Notley emerges as winner of Alberta election leaders’ debate

NDP leader Rachel Notley speaks to media after the leaders debate in Edmonton on Thursday April 23, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON — Thursday night’s leaders’ debate on Global News kicked off with opening remarks from Alberta’s four main political party leaders, but quickly turned into a two-way battle between PC Leader Jim Prentice and NDP leader Rachel Notley.

Political watchers agreed that Notley dominated the debate. In his Calgary Herald column, Don Braid said “Notley was all over the others — aggressive without being unpleasant, constantly interjecting without seeming rude, throwing even Premier Jim Prentice off his game.”

Edmonton Journal political columnist Graham Thompson noted Prentice turned his back on Liberal leader David Swann and Wildrose leader Brian Jean for the most of the night, focusing most of his attacks on Notley.

“There were moments Prentice came across shockingly condescending. At one point he actually said to Notley, ‘I know that math is difficult.’”

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READ MORE: Notley-Prentice battle, ‘donor’ zinger, #mathishard dominate social response to debate

Meanwhile Thompson’s colleague Paula Simons agreed Notley was the star of the night, but also thought Prentice held his own.

Andrew Coyne with the National Post said Notley came across the most likeable.

Journalists weren’t the only ones with strong opinions about the outcome. Former politician Danielle Smith, who led the Wildrose during the last provincial election, tweeted, “I’m in a room full of business conservatives. Feedback so far is the men look grim and Rachel looks great. #justsayin.” She later agreed Notley won the debate.

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Albertans weighted in online as well. In a thread on the Edmonton sub on Reddit, user Meg_Shark said “When Prentice condescendingly told Notley “math is hard” I was about to lose it. She handled it so well, very impressed with her tonight.”

Another user wasn’t blown away by any of the leaders.

“Throughout the debate, I was thinking ‘Is this really the 4 best political leaders that Alberta has?’ Jean and Swann were both pretty awful and Prentice wasn’t great either. I thought Notley was the best but even she seemed pretty unfocused and unprofessional at times.” said user paul-mccartney.

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A poll conducted immediately following the debate showed Albertans felt Notley dominated the night as well.

Mainstreet Technologies asked 2,322 Albertans who watched the debate to share their opinion. 44 per cent said Notley won the debate and 36 per cent said she would make the best premier.

“A month ago, nobody outside of a core political base in Alberta knew who Rachel Notley was,” said Quito Maggi, president of Mainstreet Technologies. “Today 36% of Albertans believe she would make the best Premier with Jim Prentice at 32%.

Despite the large support for Notley, the majority – 37 per cent – believe Jim Prentice will still form the next government.

“Whether this number reflects PC overconfidence or simply reflects a population that is accustomed to PC governments after 43 years of rule, is too early to tell,” he added.

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FULL COVERAGE: Alberta election 2015

Below is a collection of other notable tweets about the leaders during the debate.

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