Tax freeze is welcome, 'flip-flops' are not: Seven Calgary residents on the election results

From left: Abby Stahl, who works in construction and felt reassured by Premier Danielle Smith's victory speech on election night; Naim Kermouni, a small business owner who is optimistic that the policies the UCP promised will benefit him and bolster the economy; Betty Hendrickson, a teacher who is leery of Smith and worried about the divide between the major cities and the rest of the province; Matthew Morin, a graduate student studying social work who says he connected with Smith's talk of the Sovereignty Act.  (From left: Lily Dupuis/CBC, Kelsea Arnett/CBC, Lily Dupuis/CBC, submitted by Matthew Morin - image credit)

The one thing guaranteed with a close election result like Monday's is that roughly half the population will be happy, the other half disappointed.

Preliminary election results have the United Conservative Party with 49 seats, the NDP with 38.

During the campaign, voters heard a slew of promises and accusations from party leaders. So with the results now in hand, what are Calgary residents worried about or eager to see next?

Throughout the campaign, CBC News made a special effort to hear from them about their priorities.

Over the past months, CBC News connected with hundreds of regular Albertans through our My Priority opinion series and What Matters? (interviews with people on the street). We reached out to several of them again after the results came in.

Here's what they had to say.

Submitted by Matthew Morin
Submitted by Matthew Morin

Matthew Morin: Standing up for self-determination

Matthew Morin is a self-described "proud Albertan" who is gay, based in Calgary and a graduate student in the University of Toronto's faculty of social work.

He said that when UCP Leader Danielle Smith first brought up the Sovereignty Act, it resonated because he wants to see more decisions being made at a local level. He said he wants Alberta to stand up when western perspectives aren't being taken seriously in Ottawa.

It surprised him when that wasn't a central theme in the campaign.

"I just find it interesting that it was a little lacking throughout the whole, entire campaign, and then all of a sudden it just pops back in," he said. "Obviously, it was a political decision to be less aggressive, so we'll see how they do moving forward."

The campaign also saw controversy around LGBTQ and trans rights. When asked about the comments from Ponoka-Lacombe candidate Jennifer Johnson, Morin said the controversy didn't change his decision to support the UCP.

"It was a horrible thing to say, but at that point, so much mud had already been thrown that it felt like, 'Oh, here's another thing,'" said Morin, who also pointed to the premier's response.

After Johnson's comments came to light, Smith said the candidate would be excluded from the UCP caucus if elected.

Morin said he's optimistic that a UCP government led by Smith will set a path forward for this province to remain affordable and allow those in Alberta to live freely.

Submitted/Rishi Nagar
Submitted/Rishi Nagar

Rishi Nagar: Accountability and familiarity

Rishi Nagar lives in northeast Calgary and the three ridings around him went NDP. That's exactly what he expected. Every weekday, he takes calls from community members on his Punjabi/English talk show Good Morning Calgary on RED FM.

NDP MLA Irfan Sabir was re-elected easily, something Nagar credits to how accessible and supportive he was during the 2020 hailstorm crisis.

But there's more going on. He also sees how a person's immigration history affects their political views.

"The countries that they come from, they already have left [leaning] parties," Nagar said. "When they come here, they try to find that sort of party that listens to them, that have more proven people programs, and the NDP fits into that category."

And he saw a trend he finds "unhealthy." It was clear from callers and community members that some people voted for a candidate not because they support their policies, but because they are of the same religion.

"We're not doing the right thing if we're making these types of decisions," he said. "In one riding, you could vote for the NDP, but in the other, you could vote for the UCP. Where is your political ideology, where do you stand?"

Mike Symington/CBC
Mike Symington/CBC

Chris Ryan: Help people help themselves

Chris Ryan was both happy and conflicted when the results came in Monday. He's a lawyer based in Calgary who supported the UCP and believes the party's commitment to a low corporate tax rate will benefit the province and promote business interests.

But as a person who uses a wheelchair to get around, he wanted to see more of a commitment from the UCP on accessibility, rules that would guarantee he can get into buildings and access what he needs to take care of himself.

"The UCP, they have been taking proactive steps to put in place accessibility legislation … but I think it would have been better to see bigger promises," Ryan said.

"If they're not going to up the social benefits — and I don't expect them to — they should at least give people greater ability to look after themselves."

