Jason Kenney has capped his three-year goal of uniting Alberta’s political right, leading his United Conservative Party to a majority win over the province’s first-ever NDP government.
Created in 2017 through a merger of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties, early results project the UCP to win a majority of seats in Tuesday’s provincial election.
Rachel Notley’s NDP will become Alberta’s Official Opposition. The party dropped from 52 seats, with the majority of support concentrated in Notley’s home base of Edmonton.
Kenney, a former cabinet minister in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, won the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservative party in 2016 before leading the PCs into a successful 2017 merger with the Wildrose Party. That same year, he won the UCP leadership handily in a contest later marred by controversy.
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NDP cabinet minister Oneil Carlier loses his seat in Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland to Shane Getson of the UCP.
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In the ridings surrounding Edmonton, the UCP has won Spruce Grove-Stony Plain, where Searle Turton had a substantial lead over NDP incumbent Erin Babcock. The UCP is also ahead in Strathcona-Sherwood Park, with Nate Glubish ahead of NDP candidate Moira Váne. The UCP is also ahead in Morinville-St. Albert.
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NDP candidates elected in Edmonton: David Shepherd is projected to win in Edmonton-City Centre. Janis Irwin is expected to win in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood.
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The UCP has kept its two seats in Fort McMurray: Laila Goodridge is re-elected in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche and Tany Yao is re-elected in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo.
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UCP leader Jason Kenney wins seat in Calgary-Lougheed, CBC projects.
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More UCP candidates elected: Garth Roswell in Vermilion-Lloydminister-Wainwright, Nathan Horner in Drumheller-Stettler, Mark Smith in Drayton Valley-Devon, Grant Hunter in Taber-Warner, Travis Toews in Grande Prairie-Wapiti, Ron Orr in Lacombe-Ponoka, Glenn van Dijken in Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock, and Drew Barnes in Cypress-Medicine Hat.
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More Edmonton results coming in: In Edmonton Castle-Downs, NDP candidate Nicole Goehring is ahead of UCP candidate Ed Ammar. In Edmonton South-West, a new riding created in this election, UCP candidate Kaycee Madu is leading over NDP candidate John Archer.
It appears to be a close race in Edmonton-Meadows, with NDP candidate Jasvir Deol leading UCP candidate Len Rhodes. Rhodes, the former president and CEO of the Edmonton Eskimos, was hand-picked by Kenney.
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Former Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark, who is running in Calgary-Elbow, said he thinks the party will surprise people with how many votes it brings in.
“I don’t think the divisiveness we saw in this campaign was good for Alberta, I do think it brought people to our party,” he said.
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The UCP’s Michaela Glasgo is projected to win in Brooks-Medicine Hat.
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The UCP is leading in 35 of 48 ridings reporting so far, and cheers fill UCP headquarters in Calgary as the results begin to roll in.
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Voting has been extended in Central Peace-Notley until 9:10 p.m. because two polling stations were late opening Tuesday morning.
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Close race in Edmonton-McClung: NDP incumbent Lorne Dach has 36 votes, the UCP’s Laurie Mozeson has 27 and Alberta Party leader has 23 votes. Only one of 81 polls reporting.
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The UCP is currently ahead in conservative strongholds Drumheller-Stettler, Brooks-Medicine Hat, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, and Highwood. The party is also ahead in Lesser Slave Lake, a riding currently held by the NDP.
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First polls to report: Mark Smith, the UCP’s embattled candidate in Drayton Valley-Devon, is ahead with 178 votes, to 35 for the NDP’s Kieran Quirke.
One riding that has yet to close is Calgary-Acadia. The poll opened 33 minutes late due to a lockdown at the school, so that station will remain open until 8:33 p.m.
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The polls have now closed and the votes are being counted in the 2019 Alberta election. You can follow our live coverage here from our team of CBC reporters as the results begin to stream in.
This story will be updated throughout the night …
Below is our election coverage from earlier today:
Albertans are going to the polls today to decide whether to give Rachel Notley and the NDP government a second mandate, or choose Jason Kenney and the United Conservative Party to lead the province for the next four years.
Notley cast her vote Tuesday morning at the Old Timers Cabin in Edmonton, alongside children Ethan and Sophie Arab who are voting for the first time in a provincial election.
“It’s going; it’s going; it’s gone. Can’t change my mind now,” Notley said, sliding her ballot into the box.
Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel and his wife Lynn Mandel cast their ballot at Centennial School in Edmonton, the school his children attended.
“It’s kind of gone all the way around the circle,” he said.
