Voters are making a beeline for the polls in the Alberta decision today and advance turnouts suggest it could be busy at the ballot boxes.
Right around 700,000 people voted early in malls, airports, entertainment focuses, public buildings and even an Ikea store. That was well in front of the 235,000 who Came out from the get-go in the 2015 election that saw Rachel Notley’s NDP convey an unexpected knockout hit to the 44-year keep running of the Progressive Conservatives.
This time around, the Progressive Conservatives are no more.
The PCs converged with another right-focus party, the Wildrose, to create the new United Conservatives under former federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney.
The four-week crusade focused on personal attacks and on Alberta’s fragile economy, which has been struggling for several years with sluggish oil prices and unemployment levels above seven percent in Calgary and Edmonton.
Kenney has argued that Notley’s government has made a bad situation worse with higher taxes, more regulations, and increases in the minimum wage.
Notley, in turn, has said Kenney’s plan to freeze spending and pursue more private-care options in health care will have a profound impact on students in the classroom and on patients waiting for care.
The campaign additionally included Alberta’s association with Ottawa, specifically Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Notley said her success working with Trudeau — or picking her fights with him as necessary — is what led to progress on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to the B.C. coast. She expects construction to begin this year.
She said Kenney’s guaranteed to challenge Trudeau in court on everything from the federal carbon tax to proposed energy industry rule changes is cynical, self-defeating shadow-boxing given the collaborative realities of political decision-making.
Kenney has crusaded on the “Trudeau-Notley collusion” that he says has turned Alberta into a doormat for Trudeau and other oil industry adversaries without any than a blackout and as yet unrealized promise of one pipeline expansion to the coast.
Notley has additionally endeavored to make Kenney’s character an issue. Some of his applicants have either stopped or apologized for past remarks that were hostile to LGBTQ, against Islamic or sympathetic to white nationalism.
Kenney has called the attacks a “fear-and-smear” red herring to distract from the NDP’s economic track record of multibillion-dollar budget deficits and soaring debt.
On the political fringes are the Alberta Party and the Liberals, every one of which elected one candidate to the legislature in 2015.
The Alberta Party, driven by previous Edmonton civic chairman Stephen Mandel, is running a full slate of applicants. It’s promising to be the sheltered moderate center ground by consolidating the financial conservatism of the UCP with the social progressivism of the NDP.
The Liberals, led by lawyer David Khan, are running on a similar platform with one significant exception — a provincial sales tax.
History will be made regardless.
Notley will either be the first Alberta NDP premier to win re-election or the first leader in the province to fail to win a renewed mandate on the first try.
Since its creation in 1905, Alberta has elected multi-term dynasties: the Liberals (1905-1921), the United Farmers of Alberta (1921-1935), the Social Credit (1935-1971) and the Progressive Conservatives from 1971 to 2015.
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