As of 11:30 p.m. Monday, support for Conservatives in Alberta was down about 14 per cent since the last federal election.
Approximately 55 per cent of Alberta votes were for the Conservatives, 15 per cent for the Liberals, 19 per cent for the New Democrats and 7.6 per cent for the People’s Party of Canada.
Alberta went into the 2021 federal election with one NDP seat surrounded by a sea of Tory blue.
While the majority of ridings remained Conservative, some tight races in the major cities were in jeopardy as two Liberal candidates and one NDP candidate were neck-and-neck with their respective Tory incumbents early Tuesday morning.
Late Monday, Liberal candidate and former Calgary city councillor George Chahal was projected to win over Conservative incumbent Jagdeep (Jag) Sahota in Calgary-Skyview.
Chahal pointed to his work on city council with all levels of government when talking about how he will represent Calgary and Alberta in government.
“We’ve shown that when all levels of government work together, we can get a lot done,” Chahal told reporters. “We’ve had strong partnerships municipally with the federal government in building the Green Line (LRT) and major infrastructure projects we’ve delivered to Calgary.
“We can continue on that work but we need to make sure that we are working together for the best interest of Calgarians, and we’ve got to put partisanship to the side and focus on delivering for our city and province.”
As of Tuesday morning, NDP candidate Blake Desjarlais is projected to take the riding of Edmonton Griesbach from Conservative incumbent Kerry Diotte.
In the 2019 federal election, Diotte won the riding with 51.4 per cent. In the 2021 vote, Desjarlais took 40 per cent of the vote (to Diotte’s 37.5 per cent).
His win would bring Alberta’s total NDP seats to two: NDP incumbent Heather McPherson is projected to take Edmonton Strathcona again.
“I’m hopeful that I won’t be the only New Democrat going to Ottawa from Alberta,” McPherson said Monday night.
Edmonton Mill Woods
Also Tuesday morning, Conservative Tim Uppal is projected to hang on to his seat in Edmonton Mill Woods after a close battle with Liberal candidate and former Edmonton city councillor Ben Henderson.
In the 2019 election, Uppal won the seat with 50.3 per cent of the vote. This time, Uppal took 37.9 per cent of the vote and Henderson took 33.7 per cent.
Uppal said he is grateful for the campaign support and he believes the fact the race was so close is a sign that “people are engaged.”
“We’re going to look at the numbers,” he said when asked what his assessment is of voting shifts in the riding.
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But, as of early Tuesday morning, the vote counts in Edmonton Centre were too close to call and mail-in ballots will need to be counted in order to make a final call.
Liberal candidate Randy Boissonnault is neck and neck with Conservative incumbent James Cumming in Edmonton Centre. Boissonnault won the seat for the Liberals in 2015 before losing it to Cumming in 2019.
In a speech on Facebook Live early Tuesday morning, Boissonnault thanked everyone who helped him with his campaign and said while his team knew recapturing the seat would require heavy lifting, “we still don’t yet know if we’ve lifted quite enough to win.”
“Whatever happens tomorrow, later this week, tonight — we’ve succeeded,” he said as the race in his riding remained too close to call.
Boissonnault said he believes win or lose, voters in his riding showed “progressives are here” and their “voices will be heard.”
He suggested the federal Liberals have taken a different approach to dealing with COVID-19 than federal Conservatives have called for and that he believes many in his riding were not happy that “our calls for compassionate, science-based solutions to the challenges of our time were openly mocked by the provincial conservative government.”
Conservative support down in Alberta
Former Saskatchewan premier and election night analyst for Global News, Brad Wall, wondered if Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s moderate, middle-of-the-road platform pushed the conservative base to the PPC.
“It’s going to be very important for the Conservative party to reach out to their base in Alberta and Saskatchewan,” Wall said.
“People in the base will be saying: ‘All right, we tried it this way, we significantly modified the platform, adopted a carbon tax as part of our policy, and we’re still here, and the map’s still blue in these provinces, but it didn’t work.
“I think there will be some pressure and some challenge for Mr. O’Toole and the Conservative caucus to make sure that base stays, that it isn’t starting to look at other options.”
As of 11:30 p.m. Monday night, the PPC came in second in five Alberta ridings: Bow River, Fort McMurray-Cold Lake, Lakeland, Peace River-Westlock and Yellowhead.
Outgoing Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi pointed out that the Conservatives still won nearly all the seats in Saskatchewan and Alberta.
“The base is still there.
“Conservatives in this part of the world are always worried that base is going to disappear and it never does. They were worried about the Reform party from before.”
Nenshi said the Conservatives could make two mistakes coming out of this campaign with a lower popular vote in Western Canada.
“The first one is to do that retention hook, and the second one is to think you actually moderated the party and you failed, because that platform was a surprise to everybody, even people in the party didn’t know that was happening.
“There has only been 36 days of the Conservatives having a conversation about how they can re-tool as a party that is about workers rights, about helping people get ahead, about anti-elite party,” Nenshi said.
“I don’t think this is a failure, they just didn’t get enough time to see if it actually works or not.”
Wall suggested there wouldn’t be a lot of support for that kind of platform from the base in Saskatchewan and Alberta.
“A lot of the base wasn’t real happy with it, especially the carbon tax,” he said.
“At least I think it should be on the radar for the leader and the caucus to be concerned about that. I think they ought to be mindful of the feelings of the Tory base in Western Canada,” Wall said.
Political experts also raised Premier Jason Kenney’s handling of the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and whether or not that may have impacted support for the federal Conservatives in the election.
“COVID-19 was the predominant conversation,” McPherson said about election campaigning.
“And we heard a lot about how the provincial government has failed to protect Albertans. We heard a lot of concern about the response to COVID-19 and we heard a lot of people asking why we were having an election during the fourth wave of a global health pandemic.”
–with files from Adam Toy, Global News