1982 Alberta general election
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79 seats in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta
40 seats were needed for a majority
Less than four years had passed since the Progressive Conservatives won their landslide victory in 1979. Premier Peter Lougheed decided to call a snap election to catch fledgling new parties off guard, most notably the separatist Western Canada Concept which was capitalizing on anger over Lougheed's perceived weakness in dealings with the federal government, in particular his acceptance of the hugely unpopular National Energy Program. The WCC's Gordon Kesler had won a by-election earlier in the year, and Lougheed decided that it would be wise to stage a showdown with the WCC sooner rather than later.
Lougheed then proceeded to mount a campaign based largely on scare tactics, warning Albertans angry with Ottawa but yet uneasy with the WCC that they could end up with a separatist government by voting for a separatist party. Lougheed would also promise to sell the government owned airline Pacific Western Airlines, which the Lougheed government had purchased in 1974. The strategy worked for the Tories, who won their fourth consecutive term in government, and returned to the 62% popular vote level it had attained in the 1975 election. This netted the Tories 75 seats in the legislature—in terms of percentage of seats won, the second-largest majority government in the province's history. In the process, they reduced the opposition to only four MLAs in total.
The Alberta Liberal Party was punished in the wake of the NEP. Barely able to field candidates in a third of the ridings, it went down to one of its worst showings in party history.
The Social Credit Party bottomed out after spending a decade in the wilderness after losing power in 1971. In a harbinger of things to come, Socred leader Robert Curtis Clark returned to the backbench shortly after the 1979 election, and retired from politics in 1981. Clark's old seat of Olds-Didsbury was resoundingly lost to the WCC in the ensuing by-election, dropping the Socreds to only three seats, one short of official party status. In March 1982, Socred parliamentary leader Raymond Speaker announced the Socreds would sit out the election. A resolution was put forward to disband the party, but failed. After the writs were issued for the 1982 election, two of the remaining three Socred MLAs, Speaker and Walt Buck, resigned from the party to run for reelection as independents. The third, Fred Mandeville, opted not to run for reelection. With no incumbents for the first time since 1935 and no full-time leader, the party's share of the popular vote fell from almost 20% to less than one percent. It was shut out of the legislature for the first time since 1935, never to return. Speaker and Buck, however, did win reelection, and later formed the Representative Party of Alberta after being denied opposition status.
The WCC, a party that advocated the separation of the four western provinces of Canada to form a new country, had surprised Canadians when Kesler won his by-election and took a seat in the Alberta legislature. Although Kesler lost his seat in this election after he changed electoral districts from Olds-Didsbury and ran in Highwood, the WCC won almost 12% of the popular vote.
Overall voter turnout was 66.00%.
|Party||Party leader||# of
|1979||Diss.||Elected||% Change||#||%||% Change|
|Progressive Conservative||Peter Lougheed||79||74||73||75||+1.4%||588,485||62.28%||+4.88%|
|New Democratic||Grant Notley||79||1||1||2||+100%||177,166||18.75%||+3.00%|
|Western Canada Concept||Gordon Kesler||78||*||1||-||*||111,131||11.76%||*|
|Social Credit||George Richardson||23||4||1||-||-100%||7,843||0.83%||-19.04%|
|Alberta Reform Movement||Tom Sindlinger||14||*||1||-||-100%||6,258||0.66%||*|
|Source: Elections Alberta|
* Party did not nominate candidates in the previous election.
For complete electoral history, see individual districts.