EDMONTON – Federal politicians brought bouquets and billy clubs to Alberta’s election trail Friday to address the possibility the NDP could wield power after more than four decades of Progressive Conservative government.
Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair praised provincial NDP Leader Rachel Notley.
“I can only say that Rachel Notley is an extraordinary politician. She’s a very seasoned politician, she’s an extraordinary leader and she’s shown that with the type of campaign that she’s run,” said Mulcair, speaking to reporters in Regina.
He said her campaign ahead of Tuesday’s vote is resonating with people and an NDP victory would make life affordable for the middle class.
FULL COVERAGE: Alberta election 2015
Polls suggest Premier Jim Prentice and his Progressive Conservatives are in a tight three-way race with the NDP and the Wildrose Party and that Notley has had momentum since a leaders debate that many pundits say she won.
In response, Prentice has ramped up criticism of the NDP over the last week, first saying the party’s budget plan doesn’t add up, then saying the NDP plan to increase corporate taxes and review oil royalties would kill business and jobs.
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On Thursday, Prentice went further, telling a party fundraiser in Edmonton: “We don’t need a pipeline policy in this province that feels like it was scripted by Thomas Mulcair.”
Notley, casting an early ballot in south Edmonton on Friday morning, dismissed the attacks.
“I think that’s entirely incorrect,” she said, laughing. “I haven’t spoken with Thomas Mulcair for months and months.
“I’m taking my cues from Albertans and I’m taking my cues from what I think is the best way forward to build Alberta’s economy.”
Mulcair has been a polarizing figure on pipelines in Alberta. He has said he opposes lines that ship raw product for refining abroad and he would rather see more upgrading of crude in Canada.
Notley has said her party would fight for pipeline approvals, but would marshal limited government resources to lobby only for projects that have a realistic chance of success.
She has said if she becomes premier she won’t push for the Northern Gateway pipeline, which would take Alberta crude across B.C. to tankers on the coast. The proposed line is facing numerous environmental challenges along with a legal fight from First Nations.
Mulcair was not the only federal politician to wade into Alberta’s election.
Federal Conservative Health Minister Rona Ambrose told reporters in Edmonton that “it’s a risky experiment to take a province like ours, (which is) the economic engine of this country, and turn it over to a party (such as the NDP) that is not interested in advocating for the oil sands, advocating for pipeline expansion and advocating for small businesses.”
In the House of Commons, Alberta Conservative MP Chris Warkentin called the Alberta NDP plan a recipe for economic disaster.
“They will kill jobs that Albertans desperately need,” said Warkentin.
Prentice, campaigning in Red Deer, said the election is a choice between “a free-enterprise Alberta and an NDP party that will take this province in the wrong direction.”
Notley suggested her opponents are getting desperate.
“I think it has deteriorated into groundless name-calling, and it’s certainly not the strategy that I would take.”
With files from Clare Clancy in Regina