Alberta Conservatives defy polls, win another vote

Tue Apr 24, 2012 2:11am EDT
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By Jeffrey Jones and Scott Haggett

HIGH RIVER, Alberta (Reuters) - Alberta's Progressive Conservative Party fended off its biggest challenge in more than four decades of rule on Monday, winning a convincing majority as voters balked at handing Canada's top energy-producing province to an upstart right-wing movement that promised traditional values and fiscal restraint.

The ruling party of Premier Alison Redford was winning or leading in 59 of 87 voting districts in the western province of 3.8 million people, garnering 44 percent of votes cast.

Its biggest challenger, the Wildrose Party led by Danielle Smith, was leading or elected in 21 districts and had 35 percent of the vote.

It was a battle of two right-of-center visions in the province that is the largest foreign energy supplier to the United States, and a growing economic force within Canada.

Wildrose had promised to pay out a slice of the province's oil and gas revenue to residents and limit participation in some federal programs, while Redford's PCs - now one of the country's longest-ever political dynasties - promised to increase Alberta's role within the country.

"Every Albertan knew that this election was about choice," Redford said in her victory speech. "A choice to put up walls or build bridges ... Tonight Alberta chose to build bridges."

The Wildrose, who are further to the political right than the Progressive Conservatives and share many political philosophies with the U.S. Tea Party movement, had led in the polls. But the party suffered after two candidates made intemperate comments about sexual orientation and race.

"I acknowledge that we wanted to do better, and we expected to do better. Am I surprised? Yeah. Am I disappointed? Yeah. Am I discouraged? Not a chance," said Smith, who had the support of many of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's campaign workers.   Continued...

PC Alberta leader Alison Redford reacts after she won the provincial election in Calgary, Alberta, April 23, 2012. REUTERS/Todd Korol