The Alberta election campaign has seemed long for many voters and with one week left, angry divisiveness continues to run rampant between political parties.
The latest fuel to the fire is a crop of fake signs attacking the United Conservative Party.
The signs look like regular campaign signs seen on front lawns, along streets and in windows. It’s often only when you take a second glance that you notice something is amiss.
On the top right corner, the signs read “Alberta Strong and Racist” — a perceived dig at the UCP slogan, “Alberta Strong and Free.”
The signs, many of which have been taken down, have a number of slogans, including, “Another bozo,” and “Lake of Fire. ” They also have “Bigot” printed in the top left corner where “Elect” can be found on real UCP campaign signs.
Nobody has claimed responsibility for the signs, but the UCP is pointing the finger at the NDP.
“Albertans are overwhelmingly focused on the top issues: jobs, the economy and pipelines,” a UCP spokesperson wrote in a Wednesday statement to Global News.
“It’s disappointing, but not entirely surprising, that the NDP and their allies are looking for any and every distraction rather than talking about their failed record.”
The NDP is denying any involvement with the signs.
“We don’t know where these signs came from – the first we saw them was on Twitter,” an NDP spokesperson said in a statement.
“It is clear that the UCP and Jason Kenney have a problem with extreme views in their party and Albertans are not OK with that. With just a few days before the election, we are focused on the strong and growing momentum we’re feeling on the ground for Rachel Notley and her team.”
Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University, said anti-campaign signs and defacing of signs have been ongoing issues for many years. But he said this case is more insidious than a counter-sign or graffiti.
“This is a much more sophisticated operation,” Bratt said. “It’s clearly an anti-UCP group.”
The signs are the latest stunt in a string of negative stories emerging from the spring election campaign.
Bratt said this election has been one of the most divisive he’s seen for two reasons: a polarized group of voters and deliberate campaign strategies.
In comparison to the 2012 and 2015 provincial elections, the parties are further apart on issues than in the past.
“[In] 2015 [it] was a three-party race at times, and when there are three parties, you don’t get the same dynamic,” Bratt said. “In 2012, it was a centrist conservative party versus a right-wing party, so the gaps between the parties was much smaller. [In 2019] you have a much larger gap between the UCP and the NDP.”
Bratt also believes the personal attacks before and throughout the month-long campaign have fueled the negativity.
“I’ve got a quote from Rachel Notley the day after Jason Kenney was elected UCP leader where she talks about getting rid of this climate denying, gay-outing political party, and that’s been the narrative for the last year and a half,” Bratt said.
Bratt added the UCP campaign — much of which is focused on fighting and fighting back against the federal government — could spur angry politics.
“The entire fight back energy strategy of targeting Ottawa, B.C., Quebec, environmentalists, oil companies, some academics, anyone who criticizes the oil and gas sector, I think that’s the same thing,” Bratt said.
How the nastiness of the campaign has resonated with voters will be revealed when Albertans head to the polls on April 16.