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A campaign of mudslinging leaves voters with tough choice come election day

The campaign of attacks has made it hard to understand what each political party is offering Albertans, says CBC focus group.

Political leaders need to make their cases based on merit: focus group

Many of the voters who participated in a CBC focus group felt like attacks had taken over the focus from election issues. (CBC)

There's been a lot of mud-slinging throughout the Alberta election campaign, making it difficult to get to the core of what each political party is offering Albertans.

Heading into the final days ahead of the provincial election, that was the main sentiment from members of a CBC focus group who live outside of Calgary and Edmonton.

"There's no nobility or honour," said Patrick LeFort, 26, a Fort McMurray education assistant, about the actions of Alberta's political party leaders during this election cycle.

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CBC has assembled focus groups to talk about what matters to Albertans during the election campaign. The 30 members — representing a variety of age groups, economic and cultural backgrounds and political leanings — were formed into three separate groups representing Calgary, Edmonton and regions outside those city centres.

Many of the voters who participated in the group felt like the parties attacking one another had taken over the focus from election issues.

LeFort said he wishes party leaders would better represent the characteristics of leaders.

"If you can't make a case on your own merit, you don't deserve to be a political leader," he said.

"I'd like them to stand and say 'This is what I'll do,' not 'This is what he's done,'" added Ward Gunson,  62, a semi-retired truck driver from Grande Prairie.

On the campaign trail

The riding where Gunson lives has elected a conservative candidate in the last five elections. That matches up to what he has seen this cycle; primarily, he said, it has been the UCP candidate out campaigning in his area.

"The other (parties), it's like they weren't really putting up much of a campaign because their odds are slim to none," Gunson said. "But I would have liked to have seen more input from them."

Joy Williams, a 57-year-old health-care worker from Red Deer, expressed that it felt like only two parties are in the running, despite the other party's candidates providing a much-needed "breath of fresh air".

Getting information  

When it came to learning about platforms, some voters found the leaders spent a lot of time explaining what their plans are — but not enough time explaining how they would be executed.

"They didn't really tell me how they are going to go about it. I guess I'm just going to have to trust them to do it," said Williams.

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Lorne Doktor, 53, a retired RCMP officer from Red Deer, appreciated that UCP Leader Jason Kenney explained during the April 4 leaders debate where voters could find more information about the party's platform.

He added that if a leader can credibly poke holes in another party's promise, he'd be willing to listen.

"Tell us why,"  said Doktor. "And be believable."

The final days

As election day looms, many members of the focus group are wrestling with vote strategy: should they cast a ballot to represent what they want. or cast a vote to prevent another from earning power. 

For Danielle Low, it's a real dilemma over whether being true to her values might effectively "throw away" her vote.

"I always think, it's never over until it's over," said the 40-year-old teacher from Lethbridge.

Local representation is important to Darlene McLean, a 61-year-old office assistant in Lethbridge.

"I'm more interested ... when I see a candidate who will genuinely represent his or her riding, rather than just another political party machine," she said.

Regardless of what happens, McLean emphasized that the most important thing is for people to be engaged in the political process.

"Get out and vote. I don't really care who you vote for, as long as you vote … because you have to send a message."

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