It was not the outcome Kenney had hoped for, having campaigned on behalf of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer on the trail in Ontario and Manitoba, and touting some of Justin Trudeau’s policies as anti-Albertan. But his campaigning, one expert says, didn’t change things where it mattered — the Greater Toronto Area.
The Liberals’ minority win was defined by significant gains in the Maritimes, Quebec and Ontario. Albertans, however, voted overwhelmingly Conservative, defeating three incumbent Liberal MPs in the process. The one exception was the riding of Edmonton Strathcona, which went to the federal NDP.
In response to the election results, Kenney said Tuesday there is a “profound sense of alienation (in Alberta) that must be taken very seriously,” and that many Albertans feel betrayed. He said he spoke to Trudeau earlier in the day to congratulate him on his win, but made a point to relay those concerns. Kenney also wrote a lengthy letter to Trudeau outlining what he believes should be top of mind for the federal government to ensure Albertans’ anxieties are addressed.
Kenney said the overwhelmingly Conservative vote in Western Canada is “one loud voice of defiance,” and he challenged Trudeau to pay attention to the demands of these provinces.
“We demand fairness, we demand respect, we demand the right to responsibly develop … the wealth on which our whole country depends,” Kenney said.
In the letter, Kenney outlined demands to Trudeau’s government, including ensuring the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project will go ahead and help to get Alberta’s oil to global markets.
Kenney also called for reform on the current equalization formula, which he has repeatedly stated is unfair to Albertans, despite his role in the federal cabinet under Stephen Harper that signed off on the current formula. The premier leveraged an equalization referendum in two years’ time if no progress is made on the pipeline.
“I want people to keep their eye on the prize, focus on the most important economic imperative, which is the completion of that pipeline,” Kenney said.
Kenney also doubled down on his disagreement with the federal carbon tax put forward by Trudeau’s government, despite New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs’ remarks earlier Tuesday that his Conservative government may abandon a court challenge against it. For Kenney, the fight against the carbon tax will continue, he said, by asserting Alberta’s provincial rights through the courts.
The 40 days leading up to election night were marked by relentless campaigning from all of Canada’s major federal parties, but Kenney was one of the few provincial premiers to join the campaign trail as well. He travelled to Ontario in early October to campaign on behalf of Scheer and rally support for the Conservative campaign, and more recently to Manitoba.
“I don’t think Andrew (Scheer) needs my help, but I want to pitch in,” Kenney said prior to his Ontario trip “I ran on a commitment to Albertans to do everything we can to defeat the Trudeau government because of its attacks on Alberta.”
But Kenney’s criticisms of Trudeau started before the federal election. On the Alberta election campaign trail earlier in the year, and since becoming premier in April, Kenney has criticized the Trudeau government’s bills C-48 and C-69 as attacks on Alberta, since the former bans tanker traffic off a portion of British Columbia’s coast and the latter changes how energy projects are reviewed.
During his Ontario trip, Kenney made visits to a few ridings in the Greater Toronto Area. Notably, however, those ridings overwhelmingly voted Liberal, which indicates that Kenney’s presence may not have done much at all to raise the popularity of Scheer and the Conservatives, according to political analysts.
“There’s no evidence that he managed to flip any riding to Conservative that wouldn’t have gone Conservative otherwise,” Calgary-based political commentator Janet Brown said, and added it may have to do with the unpopularity of Ontario’s Conservative Premier Doug Ford.
“Ontario just decided to hold their nose (and) vote for Trudeau again,” Brown said.
Brown said Kenney also chose to visit during Dussehra festivities, a prominent Hindu holiday, to appeal to bigger ethnic communities as a way of connecting with them in hopes of gaining Conservative votes. “It almost felt like he was there as the former immigration minister, not as the premier of Alberta,” Brown said.
But despite this, his efforts didn’t reap any benefits in the 905.
Kenney called Scheer “a good friend” of his on Tuesday, and that he is confident in his ability as leader of the federal Conservatives despite the party’s failure to form government. He advised Scheer, however, to connect further with communities that include a lot of new Canadians — like in the GTA — which he said are “naturally Conservative.”
Kenney also campaigned in Manitoba ahead of election day with Conservative candidate Marty Morantz, with much better results — Morantz won in his west Winnipeg riding by more than 2,000 votes over the Liberal candidate.
But despite the overall outcome of the federal election not being what Kenney and the majority of Albertans wanted, the premier said he is prepared to work with Trudeau’s Liberal government.
“We’re prepared to find a way forward,” Kenney said.
With files from Kieran Leavitt and The Canadian Press