive than it has been in the past.
“We’ve done so much to align ourselves with our regional partners, who are represented in the new government,” Iveson said. “The map is different and the conditions are different.”
Watch below: Vinesh Pratap takes a look at how the UCP’s election win might impact Edmonton.
For the most part, the city had a good working relationship with the NDP government, but Iveson said staff reached out to all parties ahead of the election.
Iveson congratulated Kenney and the UCP on their victory and was happy the party promised in its platform to keep the infrastructure deal reached with the two biggest Alberta cities.
Watch below: Jason Kenney wishes more UCP candidates in Edmonton were elected but says the Alberta government will “be there for all Edmontonians, including those who work in our public sector.”
The premier-designate said he was pleased to see several UCP candidates elected in the Capital Region but wishes there were more.
“Let me be clear, Edmonton will continue to be deeply important to our work in creating economic growth and jobs,” Jason Kenney said.
“Edmonton has been affected by these four years of economic decline and stagnation — perhaps not quite as badly as other parts of the province — but as I’ve crisscrossed this city and the surrounding areas, I met countless Edmontonians who’ve been affected by the lack of pipelines, by higher taxes, who are concerned about bigger government debt and who want a government focused on jobs, growth and the economy.”
The city’s chief economist made a downward revision to Edmonton’s economic forecast for 2019, but stressed the change was not made in light of the provincial election results.
“It reflects the fact that we had, in terms of employment, a very weak first quarter here, particularly in areas like construction, engineering services, that kind of thing,” John Rose said. “That’s caused me to rethink what 2019 is going to look like. So I’ve brought the forecast down and we’re going to be bouncing around at probably one to 1.5 per cent.”
Rose’s initial forecast for 2019 projected Edmonton’s economy to grow about 2.3 per cent.
He added the province must address the current deficit in a real way.
“Both the leading parties have been talking about stimulus,” Rose said. “They were taking different approaches to it.
“Mr. Kenney was talking about corporate tax cut and the NDP was talking about a more traditional fiscal stimulus to the Alberta economy and that’s a good thing. I’m looking forward to the stimulative aspects of it.
“But we’ve got this fiscal situation with the province and that’s lurking in the background and that has to be addressed in a realistic way,” he said.
Both parties said they were going to get Alberta to a balanced budget, Rose pointed out.
“The UCP was going to do it a year earlier than the NDP.
“But when you scratch a little bit at those numbers, basically what they were both assuming is that you would see a full, strong recovery in non-renewable resource revenues. And my problem is I don’t see that happening.
“We’re going to have to have an adult conversation about how to address the deficit,” Rose said.
Global News asked Rose anecdotally about possible UCP budget cuts or spending freezes and their potential impact on Edmonton.
“Twenty-seven per cent of our employment is in health care, education, or public administration here in the Edmonton region and if we saw significant cuts that would hurt us,” he said. “The only two areas of government expenditure that are big enough to provide cuts of the scale required to address the deficit are health care and education and that would hurt us.”
Kenney said the UCP will be there “for all Edmontonians,” including those in the public sector.
“We want to empower front-line public sector workers — our nurses, teachers and others — to make more decisions,” the premier-designate said. “We want to liberate them, I should say, from overbearing centralized bureaucracy and we want to grow our economy so that we have the resources needed to fund high-quality public services.”
Alberta Election Fact Check: Would a UCP spending freeze mean no more teachers and thousands of new students?
Kenney said he’s hopeful, once the special ballots and advance votes are counted, that the UCP will have a stronger Edmonton caucus.
He also hopes more UCP MLAs will be added in the future.
“There’s been a long history of free-enterprise governments with a relatively small number of MLAs from the Edmonton region, which governments went on to elect more Edmonton MLAs in the future,” Kenney said.
“That’s my goal: to lead a government that fights for the interests of all Albertans, including Edmontonians, that creates jobs and growth and opportunity in this great city, and then we hope, in the next election, Edmontonians will give us a second chance by electing more MLAs.”
“It’s no secret that this is a city where there is a larger share of the population whose employment is attached to the public sector rather than the private sector,” he added. “Maybe that’s one of the reasons for the historic difference in voting patterns.
“But I think mainly it’s because the number one issue in this election was jobs and the economy. And Edmonton has not been as severely affected as Calgary and other parts of the province by the economic downturn.”