Awaiting the writ: which Alberta parties are prepared for the 2019 election?

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WATCH ABOVE: Confirmed candidates for the 2019 Alberta election are hitting the campaign trail despite uncertainty of when the provincial election will be called. Adam MacVicar reports – Jan 10, 2019

It’s still not certain on what exact date Albertans will be heading to the polls, but Alberta’s political parties are still getting a jump-start on being ready for when the election comes.

Candidates across the province are doorknocking in their constituencies, despite not knowing exactly when the vote will be taking place.

“I want to give people the opportunity to meet me, to talk to me and to find out where I stand on issues so people can know for sure what their options are when they’re voting,” Calgary-Northeast Alberta Party candidate Nate Pike told Global News while doorknocking on Wednesday.

“Certainly the intensity is picking up as we’re getting closer and closer to the expected writ drop.”

As of Jan. 10, the United Conservative Party (UCP) led all provincial parties with 79 confirmed candidates out of 87 electoral ridings. The Alberta Party was in second with 54 and the governing NDP was in third with 34.

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The Alberta Liberal Party and Green Party were tied with seven confirmed candidates, while Derek Fildebrandt’s Freedom Conservative Party had one.

READ MORE: Alberta legislature ends what could be last sitting before spring election

The latest candidate totals call into question which parties are more or less prepared for the upcoming vote. But one political commentator said he believes the majority of the parties aren’t concerned, as it’s normal for to see a lack of confirmed candidates so far out from an election.

“I don’t think it’s particularly concerning,” said Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt. “To say that the NDP is unprepared for the election when they get to call it is a ridiculous line, but what it does show is the UCP is very well-prepared and the Alberta Party is moving in that direction as well.”

In a statement to Global News, the Alberta NDP said it has 60 completed or scheduled nomination contests, and is preparing to launch more.

“We launched our nomination process in March of last year and asked our constituency associations to work with us in a thoughtful and deliberate manner,” the statement read. “It is extremely important that those who carry the flag for us in 2019 are representative of the values of the province and our party.”

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READ MORE: United Conservative Party holds comfortable lead heading into Alberta spring election: poll

Meanwhile, first-time UCP candidate Tanya Fir is in a holding pattern, waiting for the writ to drop.

Fir is the UCP candidate in the newly-created Calgary-Peigan riding. She said she has been doorknocking, but an election call is needed for her to move into an office space, print signs and recruit volunteers.

“I’m excited, but it’s a quiet confidence because we have to keep working hard,” Fir said. “I feel confident, I feel that we are prepared — I mean just the amount of people that have sought nominations.”

Although the numbers are interesting, what has caught the eye of political watchers across the province isn’t the number of NDP and UCP candidates, but how those candidates came to win their nomination.

The UCP has had highly-contested nomination races in the majority of the province’s electorial districts. However, the NDP has had multiple candidates win the nomination by acclamation; meaning the majority of their candidates had no opponents for the nomination.

According to Bratt, the NDP have had only one contested nomination due to a boundary change with two MLAs competing for the seat.

“What is more striking is just how competitive [the UCP nominations] have been and that’s because they’re seen as the government-in-waiting,” Bratt said. “Therefore, if you can win the nomination, you can then become an MLA; winning the nomination will be tougher than winning the general election.”
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While there is plenty of speculation among the candidates across all parties about exactly when the writ will be dropped, Bratt said there are plenty of factors at play that the government will weigh before dropping the writ.

“Do they want university students that tend to vote NDP on campus and do they want them on campus before final exams?” he said. “If that’s the case, then you’re looking at a March election, perhaps as late as early April.

“On the other hand, if they’re looking at older voters who may be snowbirds in Arizona or Florida and are more likely to vote UCP, they want to make sure that they stay in Arizona or Florida.”

According to Alberta’s fixed-election-date legislation, the general election must take place between March 1 and May 31.

Premier Rachel Notley has not made any firm commitments to whether or not there will be a spring sitting of the legislature.

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