2004 Alberta General Election

Feature by Jay Makarenko || Nov 1, 2004

On November 22, 2004, Albertans elected the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party to a majority government, returning Ralph Klein as the province’s premier. The election represented the tenth consecutive Progressive Conservative government in Alberta; the last time another party held power was in 1971, when the Social Credit Party was in government. This article provides a summary of the 2004 Alberta General Election, including information on pre-election standing and polls, key issues in the election, leaders and platforms of the major political parties, and the election’s final results.

Alberta Electoral Backgrounder

Previous elections and pre-election party standings/polls

2004 Alberta Election Issues

Key issues and debates in the election

Political Parties in 2004 Alberta Election

Policies and leaders of the parties in the election

2004 Alberta Election Results

Alberta Progressive Conservatives win a majority government

Sources and Links for More Information

Lists of article sources and links for more on this topic


2004 Alberta Election Backgrounder

Previous elections and pre-election party standings/polls

2001 General Election Results

The previous general election was held in 2001, with the Progressive Conservative Party winning a landslide victory, picking up 74 of a possible 83 seats in the Alberta legislature. The Alberta Liberals became the Official Opposition, winning seven seats; the New Democrats were elected in two ridings.

Below are the total seat counts and popular vote tallies, by party, for the 2001 Provincial General Election.

Party

Seats

Popular Vote

Status

Progressive Conservatives

74

61.91%

Majority Government

Liberals

7

27.33%

Official Opposition

New Democrats

2

08.03%

Opposition

Alberta First Party

00.87%

Social Credit Party

00.53%

Alberta Greens

00.28%

Communist Party

00.01%

Independent Candidates

01.04%

Legislature Prior to Dissolution

Prior to the dissolution of the Alberta legislature, the Progressive Conservative Party held 73 seats, with the Alberta Liberal Party holding five seats, and the Alberta New Democratic Party holding two seats. There was also one Independent MLA, and two vacant seats in the legislature.

Pre-election Public Opinion Polls

On October 30, 2004, Ipsos-Reid released a public opinion poll that put support for Ralph Klein and his Progressive Conservatives at 50 percent. The poll put support for the Alberta Liberal Party at 26 percent, the Alberta NDP at 10 percent, and the Alberta Alliance Party at nine percent.

The poll also showed a split in the province over the question of whether or not Ralph Klein should complete his term of government, should he win the 2004 campaign. Of those polled, 46 percent believed that Klein should indeed finish his term and even run for a fifth term, while 44 percent suggested they would support Klein stepping aside before the end of his potential fourth term.


2004 Alberta Election Issues

Key issues and debates in the election

Surpluses and Spending

A key issue in the 2004 election was how to spend the provincial government’s surpluses. In the summer of 2004, the PC government announced the province had successfully paid off its debt. Being in the enviable position of having its debt completely paid, and with record prices for oil fueling government revenues, the province found itself in a unique position: namely, where should revenues be spent?

In October 2004, the Alberta government released a survey, titled “It’s Your Future.” The survey polled almost 30,000 Albertans about government spending. Those surveyed indicated strongly that they favoured investing the surplus in areas of high priority, instead of putting the money away in the province’s Heritage Fund, or providing refunds for every Albertan through tax rebates.

The survey also showed that Albertans placed the highest priority on two specific areas: health care and education. Other areas of importance included the environment and tax reduction. In contrast, low priority was given to spending for cities and rural communities, and for diversifying the provincial economy; that is building an economy that is broader than the traditional industries of energy and agriculture through targeted government investment and tax incentives.

This feedback from the general public gave some indication about the specific issues that would shape the campaign, as the parties jockeyed to garner favour with potential voters.

Auto Insurance and Energy

Another issue that played a significant role in the election was government participation in key industries including auto insurance and energy. With respect to the former, the provincial government, under Ralph Klein, had recently brought in new and controversial legislation to regulate private automotive insurers and control costs for consumers. Opposition parties, however, argued in favour of a public insurance regime to control the insurance prices and prevent them from becoming exorbitant.

