Political history was made in Alberta on May 5, as the New Democratic Party brought the Progressive Conservative Party’s 44-year reign of consecutive majority mandates to an end.
The NDP will form a majority government for the first time after winning 53 of the legislature’s 87 seats. The Wildrose Party will once again form the official Opposition after claiming 21 seats. The PCs finished with just 10 seats. Reacting to the PC’s reduction to third-party status, Premier Jim Prentice resigned as leader of the party and gave up his seat in Calgary-Foothills.
“I accept responsibility for tonight’s outcome,” Prentice said in his concession speech. “Clearly, however, my contribution to public life is now at an end. It is time for me to dedicate my time to the other responsibilities I have as a husband and a father and a grandfather.”
Only three of 17 PC cabinet members held on to their seats, and all Wildrose MLAs who crossed over to the PCs in December 2014 lost their ridings as well.
The NDP came away with 40.57 per cent of the popular vote. In her victory speech, NDP premier-designate Rachel Notley said she was humbled by the results and would work hard to earn the trust of Albertans.
“Friends, I believe that change has finally come to Alberta: New people, new ideas and a fresh start for our great province,” Notley said. “I’d also like to say, to Alberta job creators great and small, in the energy sector and in every other sector, our government will be a good partner and we will work with you to grow our economy and to secure a more prosperous future for every Albertan in every community.”
While 60 PC MLAs lost their seats in the legislature, one of the 10 who held on was Vermilion-Lloydminster candidate Richard Starke. Starke secured 47.3 per cent of the vote in his riding, while Wildrose candidate Danny Hozack won 33.3 per cent of the vote and the NDP’s Saba Mossagizi finished in third with 19.3 per cent of the votes cast.
Starke was greeted by cheers as he entered his constituency office. After shaking hands and watching the results come in, he addressed the appreciative crowd.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for being here tonight and thank you for gathering on what is a night that I suspect many of us will remember,” Starke said. “Many of us will remember it for different reasons. But I will tell you that I will always remember this night and I will always be grateful to you for being here and for providing me with such outstanding support for the last three years.”
Starke said that while some people in the room may not have been happy with the election results, he accepts the decision of the electorate and looks forward to returning to Edmonton.
“Our PC caucus will tackle our role in opposition and we will tackle it the same way as we have tackled our role in government: with vision, with passion, with integrity,” he said. “As opposition members, we will constructively criticize policy and not personality. We will be constructive and not destructive, and our gaze will be fixed not on future electoral success, but indeed on Alberta’s success.”
Starke thanked the members of his team for their help in him winning a second mandate before ending his speech on a positive note.
“Ladies and gentleman, tomorrow the task of building a better, stronger and more resilient Alberta begins anew. I have a new task to do, but I
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will tackle that task with vigour, with responsibility and with integrity. As I’ve always said: We have work to do and I’m eager to get back to work,” he said.
In regards to rebuilding the once-mighty PC Party in Alberta, Starke says that is a “big picture” concern which will be addressed in the coming weeks and months.
“There are 44 years of history in our province of Progressive Conservative government, and I would suggest to most people that the vast majority of that time has been very good years for Alberta and I think we have very good years ahead for Alberta,” he said. “Now we’re going to have an opportunity to see a different political vision and political force and what direction they may take the province in. And at some point in the future, Albertans will have an opportunity to have their say on what they think of that direction, and Progressive Conservatives will always be here to answer and to provide a vision and values ... that we believe serve Albertans well, not just for today, but for the future.”