The House

Midweek podcast: Division in Alberta

This week, The House is in Alberta to explore the big issues in the provincial election. We talk to political scientist Lori Williams and Alberta Beef Producers chair Charlie Christie about the tone of politics, and what they're expecting.
Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley and Premier Jason Kenney. (Canadian Press )
Listen to the full episode23:04

As the party leaders jostle for Alberta's top job, one expert says this election has become polarizing and divisive. 

Lori Williams, a political science expert at Mount Royal University in Calgary, told The House there are some tough issues at play in Alberta's election, and it's pushing voters to extreme ends of the political spectrum. 

"It's a polarizing election," she said. 

"I think everyone is focused on the economy."

Canadian politics has a long history of voting to oust leaders, and she says this election looks to be following the same trend. 

Rachel Notley is the first NDP premier in Alberta, and her 2015 election ended decades of Conservative rule. 

The province's economy has been struggling, as issues in the oil and gas sector have led to layoffs and other challenges. Agriculture workers have also been fighting bad weather, and trade troubles when it comes to exporting their crops.

Williams said that could work against Notley, even though the downturn wasn't her fault. 

"It's hard to acknowledge (people's) pain without also acknowledging that she's part of the problem." 

While Notley pushes her economic plan — including buying rail cars to get oil out of the province while the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is stalled — other voters see UCP leader Jason Kenney as the best option. He's pushing for a balanced budget, and more money to support natural resources workers. 

Kenney is also leading in the polls by a fairly substantial margin.

However, he's facing questions about homophobic, white supremacist and misogynistic comments from some of his candidates. 

The hostile tone that has permeated the campaign worries people, including farmer Charlie Christie. 

"Things are so divisive now. People go right to their fighting words immediately," he said. 

"Personally, that troubles me."

Christie also heads the Alberta Beef Producers. He says it's been a struggle to get any help from the provincial parties, or the federal government. 

Albertans head to the polls on Tuesday, April 16.