Voters will see new Alberta political parties on ballot for 1st time

When Alberta voters mark their ballots for the April 16 provincial election, many will see the names of political parties brand new to them.

Some are dormant, but Alberta now has a total of 13 registered political parties

Derek Fildebrandt, leader of the Freedom Conservative Party, meets with voters at the Rocky's Bakery in Strathmore on Wednesday, March 20. (Audrey Neveu/Radio-Canada)

When Alberta voters mark their ballots for the April 16 provincial election, many will see the names of political parties brand new to them.

Yes, the United Conservative Party will appear on ballots for the first time, since it didn't exist the last time Albertans went to the polls in a general election.

But most Albertans are well aware of the UCP — especially after the first week of the campaign, which was dominated by Jason Kenney's party and its main rival, Rachel Notley's New Democratic Party.

In total, there are now 13 political parties registered with Elections Alberta.

The dormant Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties are still on the list, but won't field any candidates. That's due to the merger of the two parties under the UCP banner in 2017.

New choices include the Alberta Independence Party, added to the list of registered political parties just this week, and the Alberta Advantage Party.

3 ways to get on the list

Drew Westwater, deputy returning officer with Elections Alberta, said after the election was called on Tuesday, the Alberta Independence Party was able to endorse candidates in at least half of the 87 electoral divisions.

According to the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosures Act, there are three ways to qualify a party for registration:

  • hold at least three seats in the legislative assembly;
  • endorse candidates in at least half of the electoral divisions in Alberta;
  • collect 7,868 signatures on a petition to illustrate support. (The number represents 0.3 per cent of electors eligible to vote in the last general election.)

"I know this is a new one for Alberta," Westwater said of the Alberta Independence Party.

"It's the first time someone has done that and qualified under this provision of the act.

"Now we have a new party for electors to choose from in the upcoming election."

Westwater said that by qualifying as a registered political party, the party's candidates can officially appear on the ballot under their party name. Without the party being registered, those candidates would have to list as "independent."

New parties try to get attention

Another new party appearing for the first time this election is the four-month-old Alberta Advantage Party.

Leader Marilyn Burns knows she faces a big challenge in getting noticed, but said the consequences of not being on the ballot are bigger.

A woman with long blond hair, wearing a grey suit, sits at a table with papers in front of her. She is smiling.
The leader of the new Alberta Advantage Party, Marilyn Burns, says it's a challenge to get noticed, but important that Albertans have a choice in the election. (Alberta Advantage Party)

Supporters combed Alberta to gather 8,600 signatures on a petition to form the Alberta Advantage Party, said Burns.

The process of canvassing voters directly, said Burns, has given her a good indication of how people are feeling going into the election.

"What we've heard loud and clear, and continue to hear, is a visceral hatred for the NDP that is not going to change no matter what Jason Kenney does," she said.

That sentiment is balanced by "the strong dislike and distrust of Jason Kenney," Burns added.

Choice and consequences

The upstart Freedom Conservative Party was created in 2018 by former UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt.

Fildebrandt anticipates more about 30 FCP candidates will run in the election. He said his biggest challenge is to get people to think of options when they go to the polls.

"The media tend to give the impression you've only got two choices in politics.You've got the red team and you've got the blue team," Fildebrandt said in an interview with Radio-Canada.

"You've got Diet Coke and you've got Coke Zero, and there's a lot more to it than that."

Little room for small parties

Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt said this election is significant because it has put Alberta into the position of a two-party race for perhaps the first time in recent history.

"We've gone into new terrain here," Bratt said.

"I think there is room in the centre in this very polarized environment, but not in this election."

He said it will take at least one election cycle to open up the field again.

Candidate nominations are open until March 29.