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Political observers say Prime Minister Jason Kenney’s unpopularity for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to federal conservatives getting a lower share of the Albertan vote in last week’s federal election than in 2019 and 2015.


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Following a campaign that coincided with rising COVID-19 numbers in Alberta, increased public pressure for Kenney to do more, and his decision to eventually implement restrictions days before voters went to the polls.Alberta went from a non-conservative MP in Heather McPherson of the NDP to four. McPherson will be joined by Blake Desjarlais from the NDP in Edmonton Griesbach, Randy Boissonnault from Liberal at Edmonton Center and George Chahal from Liberal in Calgary Skyview.

While Alberta remains a Conservative stronghold, only 55.3% of Albertans voted Conservative this year compared to 69% in 2019 and 59.5% in 2015.

Throughout the campaign, the NDP and Liberals attempted to link Kenney with Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, who initially praised the response to the Alberta pandemic but did not speak on the issue in the final days of the campaign.


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Chaldeans Mensah, a political scientist at MacEwan University, said the move was an effective wedge issue for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who connected in the minds of voters how Kenney was handling the pandemic with the way that O’Toole would run as prime minister.

“Mr. Kenney took a low-key approach, he did not insert himself into the campaign, but his popularity really took on great importance,” said Mensah.

“I think it was largely responsible in urban centers for the uptick in support for progressive options – NDP and liberals – in big cities.”

Mount Royal University associate professor of policy studies Lori Williams said O’Toole’s decision to originally endorse Kenney’s COVID-19 plan hurt him.

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“So part of that, yeah, is the mismanagement, the lack of balance, the too little, too late approach to tackling the Alberta pandemic, but it was combined with the fact that Erin O’Toole supported the approach. Jason Kenny, “he said.


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Kenney’s office did not respond to a request for comment for this story. In an interview on the Roy Green Show Sunday when asked if Trudeau “attacked” him during the campaign, Kenney called the liberal campaign “divisive.”

“All I can say is that here in Alberta almost 90 percent of the returning MPs are Conservative MPs and the people in this province are still, I think rightly so, very concerned about the fairly open hostility from the Trudeau government. … towards our largest industries, “he said.

In Alberta’s rural districts, where Conservatives are largely viewed as shoo-ins, voters appear to have used their ballot as a protest vote against the Conservatives, said Ken Boessenkool, a former adviser to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other conservative leaders.


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“But I think the critical point, and I think the point that most people are missing, is that a lot more votes went to the NDP than to the PPC,” he said.

“And if we’re talking about the implications for Alberta policy, I think… Jason Kenney, misinterpreted the public mood, waited too long to bring the vaccine passport and restrictions, and if anything, the signal was that the vote was diverted from the Conservatives to the NDP, and not to some fringe party. “

In Alberta, the federal NDP got 19.1% of the vote, the Liberals 15.5%, and the People’s Party of Canada 7.4%.

“PPC only got seven percent in Alberta. That’s a fairly small percentage of people who voted to be against the additional restrictions, so I think the signal clearly has to go the other direction, Boessenkool said.


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He credits the federal NDP’s jump of 11.6 percent in 2019 to provincial leader Rachel Notley.

“You would think that people would vote for someone who is going to form a government. But no, people are voting for the NDP and I think that shows that Rachel Notley has warm skirts in Alberta. “

Mensah said the Alberta NDP was able to use its popularity to rally support for the federal party.

“It allowed the volunteers from the provincial scene, and all its organizational strength, to be used to drive different campaigns,” he said, pointing particularly to Edmonton Griesbach where Desjarlais won by 1,468 votes.

Boessenkool said he would not want liberals to think that his improvement in Alberta was entirely his own.

“They should send a nice Christmas card to Jason Kenney at Christmas this year.”

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