Since Ralph Klein’s Alberta government privatized the energy industry, consumer prices for heating homes has skyrocketed. The provincial government has attempted to address this issue by providing annual rebates to consumers. Opposition parties, however, have suggested the industry simply needs to have greater public control.

Health Care Reforms

Another issue that came into play in the election is health care reform. During the 2004 federal election, Premier Klein made several comments indicating that Alberta was prepared to take more drastic steps to make the public health care system sustainable. He later played down how drastic these reforms would be. Following the federal election, Premier Klein released two reports to the public. The first was a commissioned report completed by the Conference Board of Canada comparing the performance and cost of health care systems between Canada and five other countries.

The Alberta MLA Task Force on Healthcare Funding and Revenue Generation, chaired by Gordon Graydon, completed the second report. The Task Force concluded that increased revenues could be attained by raising health care premiums and implementing a health care deductible. With the deductible, individuals would have to pay an annual fee of 1.5 percent of their taxable income towards their healthcare costs for the year. For a person making $60,000 per year, s/he would pay an annual deductible of $900. This deductible would be in addition to each person’s health care premiums. The government would cover the costs over and above the deductible.

While Premier Klein has not explicitly stated that the government is considering these particular reforms, he stated that he would introduce some reform package if he won the 2004 provincial election. It was not clear, however, how the government would justify increased premiums and the introduction of a deductible considering the government’s own “It’s Your Future” survey indicated Albertans would prefer increased spending by the government in the area of healthcare.

Moreover, the opposition parties presented very different platforms on health care. Both the Liberals and the NDP made commitments to eliminate healthcare premiums altogether.

Alberta and Canadian Federalism

The place of Alberta in the Canadian federation was also a potential election topic. The presence of the Alberta Alliance Party raised the issue of whether or not the current federal system is in the benefit of Alberta. This issue may be particularly popular in rural Alberta. Further, Premier Klein continued to present himself as the candidate to stand up against the federal government and protect Albertans’ interests.


Political Parties in 2004 Alberta Election

Policies and leaders of the parties in the election

Leaders of the Major Political Parties

Party

Progressive Conservatives

Liberals

New Democrats

Name
  

Honourable Ralph Klein, MLA

Kevin Taft, MLA

Brian Mason, MLA

Education
  

* Enrolled in Communication Studies at Athabasca University

* BA, University of Alberta
* MA, University of Alberta
* PHD (Business), University of Warwick (England)

* Studied Political Science at the University of Alberta

Work experience

* Canadian Air Force
* Principal, Calgary Business College
* Public relations, Red Cross & United Way
* Reporter, CFCN

* Researcher, Province of Alberta
* Head, Taft Research and Communications (public policy analysis)

* Executive Director, Alberta Federation of Students (1977-79)
* Bus driver, Edmonton Transit Services

Political experience

* Mayor of Calgary (1980-9)
* MLA, Calgary-Elbow (1989-present)
* Minister of Environment (1989-92)
* Leader of PC Party (1992-present)
* Premier of Alberta (1993-present)

* MLA, Edmonton-Riverview (2001-present)
* Leader of Liberal Party (2004-present)

* City Councilor, Edmonton (1989-2000)
* MLA, Edmonton-Highlands (2000-present)
* Leader of NDP (2004-present)
  

Major Political Parties Platforms

Party

Progressive Conservatives

Liberals

New Democrats

Surplus
  

* Commit to spend surplus according to Albertans’ views expressed in the “It’s Your Future” survey.

* Balanced budgets every year.
* Commit 35 percent of surplus to Heritage Fund.
* Commit another 35 percent to a Post-Secondary Endowment Fund.

* Balanced budget every year.
* Commit to re-investing in social programs, in particular health care and education.

Healthcare
  

* Maintain 2004 allocation of $700 million for the health care system, including $200 million for the elimination of health authorities deficits, $350 million for capital funding, and $150 million for equipment.
* Hold a health symposium in 2005 to discuss ways of delivering health care more effectively.
* Have indicated the introduction of reforms to increase government revenues in healthcare (possibly higher premiums or a deductible).

