‘Western Canada is angry’: What the Alberta election shows Saskatchewan

United Conservative Party Leader Danielle Smith speaks following the debate in Edmonton on Thursday, May 18, 2023. Jason Franson, The Canadian Press

Danielle Smith will continue as premier for Alberta, but what does the Alberta election mean for the conservative movement seen across the Prairies?

Ken Coates, public policy professor with USask, said the election results weren’t a surprise, noting there was enough of a warning this was going to happen.

Click to play video: 'Recapping Monday’s Alberta Election Results'
Recapping Monday’s Alberta Election Results

He said some pundits assumed the results might be a bit closer.

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“The ones who did careful calculations knew Edmonton was going to go with the NDP, and rural Alberta would go to the UCP,” Coates said.

He said due to some of the challenges Danielle Smith was having leading up to the election, some people thought the UCP might do more poorly.

“Rather strong results given the circumstances.”

Coates said the conservative message is doing quite well across the Prairies, and that Saskatchewan is more conservative than Alberta, pointing to what he calls “Redmonton”, which is the strong NDP presence in Edmonton, as well as the fact that more than half of the seats in Calgary are also going to the NDP.

“Saskatoon is a more conservative city than either of those, and Regina is closer to the Calgary model.”

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He said this sends a message to Premier Scott Moe that there’s no reason for him to veer off course, noting there’s no reason to be deterred by media reaction or NDP criticism.

Click to play video: 'Alberta election: Premier Danielle Smith takes aim at Trudeau during victory speech'
Alberta election: Premier Danielle Smith takes aim at Trudeau during victory speech

“Western Canada is angry right now, and what you’re actually seeing, particularly in the rural areas, is a real frustration with how Canada’s unfolding.”

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He said Alberta has a history of being at odds with Ottawa, noting that the federal Liberals are happy to continue that fight.

“(The Liberals) are going to be kind of emboldened by what they saw in Calgary and Edmonton, and they’ll be able to say, ‘OK, Premier Smith does not speak for every single person in the province of Alberta.'”

Coates said there is a fundamental difference of opinion about the future of the country, noting Alberta and Saskatchewan have a different idea than Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

“I actually see the next five years as being a bit of a existential fight for the future of this country.”

Coates called Saskatchewan the heartland of the conservative movement in Canada, noting there’s a lot of anti-government and anti- federal government mentalities in the Prairies.

On whether the Saskatchewan NDP has a chance to turn things around in the province, Coates pointed out a major fault of the party.

“The NDP is so convinced it is right that it actually has difficulty believing that wise people would not vote for them.”

He said the Saskatchewan NDP can come across as “being superior, and a bit condescending.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent his congratulations to Smith on Tuesday, saying they should “keep working together to deliver results for Albertans.”

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Smith took aim at Trudeau when she took the podium Monday night to celebrate her election win.

“Hopefully the prime minister and his caucus are watching tonight,” she said in her victory speech in Calgary.

“My fellow Albertans, we need to come together no matter how we have voted to stand shoulder to shoulder against soon-to-be announced Ottawa policies that would significantly harm our provincial economy,” Smith told her supporters.

Smith has been leader of the UCP since succeeding Jason Kenney in October 2022.

The United Conservatives ran on a campaign of public safety and affordability measures like a new tax bracket and extending the existing fuel tax savings.

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— with files from Global News’ Sean Boynton, Saba Aziz and Adam Toy. 

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