Kenney and Liberal Party Leader David Khan voted last week in Calgary at advance polls.
UCP and NDP vie for majority
If the UCP wins a majority today, it shows Albertans have decided to embrace the party’s economic message and ignore allegations of fraud surrounding Kenney’s successful 2017 leadership bid, and the racist and homophobic views espoused by some current and former candidates.
A UCP victory would also put an end to Alberta’s first NDP government, which in 2015 broke the Progressive Conservatives’ 44-year grip on power, and bring Kenney’s three-year push to unite Alberta conservatives under a single party to a successful conclusion.
- Get the latest news, photos and video from CBC staff in our live blog as Alberta elects a new government:
If Notley is able to hold on to power, it will show her campaign, with its focus on Kenney’s social conservative views and investigations into the 2017 UCP leadership race, created enough doubt in voters’ minds about his suitability to govern.
The Alberta Party is looking to get leader Stephen Mandel elected to the legislature and to increase the three seats it held in the last legislature.
The UCP has consistently led the NDP in the polls throughout the campaign.
Turnout in last week’s advance polls set new records, with 696,000 votes cast over five days, three times the amount cast in advance during the last election.
However, 223,000 of those ballots were cast by people voting outside of their electoral divisions, which means they won’t be counted until Wednesday. Some of the closer races may not be decided Tuesday.
Polls close at 8 p.m. MT on Tuesday.
A divisive, toxic campaign
The campaign has been bitter and divisive since it officially started on March 19.
NDP signs have been destroyed and stolen; a Red Deer resident had an anti-NDP message scratched into the side of their SUV; and angry rhetoric has filled social media feeds.
Notley is facing an uphill battle to keep her 52 seats, particularly outside her home base of Edmonton. She spent most of her campaign in Calgary, where her party won 15 of 25 seats in 2015, mostly due to split of votes between the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties.
Notley came to office not long after oil prices began their steep drop in 2014. The resulting recession led to large job losses, particularly in Calgary. While the economy has improved, the jobs have not come back, a point Kenney kept hammering home during the campaign.
- VOTE COMPASS | Find out how your views on campaign issues line up with the platforms of Alberta’s major parties
Notley has framed the question for voters as asking who they trust to be premier — her or Kenney.
The NDP initially made Kenney‘s past activism against abortion rights and LGBTQ issues a focus of its campaign, in an effort to portray him as out of step with mainstream Alberta.
Notley shifted her campaign during the last two weeks to focus on what her party would do for Calgary. She has argued Kenney’s plan to end her oil-by-rail deal would damage the city’s economic prospects, and that his promise to cut corporate taxes would not create jobs.
She claimed Kenney’s vow to “get tough with Ottawa” is nothing more than political theatre and won’t get shovels in the ground for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion. She claims that Kenney’s vow to hold the line on spending amounts to a cutback for a growing province.
Kenney’s campaign has focused on jobs, the economy and pipelines. He repeatedly brings up what he calls Notley’s “failed alliance” with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that hasn’t brought Alberta any closer to a coastal pipeline. Kenney is vowing to end the province’s carbon tax, and fight the federal plan that will be imposed in its absence in court.
The NDP decided to build infrastructure and maintain government services during the economic downturn. Kenney has made this decision, which has landed Alberta billions in debt, into a campaign issue.
Mark Smith, other controversies
Over the past 28 days, Kenney has faced a steady stream of allegations about the UCP leadership campaign in 2017.
More damaging allegations emerged last week suggesting fraudulent emails were used to cast ballots for Kenney. The matter has come to the attention of the RCMP who have interviewed at least one person whose name was attached to a fake email address. Kenney has defended the voting process used during the campaign.
At the midpoint of the campaign, a six-year-old sermon from UCP Drayton Valley-Devon candidate Mark Smith became a huge issue for Kenney.
Smith claimed same-sex unions aren’t real love and that women who have abortions are murdering their babies.
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On April 3, Kenney was called to task in a combative interview with national conservative radio host Charles Adler, particularly for his choice to let Smith stay as the candidate in the reliably conservative riding.
On Monday, Kenney claimed he did not know why a business belonging to Peter Singh, the UCP candidate in Calgary-East, was searched by RCMP on Thursday night.
During the campaign, Notley has faced questions about her decision to withhold the names of the two NDP MLAs who were investigated for sexual misconduct since 2015. Notley claims releasing their names would identify the complainants. It is not known if the two caucus members in question are running in this election.
Or, listen to the radio special starting at 8 p.m. MT on CBC Radio One.
This story originally appeared on CBC