By Naomi Knoch, SEARCH Apprentice Writer
Elections *Alberta* says 276,000 votes were cast on Tuesday 9th April and Wednesday 10th, more than during all four days of *advance polls* in the 2015 election, which saw 235,000 ballots marked. “Heavy advance polling often means a ‘change-election’,” says
TheChristians.com edtor, Nigel Hannaford. “Voters are motivated and the urge to vote against something is usually stronger than the urge to vote for something.”
VIDEO: [Global News] Albertans head out in droves to cast advance vote. [Apr 10, 2019]
The right fears the New Democrat Party (NDP) will lead Alberta further down a path of leftist ideology and implementation of policies that transfer power into government hands, completely abandoning bedrock principles the province was built upon. The United Conservative party (UCP) promises to ignite the province’s economy back into action and build security and independence.
The left claims conservatism is another name tag for homophobia, racism and backwards thinking.
Alberta’s battle-weary political warriors are on the last legs of their campaigning journey. With less than a week left before the election parties and candidates continue to fight for coveted votes. According to polls, one in five voters remain undecided about who they trust to get the struggling province back on track.
The 2015 election saw a 58.25 per cent voter turnout in advance polls. A close race between the Wildrose, PC’s and NDP is why so many Albertans showed up to vote. This race is also proving fierce. UCP leader Jason Kenney is giving it his level best to oust Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP, while Notley is making it clear she won’t go down without a fight. Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel is offering voters a centrist option and Alberta Liberal leader David Khan is hoping to defy the odds and make a Liberal comeback.
Alberta has seen a 35 per cent rise in unemployment since the NDP came to power, with 32,000 more Albertans unemployed since 2015 and 15,500 jobs lost in the month of January alone. But the divide is deeper with any agreement over controversies swirling around education legislation and pipelines at a seeming standstill.
Recent polling suggests the UCP hold a sizeable lead of 53 per cent, the NDP gaining but still behind at 34 per cent, Alberta Party trailing at eight per cent and the Alberta Liberals with four per cent.
Here are the top issues addressed by political hopefuls on the campaign trail last week:
SMALL BUSINESSES DESPERATE: Small business owners hope the party elected April 16 will implement business friendly policies. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) said small-business confidence has reached the lowest levels ever recorded in the country. Richard Truscott, CFIB’s vice-president for Alberta and British Columbia, said business owners have been through a lot and are feeling very pessimistic about the future. “Whatever party wins, they’ll need to do a much better job of creating meaningful ways to support small business and kickstart the economy.” (Source: The Globe and Mail)
ONE-FIFTH OF VOTERS UNDECIDED: Polls suggest one in five Albertans are still unsure of how they’ll cast their ballot. Stephen Carlton, one of 30 eligible voters taking part in a CBC election focus group, said he won’t make his choice based on the party, but rather on who is the best candidate in his riding. Picking that candidate however, is something Carlton has yet to do. John Santos, with Janet Brown Opinion Research, said the group of undecided voters are moderates, neither right nor left fiscally, but socially progressive. “I think these people, they’re disappointed with Rachel Notley’s record on the economy, but they look at Jason Kenney and say’I’m not sure.’” Santos predicted the indecision might be a chance for the Alberta Party and Alberta Liberals to nab a few extra votes. (Source: CBC News)
NIXON ACCUSED OF ASSAULT: The NDP again launched into old assault claims against UCP House Leader Jason Nixon, accusing him of assaulting Cremona-area rancher Allison Gentry on her property in November, 2009. Nixon denied the allegations and called them “a complete and utter lie.” Three witnesses allege Gentry’s claims are untrue. The UCP called the NDP accusations “gutter politics.” (Source: CTV News)
LATEST UNEMPLOYMENT STATS: A recent report from Statistics Canada show the province’s unemployment rate has dropped slightly from the previous month, putting Alberta fourth among the provinces for high-test rates. Kenney responded to the unemployment figures released Friday and said the blame shouldn’t be placed on the price of oil but rather on bad government policies. “The average duration of unemployment for a jobless Albertan has tripled under the NDP from seven to 23 weeks,” he said. Notley said the NDP is “very focused on job creation” and have a plan to diversify the energy economy in Alberta. (Source: CBC News)
