Alberta’s incumbent agriculture minister was among the casualties as Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party defeated Rachel Notley’s New Democrats in Tuesday night’s provincial election.
Oneil Carlier, the provincial NDP government’s minister of agriculture and forestry since May 2015 and deputy government house leader since February 2016, was unseated in his riding of Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland by UCP challenger Shane Getson, an energy project consultant and civil engineering technologist.
With 90 of 92 polls reporting, Getson was well ahead in the vote count, drawing 13,684 votes to Carlier’s 4,883.
With 7,148 of 7,328 polls reporting so far provincewide, the UCP was elected or leading in 63 of 87 ridings with 55.1 per cent of the popular vote, followed by the NDP in 24 ridings with 32.2 per cent of the popular vote.
Kenney, uniting the province’s Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose Party under the UCP banner, took the party to a decisive majority government, up from a combined 31 seats in 2015. The provincial Liberals lost their lone riding, Calgary Mountain View, to the NDP.
The UCP on Tuesday night was also the clear winner in the province’s rural ridings, elected or leading in all constituencies outside major cities.
With no shortage of rural MLAs, the UCP has several possible candidates to take over from Carlier on the agriculture file — even without former UCP agriculture critic Rick Strankman, who left the party in January to sit as an independent after he was denied the UCP nomination as its 2019 candidate for Drumheller-Stettler.
Strankman ran in that riding as an independent on Tuesday but placed a distant second behind the UCP’s chosen candidate, rancher Nate Horner, by a spread of over 14,000 votes with 99 of 102 polls reporting.
Other high-profile possibilities for the ag portfolio could include:
- rancher and former Canadian Cattlemen’s Association president Travis Toews, who won the riding of Grande Prairie-Wapiti over NDP challenger Shannon Dunfield;
- UCP finance critic Drew Barnes, who held his riding of Cypress-Medicine Hat over NDP challenger Peter Mueller; and
- infrastructure critic Glenn van Dijken, a grain grower, who held his riding of Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock over NDP challenger Therese Taschuk.
On the agriculture file, the UCP’s platform includes a pledge to introduce what it calls the Farm Freedom and Safety Act, to repeal and replace the NDP’s Bill 6, its Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act.
The UCP, in its platform, pledges to “immediately launch comprehensive consultations with farmers, ranchers, agriculture workers and others on how best to balance the unique economic pressures of farming with the need for a common-sense, flexible farm safety regime,” but also to “ensure basic safety standards.”
It would require employers to maintain workplace insurance for farm workers, but allow employers to choose whether to buy insurance from the market or from the Workers’ Compensation Board, “as long as basic standards of coverage are met for such things as medical and return-to-work support services, and protection against loss of income.”
The UCP said it would also exempt small farms from employment legislation, defining “small” as farms with three or fewer employees over a “substantial period” of the year, not including family members.
On other ag-related files, the UCP said it will “streamline” the province’s crop insurance and farm lending agency, the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC), to “improve services and responsiveness to farmers.”
It also pledged to “ensure that farmers, not government, set key agriculture research priorities” and to consult on future land sales “in order to replace good agricultural land lost to urban expansion.” –– Glacier FarmMedia Network