Alberta Election 2015: A look back at the twists and turns of the campaign
WATCH ABOVE: The NDP has won power for the first time in Alberta by toppling the Progressive Conservative’s that have dominated the province for more than four decades – and social media was abuzz with news of the stunning upset.
EDMONTON – Here is a look at some of the twists and turns during the Alberta election campaign that ended with Rachel Notley’s NDP winning a majority government.
April 7: Premier Jim Prentice announces in Edmonton that he has visited the lieutenant-governor to ask for a provincial election on May 5. Under Alberta law, an election wasn’t supposed to be held until early 2016, but many believe Prentice hopes to take advantage of an opposition in disarray. He’s running on a tough-love budget that increases taxes and runs a record $5-billion deficit.
April 8: The Prentice bus heads for Grande Cache, where the premier once worked as a coal miner. He talks of a need to get Alberta off the boom-and-bust economic cycle that is tied to oil prices. NDP Leader Rachel Notley holds rallies in Calgary and Lethbridge. Wildrose Leader Brian Jean visits Calgary, Kananaskis and Spruce Grove.
April 8: Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi criticizes Prentice for spending $30 million to hold an early election after refusing weeks earlier to restore $200,000 in funding for more child death investigations.
April 9: The Wildrose releases its economic plan. The party promises to cut 1/3 of government managers and half the managers in Alberta Health Services, mostly through attrition. The party would also slash government travel and advertising budgets, limit the use of consultants and roll back pay for politicians. Jean says that would save more than $2 billion in this budget year alone and help balance the budget by 2017.
April 10: Prentice challenges the Wildrose to specify which jobs the party would cut and which construction projects it would mothball under its proposed budget plan.
April 12: Prentice says it was disappointment with previous Progressive Conservative administrations in Alberta that ultimately led him to re-enter public life. “Albertans were disappointed and so was I.” Prentice is the seventh person to serve as premier since the PCs took power in 1971.
April 13: Prentice acknowledges the level of public anger being directed at his party. “We will not make the mistakes of the past.”
April 13: Prentice says there will not be a provincial sales tax as long as he leads Alberta.
April 15: Prentice promises to axe boards and commissions and to demand wage freezes from unionized staff should his party win.
April 16: A Wildrose candidate apologizes for the way an old-fashioned pie auction was advertised in his constituency. The fundraiser invited supporters to take a break from calving, farming and the NHL playoffs to meet Rick Strankman, but made it clear it was a BYWP – Bring Your Wife’s Pie event.
READ MORE: Top 7 highlights of Alberta Budget 2015
April 17: Notley says her government would be up front with people about school and hospital projects, with a public accounting system that would end political interference.
April 17: Half a dozen high-profile Alberta Tory cabinet ministers stand together to criticize a “disastrous” Wildrose party fiscal plan they say would leave a funding gap of $29 billion.
April 17: Nominations close. The Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats are the only political parties with a full slate of 87 candidates. Elections Alberta says the Wildrose party has 86 candidates – it is not opposing Notley in her constituency. The Alberta Liberals have 56, the Alberta Party has 36 candidates, the Green Party 24, Social Credit six, the Communists two and there are 15 Independents.
April 19: Notley takes a page from former Tory premier Peter Lougheed as she unveils her party’s election campaign platform in Edmonton. Notley says corporations that did well during the boom should be expected to shoulder more of the burden during lean times. The platform includes a plan to hike corporate taxes and review royalties. It later turns out that the party miscalculated and would take a year longer than announced to balance the budget.
April 21: Prentice rolls back on part of his proposed budget, cancelling his government’s plan to reduce the charitable donation tax credit. “Today I need to admit that we’ve gotten one very important thing wrong in our budget proposal.”
April 23: In a flinty televised debate, Prentice trades barbs with Notley and literally turns his back on the Wildrose Leader Jean. The highlight comes when Prentice incorrectly says the NDP want to raise Alberta’s 10 per cent corporate tax rate to 20 per cent instead of the 12 per cent outlined in the NDP budget plan. He mock commiserates with Notley that “math is difficult” as she tries to set the record straight.
April 24: Pollsters and pundits say Notley was the clear debate winner, while Jean came off too wooden. Prentice acknowledges that Notley is a skilled debater, but questions how her party could afford its election promises.
April 24: Prentice dismisses the possibility of the political left surging to power, saying Alberta is “not an NDP province.” Notley says “Albertans will decide what sort of province Alberta is.”
April 25: Alberta’s justice minister steps down. Prentice says he learned that “legal proceedings have commenced between Jonathan Denis and his estranged wife.” Prentice says he still has faith in Denis as a PC candidate.
April 27: Prentice attacks Notley for her promise to take a hands-off approach on two pipeline projects, Northern Gateway and Keystone XL, that would move Alberta oil to coastal waters for export.
April 28: Notley says Prentice is fearmongering when he accuses her of turning her back on the oil industry. Notley has said that if she wins the election, she would hold a review of the province’s royalty structure to ensure that Albertans get a fair return for its non-renewable resources.
April 28: Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann tells a crowd at a seniors centre that if people can’t vote Liberal, they should cast their ballot for someone other than the Tories. “After 44 years, they need to be kicked out,” he says. “At the very least we need a stronger opposition.”
April 29: Prentice says a PC election candidate convicted of soliciting a prostitute is acceptable because he owned up to what he did. But he says the party was correct in disqualifying another candidate who once had a restraining order against him in relation to his former girlfriend.
April 29: The CEO of Cenovus Energy, Brian Ferguson, says it would be a bad idea to review Alberta’s royalty structure at a time when crude prices are down by half.
April 29: Prentice urges media to stop dwelling on the dismissed candidate and Denis and focus on core issues.
April 30: Notley, facing criticism that her candidates are inexperienced, says they reflect the diversity of Alberta’s population.
April 30: Former premier Ralph Klein’s daughter, Angie Klein, says her father may have led the Progressive Conservatives for 14 years, but it’s time for a new government. She releases a YouTube video urging Albertans to vote for the NDP.
April 30: Calgary Mayor Nenshi says he thinks the PCs will win; he later adds he thinks a minority government is possible.
April 30: Prentice ratchets up warnings of an NDP-governed Alberta, bringing federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair into the fray and saying the party has a “fundamental distrust of business.”
May 1: Notley dismisses allegations that Mulcair is playing any part in her campaign. She says she has not spoken with him for months.
May 3: Notley tells more than 1,000 cheering supporters that the choice for Alberta’s future is theirs and doesn’t belong to Prentice and his corporate friends.
May 4: The day before the vote, the PCs are forced to address lurid allegations surrounding Denis’s failed marriage. A judge lifted a ban that had kept from the public allegations that Denis kneed his estranged wife, Breanna Palmer, in the face, tampered with her car’s brakes and threw temper tantrums while their marriage fell apart earlier in the year. Justice Craig Jones says he’s satisfied Palmer is “not in danger of family violence,” but the finding doesn’t stop Palmer’s allegations from being a hot topic as voters prepared to make their choice.
May 5: The New Democrats under Notley win a majority in the Alberta election.
© 2015 The Canadian Press