VOTERS DON’T WANT A TRUDEAU ALLY: Pollster and political commentator Janet Brown said Alberta’s characteristic distrust of the federal government gives Kenney an edge over Notley. Brown stated that uncertainty drives people to return to what’s familiar and in Alberta’s case familiar is “having a premier fighting with a prime minister.” Notley is leaning more towards the accommodating and cooperative side, while Kenney is talking about putting together a “war room” to take on the feds. (Source: CBC News)
ALBERTA PARTY OFFERING CENTRE OPTION: The Alberta Party staked out territory somewhere in the middle of the UCP and the NDP, creating a perspective they consider fiscally conservative and socially progressive. The party’s Leader Mandel is running in Edmonton-McClung. Mandel said his party thinks most Albertans are from the centre. “The centre doesn’t mean that you don’t have strong opinions. It simply means that you are trying to find a balance.” (Source: The Globe and Mail)
UCP BUILDS ON PLATFORM: The UCP made some revisions to their party platform, which included adding a line in their fiscal plan to “recommend a path to (budget) balance.” Notley said the addition is secretive, misleading and indicative that the UCP don’t have a clear road map on critical policy. Kenney claimed that they’ve changed nothing substantive and the line is one of a number of minor edits and fixes to the original document. (Source: Calgary Herald)
Link to full NDP platform: (RachelNotley.ca)
Link to full UCP platform: (Alberta Strong and Free)
DEBATE RESULTS: There was no clear champion of the Thursday night debate among party leaders. Notley failed to repeat her debate win of 2015 and Kenney had a full plate of candidate controversies to handle. Kenney is being credited with the best line of the night: “You’re the expert in killing jobs in downtown Calgary.” He was responding to Notley’s accusation that the UCP’s plans to scrap her crude-by-rail deal would kill jobs in Alberta’s largest city. Mandel criticized both frontrunners and said the NDP is a poor fiscal manager and the UCP intolerant. “We don’t think you should have to choose between a good economy and a kind society,” said Mandel. Liberal Leader Khan called UCP plans to hold a referendum “spinning fairy tales.” (Source: Edmonton Journal)
ALBERTA – B.C. RELATIONS: Stewart Prest, political scientist with the Simon Fraser University, said regardless of who wins the election, there’s only so much one province can do to another within confederation. Notley and B.C. Premier John Horgan spent last year at odds over the trans mountain expansion, Notley suspending electricity talks and banning B.C. wine in Alberta and Hogan refusing Alberta crude until adequate spill safety measures were implemented. Prest said that although Kenney might attempt different rhetoric, there’s not much Alberta hasn’t already tried in pushing forward its interests. (Source: The Star)
ATA RESPONDS TO EDUCATION PLATFORMS: The Alberta Teacher’s Association (ATA) reviewed the education platforms of all parties. ATA President Greg Jeffery said he was pleased the NDP kept the legislation of Bill 24 in place and addressed class sizes, one of the ATA’s main concerns. Jeffrey called the UCP’s priorities “misplaced and misguided” and said they failed to make a firm commitment on funding enrolment growth. (Source: Chat News Today)
UCP PROMISES $1 BILLION TO FIRST NATIONS: On Wednesday April 3, Kenney announced that if elected the UCP would create a $1-billion Aboriginal Opportunities Corporation. Kenney spoke in Edmonton at River Cree Resort and Casino and said the corporation would provide technical support, access to capital markets through loan grantees and equity lending. Enoch Cree Nation Chief Billy Morin said it’s an unprecedented move. “When First Nations win, the province and the whole country wins. So this is a great announcement.” (Source: Edmonton Journal)
ELECTION’S EFFECT ON OIL PRICE DIFFERENTIAL: The latest forecast from accounting group Deloitte said that the outcome of Alberta’s election could change the oil price differential, but the barriers to shipping the product will stifle any major price changes this year. Deloitte’s Andrew Botterill said lack of pipelines is the main limiting factor in oil movement and he is interested to see how much the industry will use rail cars. “Rail is an expensive option,” said Botterill. (Source: 660 City News)
