It is a perennial complaint in Canada that Americans do not pay much attention to what goes on up there. It’s true, of course; Canada may be America’s largest trading partner, but none of the things which commonly attract notice (revolutions, wars, coups, epidemics, that sort of thing) typically occur there, and we have more than enough political drama of our own to bother ourselves with any that might be happening in more tranquil environs. But every so often something significant happens which warrants turning our gaze north.

One such significant happening took place last week in the western province of Alberta. The ruling left-wing New Democratic Party, which has governed the province since 2015, was replaced quite decisively by a recently united conservative party. The results were not even close; the appropriately-named United Conservative Party swept 66 of the province’s 87 ridings, what Canadians call legislative seats.

A little background is in order. The April 16 election result wasn’t the abnormal event, the last four years was. Alberta has always been a conservative outpost in Canada, politically, culturally, and economically. Generally in years past, the greatest political divides in the province were not between Left vs. Right, but Right vs. Right-er. Inevitably, the internecine tensions developed into fissures.

Waiting in the wings was the New Democratic Party which, under the skillful tutelage of its politically talented leader Rachel Notley, took advantage of this division among conservatives, did the opposite thing, wisely, by congealing all of the scattered liberal interests (unions, environmentalists, etc.) into her camp, and marched straight through the divided and embittered Right to form a social-democratic government in Alberta.

It is difficult to understate the tectonic importance of that. Alberta’s conservatism is intrinsic; it is the most American of Canada’s provinces, fostering an inherited Western individualism, unshakable rural traditions and values, and a free market-loving economy based initially on ranching and, for the last 70 years or so, oil — and lots of it. Picture Texas with hockey and good skiing.

So the election of a leftist government there was noteworthy. The question at the time was how, exactly, Notley’s government would govern — whether it would take a pragmatic, incremental approach, recognizing the unique manner in which it gained power; or, conversely, proceed full steam ahead with the enactment of a liberal agenda.

They chose the latter. In the four years since taking the reins of power, the Alberta New Democratic Party government’s policies have spanned the spectrum of left-wing designs, from the most mind-numbing social engineering — dissuading, for instance, the use in public schools of such “non-inclusive” terms as “mother” and “father” — to the economically disastrous replacement of the flat tax with a progressive taxing structure and, crucially, the imposition of a carbon tax.

In many ways, Alberta was a test case for the new climate-obsessed Left. If the policies advocated by the Notley New Democratic Party, not substantially different than those of the Bernie Sanders/AOC/Elizabeth Warren Democratic Party, could win over the oil-rich cow-folk of Alberta, then they could succeed anywhere.

Well, last week their gambit failed, and rather spectacularly. Not only did conservatives take back the province, but it has set the stage for a larger federal fight, likely centered around the wildly unpopular carbon tax. The federal government, under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has enacted a policy of imposing a carbon tax on any province that fails to implement its own, resulting in three of those recalcitrant provinces launching lawsuits against the Trudeau government — litigation Alberta is sure to join as soon as Premier-designate Jason Kenney repeals the provincial carbon tax and they fall under the federal one.

There are a couple lessons in all of this for American observers. One is political, the supremacy of unity, and it is a lesson of particular import for conservatives. We may not agree on everything, but once disagreement devolves into fracture the political result seldom, if ever, ends well.

The second is more philosophical; liberals win elections on the basis of their grand promises, rooted in idealism rather than reality. Idealism precludes pragmatic moderation, and upon obtaining authority it is difficult for them to hold back, resulting in policy failures that are as hard to ignore as defend.

The Left has placed considerable stock in its economic centralization approach to the climate issue. That approach precipitated Alberta’s return home and could lead the rest of the country in the same direction in upcoming federal elections. It’s something worth paying attention to.

Kelly Sloan (@KVSloan25) is a Denver-based public affairs consultant, columnist, and the Energy and Environmental Policy Fellow at the Centennial Institute.