By Trevor Busch
When the ballots were all in and counted on May 29, there was no doubt Alberta’s United Conservative Party had secured a majority election win.
But as the dust settled, it was also clear Danielle Smith and the UCP would be returning to the provincial legislature with far fewer MLAs in tow than Jason Kenney did in 2019.
Dropping from 60 to 49 while the NDP increased their seat total from 23 to 38 has created a more balanced legislature than in the previous four years, and a much stronger opposition should ensure the UCP will be held to account.
“It will affect it,” said Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter. “And first of all, there’s nothing wrong with a strong opposition. I think that it keeps the government on track and keeps us frosty with the things that we need to do. And so there’s nothing wrong with that.”
In the 2019 election, the UCP took 54.9 per cent of the vote, to the NDP’s 32.7 per cent. In 2023, the UCP dropped to 52.6 per cent, while the NDP leapt forward to 44.1 per cent.
“Congratulations to the NDP – there was probably about six seats in Calgary that were within 500-600 votes that could have gone to us as well. So we could have been looking at 54 or 55 seats, which would be a bigger majority,” said Hunter. “But a win is a win is a win, and it’s a majority government. So we’re excited about that. We’ve got a mandate, we’ve won the popular vote 52.6 per cent.”
While vote counts and percentages tell one story, glancing at a provincial electoral map tells another entirely. The NDP dominated in mostly urban ridings in Edmonton and Calgary, but rural Alberta has remained solidly tory almost across the board.
“I think that we move forward now with confidence that the majority of Albertans feel we’re on the right track. I think what they’re really looking for is a steady hand at the helm,” said Hunter. “There’s tumultuous times in the world. They want to know that we’re going to be careful with the money and then we’re going to spend those those dollars wisely, then we’re going to have good health care – good, proper, effective health care. And so we need to make sure that that’s properly funded and properly managed, and that we have the proper wraparound services that Albertans have come to depend on.”