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Orange islands in a blue sea: Why Alberta's urban-rural political divide still exists

The electoral map has been recoloured, but Alberta's rural blue hasn't budged an inch. 

Despite some promising gains in urban areas, the NDP was unable to find success in the less populated parts of the province during Monday's provincial election.

It's a trend that is only becoming more apparent. 

"The rural/urban question is one of the most important political questions of our generation," University of Athabasca professor Paul Kellogg said. "The vote difference isn't just in Alberta, but it's definitely noticeable (here)."

The NDP will walk away from the latest provincial election firmly holding Edmonton and 11 additional seats in Calgary. 

That makes the UCP the first provincial winner to not hold a majority in either of the two urban hubs. 

Kellogg believes it could pull the conservative caucus into different directions. 

"It is a very real tension that they will have to pay attention to if they are going to govern successfully," he said. 

The party will no doubt be hearing suggestions from Take Back Alberta (TBA), a group that has rural origins. 

"The conservative movement is grounded in rural Alberta," TBA's Marco van Huigenbos said. "Always has been, always will be."

TBA is confident it can continue to effectively mobilize voters to advance rural interests.

So far, van Huigenbos says he's happy with the work done by Smith. 

"She united caucus -- a very divided caucus -- and won a clear mandate," he told CTV News. "Based on what rural Alberta values, a conservative victory was critical."

DIFFERING INTERESTS

The urban-rural divide is apparent across the world.

In Alberta, it's perpetuated by industry and upbringing, says Kellogg.

"The fear that exists in the small towns and countryside and the sometimes elitism that can seem to exist inside the cities, these two things do not have to exist," he said. "We need to find ways of communicating and relating.

"We live in both places. Our society depends upon the country and the city. We can't have one without the other."

Kellogg also believes some of the division stems back to political representation. Many urban voters in Alberta feel undervalued compared to their counterparts. 

The population in some of the ridings in Calgary and Edmonton is almost twice as large as in some of the rural ridings. 

"We need to find ways and mechanisms of better reflecting the multiplicity, because it's an increasingly diverse society we live in," Kellogg said. 

The UCP captured 52.6 per cent of the popular vote on Monday. The NDP grabbed 44 per cent.

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