Alberta Votes

Alberta election: Parties focus on Calgary in campaign's last days

With the NDP dominating Edmonton, and Wildrose showing strong support in rural Alberta, all the province's political parties are setting their sights on Calgary in advance of Tuesday's vote.

Notely rally draws nearly 500 supporters in traditionally Tory-friendly city

NDP Leader Rachel Notley's party has a solid lead in the polls, with the PCs and the Wildrose vying for second in the last days of the election. (CBC)

A few months ago, it would have been an almost unimaginable scene — NDP Leader Rachel Notley, speaking in Calgary, surrounded by an enthusiastic crowd of hundreds.

With her party riding high in the polls during the dying days of the Alberta election, Notley spent Saturday making one of her final appeals to voters in the city.

All of the parties have got in-roads to make here … huge wins or significant losses to make in the city.- Political science professor Lori Williams

"We do not have to repeat history here in Calgary, we can make history," she told supporters.

In previous elections, Calgary has not been friendly to the NDP; in the 2012 provincial election, 20 of the city's 25 seats went to the Progressive Conservative party — the other ridings elected Liberal and Wildrose MLAs.

But this year, with polls showing an NDP domination of Edmonton and a strong Wildrose presence in rural Alberta, the traditional Tory-stronghold now seems to be where the election will be decided.

"It's battleground Calgary," said Lori Williams, political science professor at Mount Royal University.

"All of the parties have got in-roads to make here … huge wins or significant losses to make in the city. "

Polls suggest a solid lead overall for the NDP, with the PCs and Wildrose vying for second. At the rally, Notley spoke at length about the PC budget, introduced shortly before the election was called.

She told the crowd of about 500 that cuts contained in the plan, along with the government's refusal to touch corporate tax rates, have caused Albertans to "reject" the budget: one she now accused the government of trying to distance itself from.

"PCs have been running against the PC record, which is odd but we've also been running against that record."

"And we've been talking about what we didn't like about the budget and what we would do differently.That's been resonating with people in an unprecedented way."

PC Leader Jim Prentice told supporters that Alberta's election comes down to a choice between his party and the NDP. (CBC)
Being in the spotlight also means dealing with more heat, however. The PC party has focused their efforts on attacking the NDP's economic plan, arguing that promises of increased corporate taxes and a review of the province's royalty rates will further damage the province's economy, already crippled by low oil prices.

At his own campaign rally in Calgary, PC Leader Jim Prentice argued that switching to a party with no experience running Alberta, given the economic climate, would be a mistake.

We need leadership and we need a plan," he said.

"I think Albertans know that in the context of this...getting through, coming out stronger than ever. A majority government, a stable government, is important."

Earlier this week, Cenovus Energy CEO Brian Ferguson told Bloomburg News that a royalty review would mean less investment in the province. Later, a group of CEOs from five Alberta companies held a press conference, predicting dire consequences if the NDP unseat the PCs. They argued that changes to the companies' bottom lines could lead to fewer charitable donations from corporate sponsors.

The comments spawned accusations of fear-mongering and criticized the Tories of "hostage taking." That led to many people on social media to pledge individual donations to charities and hospitals in Alberta in protest of the group's comments.

While Prentice told supporters the election has come down to two parties, the heads of the three other parties were in the city. Wildrose leader Brian Jean announced his intention to form an all-party panel to audit Tory spending. 

"This blue-ribbon panel ... will be chaired by an independent, respected figure and include two forensic accountants. as well as member of the legislative assembly representing all parties in the legislature," he said. 

Meantime, both the Liberals and the Alberta Party leaders were door-knocking in an effort to strengthen support ahead of the May 5 vote. 

Corrections

  • In the 2012 provincial election the PC party won 20 seats, the Liberals won three seats and the Wildrose party won two seats in Calgary. Incorrect information appeared in an earlier version of this story.
    May 03, 2015 8:40 AM MT

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