OPIOID EPIDEMIC: Two advocacy groups graded all the parties on their plans to combat Alberta’s opioid crisis. Change the Face of Addiction and Moms Stop the Harm released a report card on Wednesday, April 3 giving the Liberals an A-, NDP a B, UCP a D- and Alberta Party an F. (Source: CTV News)
UCP OVERTIME POLICY CONTROVERSIAL: The UCP’s proposed changes to overtime laws are being met with varied reactions. According to the Alberta Federation of Labour, the sectors most affected in the province would be construction, oil and gas and hospitality. Stephen Beirnes, a journeyman electrician in Edmonton said the changes would have a ripple effect in construction and energy industries, giving owners of companies more rights than workers. Restaurants Canada supports the act and said: “It gives employers and employees more flexibility to come up with work arrangements that make sense for them.” (Source: CBC News)
ALBERTA LIBERALS FIGHT FOR SEATS: Mount Royal University political scientist Lori Williams said “it’s going to be a tough fight” for Alberta Liberals in the 2019 election. Mandel predicts voters won’t turn to the Liberals, a name too closely linked to Ottawa, but Khan said he likes to remind people that 25 years before the last 2015 election his party had between five and 24 MLAs to the NDPs between zero and four. “I’m in this for the long haul,” Khan said. “We really want to get back in the game as a party.” If the Liberals fail to win any seats, they return to the shut out of the 1970s. (Source: Edmonton Journal)
“KAMIKAZE” INVESTIGATIONS CONTINUE: Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Anne Kirkler ruled Wednesday April 3 against halting investigation on the “kamikaze” campaign during the Alberta election. Kirkler refused the emergency injunction requested, ruling it is in public interests for investigations to continue. The elections commissioner is looking into the financing of Jeff Callaway’s UCP leadership campaign after it was alleged that Callaway ran for the purpose of targeting Kenney’s top rival, former Wildrose leader Brian Jean. Both Kenney and Callaway deny the claim that Callaway planned to step down before the vote in October 2017 and support Kenney. (Source: CBC News)
KENNEY THREATENS REFERENDUM: Kenney said the centrepiece of the UCP platform is fighting back against “foreign-funded social interests and the Trudeau-Notley alliance.” Speaking to media Tuesday, April 2 near Turner Valley, Kenney shared his plans to stop the “assault” on Alberta’s oil and gas industry to the point of refusing to pay equalization payments until pipelines are built. Notley said Kenney’s repeated allusions to her alliance with Trudeau are nothing more than political grandstanding. (Source: CBC News)
UCP HEALTH PLAN CLARIFIED: UCP Candidate RJ Sigurdson said the UCP health plan has been misunderstood and could use some clarification. Sigurdson said everyone needs to understand their party has made a health care guarantee to maintain or increase funding. “Our system will always be universally accessible to everyone and it will be publicly funded.” The UCP also claims they will be able to reduce wait times for surgeries to a period of four months if third party provider options are considered. (Source: Okotoks Online)
TWITTER’S IMPACT ON ELECTION: A research group at the University of Alberta (U of A) is using expertise from Darkhorse Analytics to keep tabs on Twitter’s election action. U of A professor Jared Wesley said parties are using Twitter to find out what issues voters trust them most on and are reluctant to take unpopular positions where public opinion is already decided. Wesley said left-leaning parties are trusted more on social issues while right-leaning parties tend to be more trusted in the economic and budget spectrum. “If people are talking about economic issues, that means the UCP is winning that agenda-setting struggle. If people are talking about social or environmental issues then the NDP is,” he said. (Source: Global News)
PCA ENDORSES UCP TRADE PLAN: Kenney’s 13-point Job Skills for Canada’s Economy plan has been endorsed by the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA) and Merit Alberta. PCA President Paul de Jong said Kenney’s commitment to the trades is the kind of forward thinking Alberta needs to address the skills shortage head on. “It puts the focus where it should be, on expanding apprenticeship and vocational programs and making it possible for more Albertans, especially young people, to pursue good, well-paying jobs,” said Jong. (Canada Construction Connect)