Like no provincial election in Alberta since 1993, this campaign isn't about going through the motions. It's not about waiting until after the election to talk about policy (PCs 2001) nor about calling an election 'to get it out of the way' (PCs 2004). This campaign could actually be a real pivot point in this province's very stable political history.
Maybe it's just been so long since there's been a real race that this one already ranks as exciting. After all, it was just in 2008 that one media outlet actually called for a PC majority government TWO MINUTES after the polls closed. Don't you just love that kind of race to be first?
But this is a different kind of race to be first. If the first few days show anything, it's that this election is overwhelmingly focused on leadership — not the team. The leaders and their war rooms have decreed that Calgary matters. Edmonton matters. That's hardly surprising. But clearly, Airdrie and Okotoks matter. Those cities have already had more party leader visits than the past three elections combined! (Sarcasm...)
The PCs know that holding onto the Highwood riding deals a blow to the surging Wildrose. The Wildrose knows that as nice as an Edmonton breakthrough would be, winning big in both rural Alberta and Calgary gives the party a huge leg up on winning it all.
But the current not-so-civil war in Alberta's small-c conservative heart has meant something else to me. For the first time in the past five elections at my present address, a sitting MLA was actually spotted on my street looking for support. Now THAT tells me that something has changed.
Maybe the demise of being paid to sit on a committee that doesn't meet and politicians having to actually hustle for votes signifies Alberta is entering a new phase. Politically, this is almost how things work in the real world. And yes, campaigns do matter. It's why we watch them.