* Promote the five principles of the Canada Health Act.
* Eliminate health care premiums for all Albertans.
* Increase acute care capacity by moving ahead with a new hospital in Calgary as well as increasing the number of beds in Edmonton and rural Alberta.

* Stable funding for hospitals and health professionals.
* Eliminate health care premiums.
* Hire 2,000 more nurses and other health care providers.
* Firm targets for waiting times.
* A ban on private, for-profit clinics using public dollars.
* Create a Pharmaceutical Savings Agency to bulk purchase drugs to curtail spiraling drug costs.

Education
  

* Maintain current increases in funding to hire new primary and secondary teachers.
* Maintain a 30 percent cap on students’ contributions to the institutional cost of delivering post-secondary education.

* Strengthening the post-secondary system and increasing accessibility.
* Expanding Early Childhood Development programs.

* Create parenting centres to offer resources and information to parents
* Phased-in full-day Kindergarten and half-day Junior Kindergarten for children at risk.
* Stable funding for schools and meaningful limits on class sizes.
* 10 percent reduction in post-secondary tuition, followed by a tuition freeze and new money specifically designated for improving accessibility and learning conditions.

Taxation
  

* Committed to maintaining the lowest personal and corporate taxes in Canada.

* No provincial sales tax.
* Reduce taxes by phasing out health care premiums.

* Reduce taxes by phasing out health care premiums and school user fees.

Auto insurance
  

* Maintain current private auto insurance system along with recently enacted regulations to keep costs down.
  

* Develop a public system for auto insurance based on the BC model, to end excessive industry profits, and reduce the medical, legal and administrative costs of providing insurance.
* Restore access to the courts for accident victims, to allow them to seek fair compensation.
* Reinvest a portion of auto insurance revenue in road safety programs to reduce injuries and fatalities and to keep rates as low as possible.

* Public auto insurance system, similar to systems in the Manitoba, Saskatchewan and BC.
* 35 percent reduction in premiums due to non-profit status and administrative efficiency.
* Removal of the “cap” on compensation to accident victims.
  

Energy
  

* Maintain current private electricity and gas system.

* Re-regulate the electricity system for all Albertans except large industrial users.
* Establish a Planning Council on Electricity to help predict and prepare for future energy requirements using the lowest-cost options.

* Electricity rates based on the cost of generation plus a reasonable return for generators.
* Consumers receive a full rebate for any natural gas price that is more than 20 percent above the five-year average. Currently, the rebate would automatically kick in at prices over $4.80 per gigajoule.
* The program: to be financed through a portion of the royalties earned by the government from high gas prices.

  (Source: Websites of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives, Alberta Liberal Party, Alberta New Democratic Party (2004))

Other Political Parties in the Election


2004 Alberta Election Results

Alberta Progressive Conservatives win a majority government

The Alberta Progressive Conservative Party won a majority government, with Ralph Klein returning as the province’s Premier. The PCs won 61 of 83 seats in the provincial legislature, with 47 percent of the popular vote (CBC, Alberta Votes). This represented a decrease of 13 seats for the PCs from the previous election in 2001, although the Party edged up slightly in the popular vote. The win represented the tenth consecutive Progressive Conservative government in Alberta, beginning in 1971.

The Liberals won 17 seats and 29 percent of the vote, returning to the legislature as the province’s Official Opposition (CBC, Alberta Votes). This represented a sharp increase from the Liberal Party’s seven seats in the 2001 general election, and a slight increase in popular support. The other major political party, the Alberta NDP, won four seats and 9.8 percent of the popular vote (CBC, Alberta Votes). In contrast, they won two seats and eight percent of the vote in 2001.

In its first provincial election, the newly formed Alberta Alliance Party won one seat and nine percent of the popular vote (CBC, Alberta Votes).


Sources and Links for More Information

Lists of article sources and links for more on this topic

Sources Used for this Article

Links for More Information

Comments

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Is there a transcript about

Is there a transcript about the auto insurance problem? I want to know what promises where made and if I'll ever be able to go chose a cheap auto insurance that will cover all my needs. I'm tired of throwing money away just like that.

Syndicate content