UCP and NDP making their final week pitch to Alberta voters
Election outcome doesn't appear any clearer today than it did on Day 1
We’re midway through the final week of Alberta’s election campaign and while the most recent poll from Abacus Data points to Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party having an edge over Rachel Notley’s Alberta NDP, it will probably come down to ground game - who can get their voters out to the polls.
It feels like the closest election we’ve had in a long time.
The last election, in 2019, felt like a UCP wave from the very beginning, despite a lot of polls claiming it was a closer race.
The Orange Wave in 2015 was so sudden that by the final days of the campaign it was hard to believe. Even the NDP had a hard time catching up to it.
And 2012, the last time we went into an election that felt competitive, Smith’s Wildrose Party began to fall apart mid-campaign as the Liberal Party vote collapsed and shifted en masse to Alison Redford’s Progressive Conservatives. (Remember the “I never thought I’d vote PC” video?)
Through both positive and negative announcements this week, the two almost equally matched parties are trying to get their voters out to the advance polls, shake loose that batch of remaining undecided voters, and convince their opponent’s reluctant supporters to just stay home on Election Day.
Notley is talking a lot about her party’s plans to invest in Calgary, which has always been key to the NDP’s very narrow path to victory, and Edmonton-Whitemud candidate Rakhi Pancholi will be out this week with a message aimed at suburban families - affordable and accessible childcare.
The NDP released an endorsement from Peter Lougheed-era PC cabinet minister and former Red Deer MLA Jim Foster, who endorsed Notley and Red Deer-South candidate Michelle Baer. The NDP also picked up an endorsement on social media from former Strathcona County mayor and Sherwood Park PC MLA Cathy Olesen.
With Lethbridge-West candidate Shannon Phillips as their designated hitter, the NDP are also hoping to push uneasy conservative voters into their camp with 'Danielle Smith’s hidden agenda,’ a list of no longer hidden items that Smith has publicly talked about in the recent past and now claims she won’t do. Agenda items Phillips is focusing on include Smith’s musings about ‘forcing Albertans to pay to see a doctor, selling off public hospitals, stealing Albertan's pensions, and firing the RCMP.’
The UCP are also indulging in positive and negative campaigning in the final week.
Red Deer-North candidate Adriana LaGrange and Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills candidate Nathan Cooper promised new skills and workforce training for high school students, and Banff-Kananaskis candidate Miranda Rosin spoke about tourism investments.
Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche candidate Brian Jean, who succeeded Smith as leader of the Wildrose Party and ran against her in the UCP leadership race, appears to be the UCP’s designated hitter.
Jean has been criss-crossing the province repeating the UCP’s message about the NDP’s proposed increase to the corporate tax rate (the NDP want to increase it from 8% to 11%, which the UCP is framing as 38%, which is both true and spin) and promoting support from conservative-friendly groups like the Alberta Enterprise Group (which Smith used to work for as President) and the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC).
The UCP have spent most of the campaign trying to avoid tripping over Smith’s various comments and musings, including her literally comparing Albertans to followers of Hitler.
The NDP have overall run a pretty flawless campaign aimed almost entirely at moderate conservative voters, but their corporate tax increase plans opened up a big opportunity for the UCP to criticize the NDP on economic issues. It’s probably also a big challenge to convince some voters who cast their ballots against the NDP in the last election that Notley is the change they are looking for in this election.
In any normal election the NDP would probably have a healthy lead right now, which must be incredibly frustrating for folks working in NDP HQ. The same can be said for the UCP, who might have a much wider lead in the polls if they’d picked a leader like Travis Toews or Rebecca Schulz. But this is Alberta, where none of the normal rules of Canadian politics apply.
The outcome of next Monday’s election doesn’t appear any clearer now than it did on Day 1 of the campaign.
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A few more things…
As of 8:16 pm on May 23, a total of 161,830 Albertans had voted in the Advance polls, according to Elections Alberta. That’s a 15% increase from the first day of advance voting in the 2019 election.
POLITICO’s Trivia Night is coming to Edmonton tonight. It starts at 7pm at Hudson’s on Whyte. Congrats to the winners of last night’s trivia night in Calgary - Lisa Young, Melanee Thomas, Duane Bratt, Trevor Tombe and Rishi Nagar!