Election promises already? Alberta party leaders in ‘wooing stage’ ahead of writ drop

Click to play video: 'Alberta political parties appear to be in campaign mode despite no election call yet' Alberta political parties appear to be in campaign mode despite no election call yet
WATCH: An NDP announcement on Thursday had all the appearances of a government in full blown campaign mode, but no writ has been dropped for the spring election. As Jill Croteau reports, some are criticizing the politics of campaigning before the election is called – Jan 31, 2019

With no date set for Alberta’s spring election and no official platforms released by either of the province’s political parties, it appears party leaders are already in campaign mode, slinging insults and making promises in hopes of securing votes.

At a rally-style announcement in Calgary on Thursday, Premier Rachel Notley warned voters that “the choice ahead is the starkest Albertans have faced in decades.”

“A choice for how we build the future and a choice for whom that future is built,” she said before a large crowd of supporters.

“Are we building a province for the many or the few?”

Notley has signalled the government’s track record would be a major focus of the NDP’s re-election campaign, along with visions of the UCP laying waste to the economy.

READ MORE: Alberta NDP doubles down on Notley branding

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Notley said her government’s record includes building schools, starting the Calgary Cancer Centre, advancing Calgary’s Green Line LRT project and delivering initiatives to diversify the economy, all while increasing oil refining and pushing for a pipeline to tidewater.

She warned that should Albertans elect a UCP government, working people would take a back seat to wealthy conservative insiders benefiting from tax deals. She also said proposed UCP spending freezes would inflict deep and lasting harm to hospital patients and children in classrooms.

“The choices that [Jason Kenney] will make are too big of a risk for the people of Alberta,” Notley said.

“The politics of hope will always trump the politics of division and anger. That is my conviction. That is why I am not done fighting. We have all just begun, that’s why I’m running for re-election. That’s why I’m never going to stop fighting for you.”

READ MORE: Alberta Election Fact Check: NDP claims UCP would add ‘$700M tax break for the rich’

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At the same time, Opposition leader Jason Kenney and Liberal leader David Khan spoke to a group of municipal leaders in Cochrane on Thursday, loosely making promises about what could be in store if Alberta saw a change in government.

Kenney called the state of Alberta’s economy “unsustainable,” adding there are too many hoops to jump through when it comes to getting projects off the ground and creating new jobs.

“I am prepared to make a deal with municipalities should we elect a United Conservative government,” Kenney said. “We’ll cut the costly provincial red tape burden imposed on them allowing them to do more service to their constituents and less checking in with provincial bureaucracies if, in turn, they pass on those red-tape savings to job creators in their communities.

“We can’t seem to build things in this province. We have too many people checking and not enough doing.”

Kenney said he was optimistic about the support the party has received from mid-sized communities in the province, but said the party needs that support at the ballot box.

“Alberta is ready for change and a government focused on economic growth, bringing jobs back to this province and standing up and fighting for Alberta,” he said.

Khan said the Liberal government would like to see the smaller municipalities in the province treated as “equal levels of government despite the constitution not giving them any actual powers.”

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He called it disappointing that the NDP didn’t secure funding agreements giving the cities — which account for about one million Albertans — autonomy over raising revenues and stable and predictable funding.

“These guys are just left waiting for a proper funding formula,” he said, adding several previous governments have dropped that ball. “It’s too bad that they haven’t got the certainty but we would negotiate with them and provide that certainty in funding so they can plan the next five, 10, 15, 20 years out.”

READ MORE: Notley attacks Kenney budget plan, says even spending freeze a harmful cut for Alberta

According to political scientist Duane Bratt, the leaders are trying to “woo” the voters ahead of the official campaign season.

“We are in the wooing stage but there are no rules yet,” he said. “The rules really kick in during writ period which is why Rachel Notley and the NDP are using the full resources of the government to make announcements and often to re-announce previous spending things.

“Opposition parties go crazy over this because they are using the backdrop of government to really make a partisan speech.”

Bratt said Notley used to criticize the Progressive Conservative government for the same moves before her government was in power.

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The election has to be held sometime between March and May, meaning theoretically, the writ could be dropped as early as Friday, Feb. 1. Political experts, however, don’t see that happening.

Bratt said Albertans can expect to see more of these campaign-style announcements throughout February.

“There are those that want to replace the government, they are anxious for an election,” Bratt said. “Really we have been in campaign mode for a year and a half — since Jason Kenney won the leadership of the UCP back in the fall of 2017 — and it’s like, enough already, let’s just go ahead and do this.”

Bratt said it’s clear from polling data, money raised and competitive nomination races that the UCP is in the lead heading into election season.

— With files from Global News’ Jill Croteau and The Canadian Press

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