Alberta is one of the last provinces without legislation on accessibility. During the campaign, the NDP committed to exploring accessibility legislation and promised to increased the value of government support for people with disabilities who can't work.

Ryan said he is hopeful the new UCP government will still prioritize accessible infrastructure and make sure that those who need help get what they need.

Lily Dupuis/CBC
Lily Dupuis/CBC

Betty Hendrickson: 'Concerned about her leadership'

Edmonton was an orange sweep, Calgary was split and rural Alberta went blue. That's what Betty Hendrickson saw Monday night and she's worried.

She's a teacher who lives in the riding of Calgary-Northwest. She grew up in rural Saskatchewan and is scared the divide between those in the major cities and the rural population will grow. She sees it as a danger to the province.

"I think this divide, if anything, will only get worse," she said.

She said some people "have closed eyes, closed ears, closed minds and closed hearts … they're so ideologically entrenched in their views that they certainly have no open mind to anything else."

"I don't think that they've woken up to the fact that the population who is from here — not from somewhere else — is changing. The young people are changing and they're thinking differently."

She's also worried about UCP Leader Danielle Smith.

"I'm very concerned about her leadership and how she flip-flops, and she says one thing today and then changes her mind tomorrow," she said.

"Even if she were to throw out great ideas around my concerns, I couldn't be assured that she wouldn't change her mind again."

Lily Dupuis/CBC
Lily Dupuis/CBC

Abby Stahl: Smith wants to lead all Albertans

Abby Stahl listened to Smith's victory speech on Monday night and felt reassured she made the right decision to vote UCP.

"I'm very happy that she did win and I'm even more so happy with her speech," Stahl said. "She wants to lead all Albertans, even the ones that didn't vote for her … I believe, honestly, she will do good for Alberta."

Stahl works in the construction industry. She said the way the UCP ran its campaign made her trust the party would follow through on its commitments.

The NDP attack ads flagging Smith's comments on Albertans paying out of pocket to see a doctor prompted her to research the context where Smith made those comments. That actually solidified her support for the UCP.

"The NDP, what they addressed on some of their commercials that they had on the radio, I found that it wasn't accurate," Stahl said. "I did my research and I found that they totally took words out of context."

The results of the vote and the re-elected premier's victory speech now give her hope politicians will work together.

"My hope is that we become stronger, stronger as a province, come up with new ideas, innovative ideas that do not drain the province or the people."

Submitted by Nina Saini
Submitted by Nina Saini

Nina Saini: More help needed for vulnerable communities

The biggest surprise for northwest Calgary resident Nina Saini came when three UCP cabinet ministers in the city lost Monday.

She sees the defeat of the ministers as a sign of a changing mindset among voters in Calgary with people wanting more progress on files related to vulnerable people and racialized communities. All three held social portfolios — Nicholas Milliken had mental health and addictions, Jason Luan had culture, and Jeremy Nixon had seniors, community and social services.

"I think there's a paradigm shift on expectations that citizens are having in those areas," she said. "I think communities have really spoken to wanting to see more tangible change."

In March, Saini became the executive director of the Alberta Hate Crimes Committee. That file is part of why she is personally disappointed the NDP did not win.

"The anti-racism policy that the NDP had come out with, and the commitment they had come out with, was very apparent, very strong, very detailed," she said. "But we didn't quite see that on the other end as fully."

Kelsea Arnett/CBC
Kelsea Arnett/CBC

Naim Kermouni: Tax cuts will bolster the economy

Now that the dust has settled, Naim Kermouni said it's time to focus on what's ahead.

He's a small business owner in the riding of Calgary-Beddington and is optimistic that the policies the UCP promised will benefit him and bolster the economy.

WATCH | What matters to you? We asked hundreds of regular Albertans that question during the election campaign: 

The promise of tax cuts and economy-centred policies appealed to him.

"Albertans will be happy, especially when it comes to oil and gas," Kermouni said. "Business owners and the population in general will be happy."

"We have to look forward to the future and work hard and make things happen."

Throughout the campaign, the noise and finger pointing of the parties made it difficult for him to follow along with the issues and the platforms that he prioritized, but he wanted to make a choice and have a say in who forms government — and wanted others to do the same.