In the final stretch before the Alberta election, provincial United Conservative Party Leader Danielle Smith and NDP Leader Rachel Notley are crisscrossing the province in a last-ditch effort to secure votes, especially in the battleground of Calgary.
Alberta voters will decide Monday whether to give former premier Notley a comeback or stay the course with Smith, who has been leading the province for seven months but is in her first campaign for election as leader of the governing party.
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Notley ended decades of Conservative rule when she was elected Alberta premier in 2015, but lost the last election to Jason Kenney and the UCP in 2019. Now she’s locked in a tight battle with Smith.
In an interview Sunday with The West Block‘s host Mercedes Stephenson, Notley talks about her campaign platform, including how she would work with the federal government if elected.
The West Block asked for an interview with Smith, repeatedly, but her campaign declined.
“The Albertans that I talk to, do not want to leave Canada. They want to lead Canada,” Notley said.
“And the way to do that is to go and negotiate with strengths and ability and thoughtfulness for the best outcomes for the province. And that’s work that hasn’t been happening for the last three and a half years and Albertans have been losing opportunities, losing investment dollars as a result.”
Smith, after she became premier last year, introduced the Sovereignty Act, legislation billed as letting the province “stand up to federal government overreach and interference in areas of provincial jurisdiction, including… private property, natural resources, agriculture, firearms, regulation of the economy and delivery of health, education and other social programs.”
Smith also looked into replacing the RCMP with a provincial police service, setting up a provincial revenue agency and leaving the Canada Pension Plan.
However, she decided not to campaign on that platform, instead saying, it can be revisited after the election.
Speaking with Global News, Notley said Smith’s legislation created an “instability that undermines Alberta’s place in the Confederation, in a way that hurts business, hurts investment.”
“That is the biggest threat to investment right now in Alberta, not anything that’s in any of our policies. It’s the fact that there’s so much instability around whether investors can trust the safety of their dollars in a province where the rule of law seems to be somewhat in question,” she said.
Notley’s campaign pledges included a commitment to refrain from raising personal or small business taxes while advocating for an increase in Alberta’s corporate tax rate from eight to 11 per cent.
The provincial NDPs, she said, will take “Alberta’s lowest corporate tax rate and raise it to be Alberta’s—or Canada’s lowest tax—corporate rate. And we’re going to do it and we’ll be charging less than Scott Moe and collecting less than Doug Ford in Ontario.”
Calgary critical for the election outcome
Calgary continues to be the place to watch with many races too close to call.
With rural areas largely supporting the UCP and Edmonton largely supporting the NDP, the outcome is expected to come down to Calgary, where both parties are campaigning hard.
“We know Calgary’s going to be a battleground—and it’ll come down to whether moderate Conservatives are prepared to go out and hold their nose and vote Conservative in this election. And if they do, I think the UCP can win comfortably,” Calgary Conservative MP Ron Liepert told Stephenson.
Notley, on the other hand, believes the turnout at NDP rallies in Calgary has been “really encouraging,” citing long lineups at the door.
Calgary has 26 ridings. All but three are held by the UCP, but analysts have predicted some of those seats might change.
Evan Menzies, former UCP communications director believes UCP can afford to lose 10 seats in Calgary and still “be fine.”
“For them, it’s important to hold a couple of blue walls in the city,” Menzies told Stephenson. “One of them is sort of the more suburban ring in the city. If they can hold that, they’ll be fine on election night. ”
But the challenge, he said, is getting people out the door to vote, adding that NDP is “posting a major threat.”
“UCP over the last couple of years have seen some pretty contentious battles. The party’s been fractured, the leadership race. Danielle’s only been premier for seven months and so there’s been, obviously, some issues with Danielle’s past comments but the ability to bring everyone together in seven months and get them ready to vote is a large task and I think it’s happening.”
— With files from the Canadian Press