Smaller parties shoved to the margins in polarizing battle

Even sharply increasing their share of the popular vote couldn’t save the Alberta Party from being wiped off the electoral map on Tuesday.

It was a fate shared by Alberta’s smaller political parties, whose hopes of eking out political bridgeheads was thwarted, caught in the crossfire of a two-combatant race.

The Alberta Party, the largest of the smaller electoral players, managed to increase their percentage of support from 2.2 per cent in 2015 to about 10 per cent Tuesday night.

But party Leader Stephen Mandel went down to defeat in Edmonton and the party lost its three Calgary ridings.

Speaking to supporters in Edmonton, Mandel attributed the defeat to the two-sided tug of war.

“I believe deeply this is a party of the future if we can get rid of this polarization,” he said.

Alberta Liberals, likewise, were denied a seat with its best hope, party Leader David Khan, being blown out in Calgary Mountain View.

Those who broke away from the UCP to run for office, including Freedom Conservative Party Leader Derek Fildebrandt, were soundly trounced by their former colleagues.

The province has moved to a polarized state with little room in the middle, said Mount Royal University communications professor David Taras.

“The centre has disappeared, the choices are on the hard left and the hard right,” said Taras.

“They’re caught in the vice . . . people who might have considered them see their vote would be wasted.”

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In November 2017, Clark stepped down as Alberta Party leader in a move that stunned many, who then questioned the movement’s viability after former Edmonton mayor Mandel succeeded him.

Alberta Liberals’ standard-bearer Khan was hoping to maintain the party’s foothold in the legislature by defending its one seat, the inner-city Calgary Mountain View.

It had been held for the past four terms by former leader Dr. David Swann, who had high hopes his party would retain its sole seat through his successor.

Khan said his party would soldier on.

“We will regroup, reload and carry on, we will continue to advocate on the important issues,” he said.

Days earlier, Swann said the two main parties’ considerable resources had sucked much of the political oxygen away from the Liberals, even in his old riding.

One of Alberta’s newest provincial parties couldn’t find much traction, despite the Freedom Conservative Party leader’s efforts.

About 18 months after scandal led to Fildebrandt’s ouster from the UCP, the one-time Canadian Taxpayers Federation firebrand was determined to take the Chestermere-Strathmore riding from former allies he insists had turned authoritarian.

His call for Alberta to separate from Canada unless it gained true equality didn’t resonate with enough of the electorate, ensuring the UCP’s Leela Aheer easily kept the seat east of Calgary.

The FCP’s other 23 candidates had a similar lack of success.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley repeatedly reached out to the smaller parties’ supporters, insisting a vote for her party was worth more since it could hold the UCP at bay.

“You may not agree with everything we’ve done but we share many of the same values,” was one of her common refrains at campaign stops.

It wasn’t enough to save her government, nor did those smaller parties’ loyalists steer them from legislature oblivion.

BKaufmann@postmedia.com

on Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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