Albertans voted the United Conservative Party into power, electing Jason Kenney as premier with a large majority. Along with this majority government has come a large mandate for the new government to strengthen the economy and to deliver on promises for more jobs and building pipelines.
According to an emailed statement, “Navigator Ltd. conducted a series of focus groups and in-depth interviews with voters from across the province revealing Albertans want Kenney to act quickly and aggressively against the federal government, other provincial jurisdictions and anyone else standing in the way of the pipeline being built.
“Ultimately [voters] saw the vote as a referendum on two very different tactics to build the pipelines: Rachel Notley’s ‘misguided diplomacy’ vs. Jason Kenney’s ‘gloves off’ approach.”
“[Albertans] rallied around Kenney in unprecedented numbers: 71 per cent of the population voted, the highest turnout since 1935. And the UCP won more votes than any party in Alberta’s history. In Kenney, they saw a figure they could unite around: a strong, experienced politician unafraid to take Alberta on the offensive.”
This article will break down the results that Navigator discovered in their series of conversations and interviews from their post-election study.
Building confidence in the economy
“It’s as if everyone’s economic anxiety crystalized into a singular focus, that pipelines were seen as the only path available to achieve economic recovery,” says Jaime Watt, Executive Chairman at Navigator Ltd. “The sting from this current economic downturn is being felt even more acutely by Albertans because they also feel some other provinces, notably Quebec and British Columbia, along with the federal government, have turned their back on them in their hour of need.”
“Expectations are high that Kenney’s leadership will foster an investment-friendly climate, driven by a reduction in tax rates and newly confident businesses,” says the Navigator report.
Navigator says that any sign of change for the economy will be beneficial for Kenney and his UCP government.
“Any hiring announcement, office opening, ribbon cutting, or public announcement that demonstrates the fruits of this drive for investment will no doubt generate significant good faith,” says Navigator.
Another way for the new UCP government to instill confidence is to reduce corporate taxes to attract corporate investment into the province.
Navigator says that voters seem to be expecting two things from the UCP government right away. First, to scrap the NDP’s carbon tax and second to reduce the corporate tax rate.
Putting Alberta first
Navigator reports that voters may not be as angry with the rest of Canada as they have been lead to believe.
Albertans seem hesitant to be so stern on other provinces. Navigator says voters would like to see Kenney try to be a bit diplomatic at first before taking ‘drastic measure.’
“Unlike in previous elections fueled in part by anger towards other provinces, there is very little appetite even among the most conservative UCP supporters for an Alberta First agenda,” says the report.
The report also says that voters do not see value in isolating themselves from the rest of Canada.
Instead, it appears that Albertans would rather work together with other provinces to achieve their goals. Voters told Navigator that they would like to see an alliance between Alberta and Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick. Albertans want to work with these provinces to repeal the federal carbon tax and to ultimately work together to get pipelines built.
Navigator also talked with voters about equalization payments.
“It is widely understood that, for many years, Alberta has been subsidizing other provinces when they were facing hard economic times. While this has long been the case, the recent difficulties in getting Alberta energy to market has brought this issue to the fore,” according to Navigator.
During the election, voters seemed to pay more attention to equalization payments and specifically channeled their attention and anger towards Quebec.
A common thought that Navigator shares in their report is that a lot of the anger comes from Quebec not helping Alberta in its time of need.
“Quebec went through years of fiscal difficulty supported by Alberta’s equalization payments, and now that [Quebecois] have a balanced budget and low unemployment, they have not only abandoned Alberta in its time of need, but even thwarted its efforts to help them by building a pipeline.”
Kenney vs. Trudeau
“He hates us. I feel like an afterthought to him,” a young female respondent told Navigator of Alberta’s relationship with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Through their interviews, Navigator says, “The anger towards Trudeau Jr. is at least as intense at the anger that existed towards Trudeau Sr. Voters have taken small slights to heart, such as the time the prime minister forgot to name Alberta in a passage of speech rounding off a list of provinces.”
They also reported that Albertans have little faith in the federal government to make the right decision on the Trans Mountain Pipeline. The federal government will have to make a decision by June 18.
Waiting in line for healthcare
Navigator also wrote that Albertans are not happy with their current healthcare system. There appears to be a mandate for Alberta to be more effective in healthcare spending.
“Voters often pointed out unprompted that the province spends more per capita than all others on health care, and yet wait times for procedures are intolerably long,” says the report.
Voters believe that the NDP is to blame for the current healthcare system’s mismanagement of spending and inefficiency.
Navigator says there is a lot of support for the UCP to review Alberta’s healthcare. But, voters still stress that Canada’s public healthcare is still a point of pride for them.
Voters seem to support “private delivery of services where economically feasible, and even open to the idea of private payment for private services … [but,] they were insistent that the foundation public healthcare system remain in place.”
Voters seemed to be hesitant to answer questions about Gay-Straight Alliances, says the Navigator report. “The issue made even staunch UCP supporters uncomfortable.”
Many voters seemed to be indifferent on the issue. They felt like GSAs were used to distract the campaign from economic issues. Some voters felt that GSAs shouldn’t had been an election issue at all.
“Despite NDP attempts to define Kenney as a homophobe, most UCP voters dismissed both Kenney’s arguments about GSAs and NDP attacks about homophobia as campaign rhetoric.”
Kenney’s past comments on homosexuality has been heavily reported on. But, UCP voters looked past them, citing his comments are outdated and that it appears that his attitude has changed.
Albertans seem to be expecting a lot from Kenney and his newly-elected UCP government. There seems to be a clear mandate from the Navigator report as to what Albertans are expecting from Kenney is the first few months and throughout his tenure as premier.
Kenney will be sworn in as premier on April 30, 2019.
“This report outlines the results from Alberta’s only genuine post-election research study, conducted by Navigator, which compiled the findings from eight focus groups in Alberta (Edmonton, Calgary and rural and smaller communities). The focus groups were held on Wednesday, April 17, and Thursday, April 18, 2019. With the deeply emotional observations and strong perspectives gathered from millennials, GenXers, baby boomers, and urban professionals, Navigator has compiled unique insights into why Albertans voted the way they did, what they expect from their new government and what it means for advocacy activities in the years to come. ” – Navigator Ltd.