The Alberta election is just two days away and after residents flocked to the advance polls in unprecedented numbers last week, United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney says he is feeling confident about what’s to come.
That comes despite a police investigation into the leadership race that clinched him the top job and multiple cases of racist, Islamophobic and homophobic remarks from both current and recently-resigned party candidates, as well as criticism over his refusal to turf a candidate over hateful past statements.
“I think that’s indicative that the winds of change are in the air and that’s why while we’re going to stay humble and work hard, we’re pretty optimistic,” Kenney told Global’s Eric Sorenson in reference to the record-breaking advance poll numbers.
For the first time this year, Alberta Elections let residents cast their advance ballots at any poll station.
That move is being attributed as at least part of the reason why 276,000 people cast their ballots early — roughly 30 per cent of advance ballots were cast by voters outside of their riding.
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That also comes as polls indicate the race between Kenney and Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley is narrowing.
An Ipsos/Global News poll released last week suggested that while more Alberta voters favoured Kenney’s UCP, the NDP and Notley have been gaining ground.
Among those surveyed, 47 per cent of decided and leaning voters said they would vote for the UCP.
That’s in comparison to 39 per cent who said they would vote for the NDP and 10 per cent for the Alberta Party.
Just two per cent said they would vote for the Alberta Liberal Party.
Those numbers also showed support for the UCP had slipped five percentage points, while support for the NDP rose by four.
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“They’re looking at Jason Kenney and the UCP and they’re asking, ‘Are these guys, or some of the people they’re running, fit to govern?’ At the same time, they’re asking, ‘Is the NDP economic policy something I want to support?'” explained Gregory Jack, vice-president of Ipsos Public Affairs.
“That really is the crux of this campaign.”
Kenney argued there is a feeling among Albertans he talks to that the province is “under siege” and being “pinned down” by the rest of the country.
And while he reiterated his pledge to get rid of the carbon tax imposed on the province by the federal government when it failed to present a plan of its own deemed to meet federal standards, Kenney offered few details when asked how he will convince voters who may be wary of racist and discriminatory remarks made by candidates, both current and past, for his party.
That comes particularly in light of his refusal to kick out Mark Smith, the UCP candidate for Drayton Vally-Dresden, over a recording of a 2013 sermon he gave in which he equated homosexual love with pedophilia.
“Ours is a broad coalition. We’re the largest provincial political party in Canada,” Kenney said when asked specifically how he could convey to Albertans that he is a modern leader given his refusal to kick out Mark Smith, the UCP candidate for Drayton Vally-Dresden, over a recording of a 2013 sermon he gave in which he equated homosexual love with pedophilia.
“We do reflect the diversity of the province. We are committed to protecting the rights of people and human dignity, and that’s why I think we have the support of something like half of Albertans.”
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