TORONTO – A meeting of Canada's federal Conservative party was described as being like a "morgue" a day after Alberta, Canada's most conservative province, elected a left-of-center provincial government, ending a 44-year-old conservative party dynasty.
Voters in the western oil-rich province chose a New Democratic Party government. The stunning result had the federal Conservatives worried ahead of October's federal election.
Alberta is the base of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative party but Deepak Obhrai, a federal Conservative lawmaker, said that so-called safe seats can't be considered safe anymore. The Conservatives hold 26 of Alberta's 28 federal seats. Justice Minister Peter MacKay described a Conservative party meeting Wednesday as being "like a morgue."
"Someone said it was like Albertastan now," MacKay said.
Alberta is sometimes called the Texas of the North. But Alberta did what was previously unthinkable — elect a social democrat party.
Few had predicted such a result just 29 days ago when the election was called by Progressive Conservative Alberta Premier Jim Prentice, a former top cabinet minister in Harper's federal Conservative government. Prentice suffered a humiliating defeat and quit politics Tuesday night. He was previously considered a candidate to replace Harper one day.
Gaffes by Prentice during the campaign, voter fatigue with Alberta's Progressive Conservative party after 44 uninterrupted years of rule and a vote split on the right contributed to the Progressive Conservative party's historic loss.
Federal New Democrats in Ottawa celebrated the victory by their provincial party mates. "They said the NDP could never win in Alberta. Canadians want change," NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said.
But Nelson Wiseman, a University of Toronto political science professor, said the federal Conservatives needn't worry about the NDP in Alberta, noting the party finished fourth and fifth in two federal by-elections last year and noting the federal conservatives don't have to worry about a vote split on the right because there is no other federal conservative party.
"The Conservatives should be happy with NDP gains because, if they come, they will be overwhelmingly at the expense of the Liberals," Wiseman said. Most analysts believe the opposition federal Liberals pose a bigger threat to Harper's Conservatives than the NDP in October's federal election.
Incoming Alberta New Democrat Premier Rachel Notley, in her first full day on the job, sought to reassure business leaders, saying she would call them and would work with them to build the province. Notley has vowed to raise corporate tax rates and conduct a review of the province's royalty structure to ensure that Albertans are getting a fair return for their oil and gas resources. Alberta has the world's third largest oil reserves, with 170 billion barrels of proven reserves.
Energy stocks led Canada's main stock exchange to a triple-digit drop Wednesday as investors weighed the potential impacts of the election of a NDP government in Alberta.