First week of Alberta election features Calgary as key battleground

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First week of Alberta election campaign features Calgary as key battleground
WATCH: As political parties focus on Calgary early in the provincial election campaign, one pollster believes Edmonton is where votes will be needed. Adam MacVicar reports – Mar 22, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this story inaccurately reported that NDP Kathleen Ganley held the constituency of Calgary-Mountain View. That riding is currently held by Liberal David Swann, who is not running in this election. This version has been corrected. Global News regrets the error. 

The first week of Alberta’s election campaign focused on Calgary.

As of Friday, the New Democratic Party and the Liberals held four events in the city, followed by the Alberta Party with three, the United Conservative Party with two and the Freedom Conservative Party with one.

“I’m going to spend a lot of time in Calgary because Calgary matters,” NDP Leader Rachel Notley said at an event overlooking Calgary’s downtown core on Friday.

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Although Alberta’s political leaders have been spending a lot of time in Calgary early in the race, one pollster believes Edmonton will be the true battleground in the spring election campaign.

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Janet Brown, who is conducting polling and riding projections for the election, is expecting to see more UCP events in Edmonton as the race continues.

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“I think the UCP are well positioned to win every seat in (Calgary), but I think the NDP are here because I think they know this is where they need to make inroads,” Brown said. “(The NDP) could flip a few of those seats in their favour if they can cast enough doubt about Jason Kenney and make people feel better about Rachel Notley.”

UCP Leader Jason Kenney was the only leader not in Calgary on Friday. Instead, he was campaigning in Edmonton, making an announcement about foreign influence on Alberta’s energy industry.

“We are very confident about Calgary,” Kenney said. “But we’re not going to take anything for granted.”

According to Brown, the UCP is well ahead in Calgary.

But, things have changed since the last provincial election in 2015, causing some challenges for those conducting seat projections.

Brown points to the two parties on Alberta’s political right merging to form the UCP as well as a large-scale redrawing of riding boundaries.

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“A lot of MLAs will be knocking on doors of constituents they didn’t represent in the past so that makes it a little harder for the incumbent MLAs to get their message out,” Brown said.

Those changes to the riding boundaries are creating some battleground ridings around Calgary.

According to Brown, Calgary-Elbow, Calgary-Mountain View, and Calgary-Buffalo are all expected to be close races in the April 16 vote.

Calgary-Elbow is currently held by Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark.

Calgary-Mountain View was held by former Liberal leader David Swann, who represented the riding since November 2004, but is not running in this election.

Instead, current Alberta Liberal leader David Khan is running in Mountain View, up against the UCP’s Jeremy Wong, Alberta Party candidate Angela Kokott, and the NDP’s Kathleen Ganley.

Ganley has served as Minister of Justice in the Notley government since 2015.  She moved to Mountain View because Joe Ceci is running in Calgary Buffalo.  His former constituency of Calgary Fort was eliminated when electoral boundaries were redrawn.  

Ceci served as Finance Minister for the NDP. 

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“It’s those downtown ridings I really think are in play at the moment,” Brown said.

In this election in particular, Brown said politics in Alberta are polarizing, and there are two clear front-runners in the NDP and the UCP, while the remaining political parties fight to improve their position within the legislature.

“There are lots of other parties, but they’re really struggling to get attention right now,” she said. “Because as long as voters are concerned, it really is a two-way race, and voters are reluctant to consider fringe candidates.”

Albertans head to the polls on April 16.

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