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New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley greets supporters after her party swept the polls, ousting the Tories, who have ruled Alberta for 44 years. (Photo: Rachel Notley/Facebook)

In Blow to Tar Sands Industry, NDP Sweeps Alberta Elections

In historic shake-up, Canadian voters overwhelming back party that promised higher corporate taxes and less support for pipelines

Lauren McCauley

In what some say is a clear rebuke of Big Oil dominance in the region, voters in Alberta, Canada on Tuesday overwhelming backed the liberal New Democratic Party, ousting the tar sands industry-friendly Progressive Conservatives led by outgoing Premier Jim Prentice.

Alberta is frequently referred to as "Canada's most conservative province," and the Progressive Conservative Party, known as the Tories, have held power there for the past 44 years.

"I think we might have made a little bit of history tonight," NDP leader Rachel Notley told supporters Tuesday night. "Friends, I believe, that change has finally come to Alberta. New people, new ideas and a fresh start for our great province."

The NDP, which claimed over 41 percent of the popular vote, won 53 legislative seats, beating the right-win Wildrose Party, which took 21, while the PCs only landed 10 seats. According to CBC, "There was a tie in one Calgary riding—Calgary-Glenmore—between the PCs and NDP. A recount will take place in the next few days. The Liberals and the Alberta Party each claimed one seat."

Notley had campaigned on promises to boost corporate taxes, scale back support for pipeline projects, and phase out coal power more quickly.

The shake-up comes amid scrutiny over the Alberta government's failure to collect billions in resource revenue from oil and gas development, which has deprived province taxpayers from their fair share of profits from the region's dominant industry. Notley has sworn to review the government's current royalty policy over objections from the energy industry.

Following the NDP victory, Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein congratulated Notley on Twitter and offered hopeful advice for the province's future energy policy:

And Alberta-based blogger and journalist David Climenhaga said the prospect of a liberal power-shift in Alberta had many voters exclaiming: "Pinch me! Am I dreaming?" 

"There's a reason for this," Climenhaga writes.

He continues:

If there's anything at all to the idea that Alberta's still conservative place, it's this: After literally generations of conservative governments in power Edmonton, there's a little tiny Tory in the back of every one of our Albertan heads whispering, 'No you can't!'

You can't change anything. You can't protect the environment and still provide energy to the world. You can't benefit from the resources you own like the good people of Alaska or Norway do because … well, you just can't

For several generations now, our tiny inner Tory has been, as a famous American conservative once put it in a slightly different context, "a nattering nabob of negativism." 

Don't try to change anything. Our inner Tory says, You can't do it. Don't try to build a better Alberta. You can't do it. Forget about a more diversified economy. You can't do it. Don't ask us to pay our share when we tell you to pay yours. You can't do it.

So Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley's pitch perfect campaign, which crested at exactly the right moment, achieved the feat of allowing us Albertans to think, "Yes we can!"

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