Rural ministers go downto defeat by Wildrose Party

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To the chagrin of pollsters and media commentators, who predicted the demise of the 41-year-old rule of the Progressive Conservative (PC) government, the PCs roared back to power with a whopping 61 seats in the 87-seat provincial legislature.

However, some prominent PC government ministers went down to defeat by Wildrose. Agriculture Minister Evan Berger, tourism minister and former agriculture minister Jack Hayden and Transportation Minister Ray Danyluk all lost their seats. Energy Minister Ted Morton, considered the godfather of the government’s property rights legislation, also went down to defeat.

Sixteen out of 17 Wildrose seats were located in central and southern Alberta, and all except two were rural-oriented ridings. Those rural seats represent the major core of agricultural production in the province and showed that a significant rural/urban split has developed as a result of the election. Almost since the beginning of the 41-year reign of the PC Party, rural Alberta has formed the solid base of the party’s political power. The PC party has now become a more urban-based political party, with Wildrose mainly a rural-based party.

Two leading provincial producer organizations expressed their concern with the split and with the defeat of Agriculture Minister Berger in his Livingstone-Macleod riding. For the third time in less than a year, Alberta will have a new agriculture minister.

“We look forward to working with the new minister and establishing a strong relationship focused on growing the demand for barley and its profitability,” said Alberta Barley Commission chairman Matt Sawyer.

“Alberta is going to have a very strong opposition that has support in many rural areas and is committed to a strong agricultural sector. I think this is also a positive for farmers.”

In a news release on the election results, the Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) stated that there will be much work to do on behalf of cattle and beef producers to make agricultural issues a significant part of the new government’s agenda. The ABP noted that the PC Party won the majority of its seats in urban areas and did not elect many members in the rural areas of southern Alberta. ABP also said it was prepared to work with the premier and a new agriculture minister.

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