Uppal, a three-term member of Parliament, won the riding back for the Conservatives in 2019 with 50 per cent of the vote

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Like a prospector trying to pan for gold in a riverbed running dry, I pity any Edmontonian scouring through Monday’s federal election results for nuggets of meaning.

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The so-called election about nothing largely lived up to its nickname, producing another Liberal government — majority or minority still to be determined as of press time — most voters here didn’t want, and another near blue sweep on the Alberta map.

The 2019 campaign at least had an ethos to it in Alberta, even it was an angry ethos stemming from the Liberal government’s perceived failures toward the energy economy.

This one? There was still anger to be sure, but it was split in a number different ways.

The $600-million expense to hold an unnecessary vote during a pandemic. The lousy debates. COVID economic anxiety. Anti-vaxxers. Premier Jason Kenney’s fourth wave.

What difference these factors made, if any, in the final result will be the subject of considerable ink in the days ahead. But for me, the more interesting lens is not the one looking back over the past four weeks, but the one looking four weeks into the future.

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Oh yes, in case any of you might already be worn down, it pains me to tell you that we are only at the halfway point in our election season. An arguably more important vote to choose Edmonton’s next mayor, city council and school boards is still on the horizon for Oct. 18.

And how local voters react to seeing another Liberal victory may be an underestimated influence in how that local election plays out.

For one thing, it’s important to remember that Alberta and Edmonton have been without a seat at the Liberal government table the last two years.

Yes, some opposition MPs have tried to fill the void by advocating for Edmontonians where they could. So have Senators.

But perhaps our city’s most valuable political connection since 2019 has been Mayor Don Iveson’s regular contact with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland, who may or may not be Trudeau’s heir apparent.

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The impending departure of Iveson, who also enjoyed special access as a national spokesman for Canada’s big cities, means new representative relationships will have to be forged.

It’s possible that could come from actual elected Liberal MPs, whether that be Randy Boissonnault in Edmonton Centre or Ben Henderson in Edmonton Millwoods, or both.

(Results in those ridings were still too close to be called by press time).

Regardless, there will be a natural question about whether Edmonton’s city hall needs to have another strong pipeline to the federal government, especially since Alberta’s UCP government seems to be an obstacle for both.

All mayoral candidates will have the opportunity to position themselves relative to this question, but there is no doubt much of the conversation will focus on former Liberal cabinet minister Amarjeet Sohi.

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Up until this point in the campaign, Sohi has steadfastly avoided any appearance of partisanship, likely sensing a disadvantage to his Liberal past or relationship with Trudeau. Heck, even his signs are yellow and navy.

But with the federal election now decided, it will be fascinating to see if he tweaks his approach, even subtly, to suggest he is best positioned to take Iveson’s place as Edmonton’s most trusted voice to Ottawa.

It’s risky, but however he proceeds, you can expect some of his competitors to highlight those Liberal connections for him, though they will frame it in a less complimentary way.

As for mayoral and council candidates who sway more conservative, there is also dilemma. Frustration at Trudeau’s victory could certainly galvanize conservative voters and campaigners to make city hall more of a foil to Liberal policies.

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But Edmontonian anger is aimed in more than one direction these days, which means going all-in on a campaign that targets progressive politicians can’t be seen as an endorsement of Kenney. Mike Nickel is the candidate most likely to try, but pulling that off would be an impressive feat.

Other questions come to mind.

Does a good night for progressives in the federal election open the door for more women and people of colour to be elected? Or will there be a backlash?

Will an improved showing from the People’s Party of Canada, which had some of its biggest rallies in Alberta, cause conservative council candidates to shift campaigns to try to harness some of these voters?

To what degree will issues that coloured the federal election — climate change, government debt, COVID recovery, reconciliation — spill over into the municipal arena?

Most of all, there’s a very real possibility of a democratic letdown on Oct. 18, which is exactly what happened in Regina’s and Saskatoon’s municipal votes last year two weeks after a provincial election.

Such voter fatigue will give an even bigger advantage to incumbents. So will donor fatigue.

Looking at the federal results Monday night, I still have no idea what this election was really about. Over the next four weeks, perhaps Edmontonians will find some nuggets of meaning to define the next one.

kgerein@postmedia.com

twitter.com/keithgerein

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