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PCs defy pollsters, win surprise majority

By: Dawn Smith

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Apr 25, 2012 06:18 pm

Elections Alberta recorded a voter turnout of 57 per cent in Monday's election, the province's highest in nearly 20 years. Albertans chose the PC party to lead them for the next four years, despite predictions of a Wildrose victory by pollsters.
Elections Alberta recorded a voter turnout of 57 per cent in Monday's election, the province's highest in nearly 20 years. Albertans chose the PC party to lead them for the next four years, despite predictions of a Wildrose victory by pollsters.
Covy Moore/Rocky View Publishing

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Despite polls suggesting otherwise, Alison Redford and the Progressive Conservatives pulled off a surprise majority win, extending the party’s 41-year tenure as Alberta’s government, April 23.

Pollsters had Danielle Smith’s Wildrose party leading throughout the 28-day campaign, with an average 10-point lead over the PCs, a lead that was reversed on Election Day.

In a conference call, held April 24, Redford said she was “not as surprised as everyone else” about the results of the election, which had a record voter turnout of 57 per cent, the highest since the 1993 provincial election.

“We campaigned hard,” she said. “We door-knocked and we listened to Albertans. We are looking forward to the next four years.”

When the legislature closed in March, the PCs had 66 seats, the Liberals eight, the Wildrose four, NDP two and Alberta Party one. There was one independent and one vacancy in the Legislature.

Electoral boundaries were adjusted and four new ridings were added for this election, bringing the total from 83 to 87.

The PCs took 61 of those seats, garnering 44 per cent of the popular vote.

The Wildrose party, which will form the official opposition, won 17 seats and earned 34 per cent of the popular vote.

The Liberals took five seats and the Alberta New Democratic Party took four.

During the difficult and sometimes spiteful campaign, which culminated in the first woman being elected to run the province, the PCs overcame several controversies, including a letter sent by MLA Hector Godreau that was called an attempt to bully a northern school board, a committee whose members earned $1,000 per month despite not meeting for 39 months and a public health-care inquiry that was limited in terms.

The Wildrose campaign was also fraught with controversy after Edmonton candidate Allan Hunsperger’s blog post about homosexuals burning in a lake of fire was reported in the media.

Danielle Smith took a second hit after Calgary candidate Ron Leech said religious minorities wouldn’t represent the community as well as a Caucasian could.

Redford said there was a shift in public opinion after the leader’s debate.

During the conference call, Redford fielded a question about colleagues who had lost their seats, including Ted Morton who was defeated by Wildrose’s Bruce McAllister by more than 4,000 votes in the new Chestermere-Rocky View riding.

“I was disappointed to see a few of those results,” said Redford.

1“In political campaigns, we know things change. I am going to thank them very much for their public service.”

Redford said the Legislature would have a spring sitting, adding the party would be making some decisions but wouldn’t reveal what would be on the agenda.

Rob Anderson, the re-elected Wildrose MLA for Airdrie, said the party would relish the five-fold increase it achieved despite its expectations going into the election.

“Expectations were built so high with regards to the polling, they had everyone fooled,” he said.

“We took the high road and unfortunately our opponents didn’t and we suffered because of that. At the end of the day, this will make us a stronger party, we have time to develop ourselves.”


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