10 ridings to watch in Alberta's election campaign
Intriguing battlegrounds shaping up in Edmonton, Calgary and elsewhere
With Albertans set to go to the polls in a spring election April 16, here's a look at 10 contests that election night host Rob Brown and legislative reporter Kim Trynacity find especially intriguing.
Kim Trynacity's picks:
I'll be watching this riding very closely on election night. Not because it will foreshadow who will form the government, but for the inter-party drama.
It's the only riding in Edmonton where Jason Kenney parachuted in a personal favourite — former Edmonton Eskimos president Len Rhodes — to overstep local would-be candidates vying for the UCP nomination.
It's also where the NDP incumbent lost the nomination to Jasvir Deol, a local insurance agent with deep ties to the community. Community politics run deep in this ethnically diverse suburban riding.
Also running: Alberta Party candidate Amrit Matharu.
Stephen Mandel is putting his Alberta Party leadership to the test. Well known as a former three-term mayor of Edmonton, Mandel was disqualified for filing a late expense report. But the courts lifted the ban, and now he's back on the ticket.
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The Alberta Party faces a challenge to be heard above the NDP and UCP. Incumbent Lorne Dach is running for the NDP, while the UCP has nominated former Crown prosecutor Laurie Mozeson.
Also running: Gordon Perrot for the Alberta Advantage Party.
This sprawling new northwest Alberta riding includes the towns of Fairview, Spirit River and Valleyview. NDP Leader Rachel Notley grew up outside of Fairview and the riding's name includes a nod to her late father, NDP politician Grant Notley.
The two-candidate contest pits an incumbent MLA against an NDP cabinet minister. Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd — from a well-known cow-calf family — meets Todd Loewen, entrepreneur and mixed farmer.
McCuaig-Boyd was a surprise appointment to the Notley cabinet but has gained profile as a confidante to the premier and a defender of the oilpatch. Loewen, first elected as a Wildrose MLA, is running for the UCP.
Red Deer North, Red Deer South
These two seats will be very hard for the NDP to retain. Incumbent MLAs Kim Schreiner (Red Deer North) and Barb Miller (Red Deer South) have enjoyed rather low profiles since their surprising wins, and haven't said too much on committees. Mind you, backbenchers are pretty much told to stay quiet.
Schreiner is running against UCP candidate Adriana LaGrange, Alberta Party candidate Paul Hardy and Independent Michael Neufeld.
In Red Deer South, Miller's challengers are Jason Stephan for the UCP and Ryan McDougall for the Alberta Party.
Rob Brown's picks:
This seat is hugely symbolic for the NDP.
One of the most prominent and fiercely partisan members of caucus, Environment Minister Shannon Phillips needs to hold onto Lethbridge-West in order for the party to credibly claim it represents the views from that corner of the province.
As "rural" ridings go, this one is seen as "progressive." If the NDP can't win here, you've got to wonder if it'll hold any of its rural ridings.
Phillips is running against UCP candidate Karri Flatla, Liberal Patricia Chizek, Alberta Party candidate Zac Rhodenizer and Independent candidate Ben Maddison.
Mountain View is a real wild card.
With longtime MLA and former Liberal Party leader David Swann retiring from politics, this seat is believed to be up for grabs. The party's new leader, David Khan, is hoping voters will continue to opt for the Liberal brand, but he'll be facing a sitting cabinet minister in Kathleen Ganley.
This Liberal-NDP battle could potentially split the progressive vote, which would favour a rookie UCP candidate. You'd think that would benefit the UCP but its star candidate in the riding — Caylan Ford — resigned her candidacy amid controversy on the eve of the election.
Other candidates: Angela Kokott (Alberta Party), Monica Friesz (Independent) and Thana Boonlert (Green).
One cabinet minister — Kathleen Ganley who holds the justice file — makes way for another. Finance Minister Joe Ceci is running here because his old riding (Calgary-Fort) was eliminated in the redrawing of the electoral boundaries.
Calgary-Buffalo includes several of the neighbourhoods Ceci relied on in 2015 to win Fort and his seat on city council before he entered provincial politics. The area has a recent history of breaking centre left. Kent Hehr held the riding as a Liberal before moving on to federal politics.
Ceci is the most senior minister in Calgary. He was well known as an alderman and while no seat in Calgary can be considered safe for the NDP, this one could be as close as it gets for the party.
He's up against Tom Olsen for the UCP, Omar Masood for the Alberta Party and Green candidate Heather Morigeau.
This is another riding that has recently been represented by an NDP cabinet minister. When Stephanie McLean decided not to run again, there were reportedly several sitting Calgary MLAs who tried to position themselves as the party's candidate in that riding.
Calgary-Varsity is an education hub full of professors and students from the University of Calgary. It also borders two hospitals, and you'd think most health-care professionals who live nearby have been pleased to see a government continuing to spend on that sector in the face of big deficits.
In the end, Anne McGrath got the NDP nomination. She had been acting as the executive director of the premier's southern Alberta office and has a long history of working behind the scenes — including a stint as chief of staff to the late Jack Layton.
Other candidates: Jason Copping (UCP), Ryan Campbell (Liberal), Beth Barberree (Alberta Party), Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes (Green) and Christopher McAndrew (Independent).
If the Alberta Party can't hold on to the only riding to ever elect a member of that party, it may turn out to be a one-hit wonder.
Greg Clark is the former leader of the party and is well respected and well liked, but he's going up against an ambitious UCP candidate in Doug Schweitzer. Schweitzer ran for the leadership of the UCP, and got a lot of attention for his moderate pro-LGBT campaign.
This is traditionally a riding to watch because it produces premiers. Voters in Calgary-Elbow sent both Alison Redford and Ralph Klein to the legislature.
This race more than any other in Calgary may be decided by the candidates' connection on the doorstep rather than how voters feel about the party brand or leadership.
Also running: Janet Eremenko for the NDP.