Alberta Votes

Alberta election: Wildrose defections not forgotten in southern ridings

With about a week to go until voting day, there are indications in the ridings south of Calgary that the mass defection of Wildrose MLAs to the Tories is not water under the bridge for many voters.

From Highwood to Medicine Hat, floor crossings still top of mind among voters

Medicine Hat voter Leonard Jalbert wears a Blake Pedersen campaign sign - from his former Wildrose days - to remind people about the now-Tory candidate's defection. And he holds a mirror in reference to Jim Prentice's "look in the mirror" comment. (CBC)

With about a week to go until voting day, there are indications in the ridings south of Calgary that the mass defection of Wildrose MLAs to the Tories is not water under the bridge for many voters.

In the 2012 election, much of southern Alberta was painted Wildrose green.

The party won 17 seats, most of them in the south.

But when this election campaign kicked off, only five Wildrose MLAs remained. 

In Highwood, which was then leader Danielle Smith's riding, many voters are still disillusioned that eight MLAs followed her across the floor to join the Progressive Conservative government.

"I think they're more angry at Danielle Smith than they are with the party," said Highwood resident Andrew Steel.

Her old party still has support in the riding, though.

"I think people will still vote Wildrose," said local resident Tim Epton.

"There are still people who believe in the Wildrose," echoed resident Glenn Eakins.

Further south, in the riding of Little Bow, voter Ruth Weisgerber hasn't forgotten that PC candidate Ian Donovan was first elected as a Wildrose MLA.

"They were always so against the PCs and then they go and join to PCs. That just even put me further against the Wildrose," she said.

'Look in the mirror' 

It's also easy to spot angry voters in Medicine Hat either. 

To make his views known, retired aircraft technician Leonard Jalbert walks up and down the street wearing a Blake Pedersen campaign sign from the last vote, before he crossed to the Tories, with "Judas" in big red letters.

Jalbert holds a mirror that says, "We screwed up, you are to blame," mocking Jim Prentice's infamous comment that Albertans "need only look in the mirror" to see those responsible for the province's financial mess.

"Why should I look in the mirror? I don't go to Legislature. I don't pass laws. I don't deal with oil companies," said Jalbert.

"This man doesn't deserve to go back to Edmonton and represent me again? Under a PC banner?" said Jalbert, referring to Pedersen's bid to be re-elected as a Tory MLA.

But according to Geoffrey Hale, University of Lethbridge political science professor, the race in rural Alberta is still wide open.

"There is a fairly strong Wildrose base but whether they're discouraged or whether they're angry, only election day will tell," he said. 

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