Orange Crush: NDP victory in Alberta

“I think we might have made a little bit of history tonight.” Alberta, Canada’s most conservative province, the home of the oil/tar sands, and most of Canada’s oil and gas industry, has elected a majority NDP government. And one run by a woman, at that.

Given that the NDP is a left-wing social democratic party, the traditional third party responsible for nationalized health care and other social programs, that’s rather like Bernie Saunders becoming the Governor of Texas. The victory has been noted in the US and the UK, and has caused some palpitations in the financial press, and a drop in the Toronto Stock exchange.

This is the first win in Alberta for the NDP, but it’s even more of an upset than it first appears: Alberta has been ruled by right-wing parties for 85 years. The exiting PC (Progressive Conservative) government has held power for 44 years, since 1971 , and prior to that, from 1935 to 1971, the province was run by the Social Credit Party, a right-wing Christian populist outfit.

Alberta is usually seen as a right wing paradise: the home of cowboys and cattle ranchers, fundamentalist homeschoolers, creation museums, gun racks on pickup trucks and truck nutz . But it’s changed in the last decade, due to immigration and in-migration from other provinces: Calgary’s mayor, Naheed Nenshi, is a political moderate and Canada’s first Muslim mayor, and ‘visible minorities’ now make up 30% of the city. And Edmonton has always been Redmonton.

The question now is how does this effect Ottawa? Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are based in Alberta, the PM deliberately ties himself to the region, and most of the party’s money and resources stem from the oil industry — leading to some interesting links with Republican politicians and campaign strategies.

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