Voters in oil-rich Alberta – Canada’s most right-wing province and home of the tar sands – defied the polls and re-elected a Progressive Conservative government on Monday that’s been in power 41 years, the National Post reported.
It’s the 12th straight majority government for the PCs and the first time Alberta has elected a woman leader.
“Tonight is a very happy night for the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta,” Allison Redford said, according to the Post. “Something very exciting happened in Alberta (Monday). Everyone got engaged in the future of this province again.”
Pre-election polls pegged the upstart Wildrose Party (named for the provincial flower) dividing the right and forcing a minority government, the Globe and Mail said.
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However, three major gaffes in the final days of campaigning appear to have scared Albertans away.
They started with the party’s leader, Danielle Smith, who questioned the science behind climate change.
Two of her candidates – both pastors – were caught in controversial comments, with one linked to a blog post saying homosexuals would burn in a “lake of fire” and the other saying he had a “Caucasian advantage.”
Smith, however, blamed strategic voting for her party’s performance.
“We took some hits in the last week of the campaign that caused people to question whether or not we were ready to form government,” she said, according to the Globe.
“There were a couple of comments from candidates that caused people to pause and worry about what our other candidates might be like.”
In the end, the PCs earned 44 percent of the popular vote and 62 seats in the legislature, CBC News reported.
The Wildrose Party won 17 seats (it had four when the election was called), and will form the official Opposition in the new session. The left-leaning Liberals and New Democrats each won four seats.
Alberta is home to the controversial oil sands project near Fort McMurray.
It’s there TransCanada wants to begin the $7-billion Keystone XL energy pipeline and transport crude to refineries in Texas.
During her campaign, Redford said the Progressive Conservatives would invest $3 billion over 20 years in the oil sands, the Calgary Herald reported.
“In order for us to be able to continue to grow the economy in Alberta, in an environmentally sustainable way, we have to be global leaders with respect to energy development and with respect to environmental sustainability,” she said earlier in Fort McMurray, according to the Herald.
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