Canadian politics rarely draws international interest, unless a certain colorful former Toronto mayor is involved. But a snap election in the energy-rich province of Alberta this week shocked Canada and made headlines around the world. The Progressive Conservative (PC) party, which has held continuous control of the province since 1971, lost in a stunning upset to the left-of-center Alberta New Democratic Party (NDP). NDP leader Rachel Notley is set to be the premier—the equivalent of governor—of the heartland of Canadian conservatism and the home province of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose ruling Conservative Party faces tough federal elections this fall.
“I don’t know if anyone outside of Canada can appreciate how shocking an NDP victory in Alberta would be,” Jeet Heer, a Canadian journalist, wrote on Twitter the evening of the vote, adding that it would be as if liberal MSNBC host Chris Hayes, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren took power in conservative Texas and Mississippi.
“Few expected this outcome when the campaign began,” says David McLaughlin, who was chief of staff to former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, himself of the PC party, and is now sustainability adviser to the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo. “Toppling a PC dynasty is one thing, plowing it under with a massive majority NDP government is quite another.”