Governing Progressive Conservatives head to polls in light of recent criticisms

Mark it on your calendar, Alberta, because the writ has officially been dropped.

Monday morning, Premier Alison Redford asked Lieutnant-Governor Donald Ethell to dissolve the current legislature, thus beginning a 28-day campaign leading up to an April 23 election.

The upcoming election will see a record-breaking 370 candidates in Alberta’s 87 ridings — a 2010 boundary shift saw four additional ridings created. The three parties with a full slate of 87 candidates are the Progressive Conservatives, the Wildrose Party and the New Democratic Party. Meanwhile, the Alberta Liberals currently have 63 candidates, the Alberta Party has 28, the Evergreen Party of Alberta has 17, and the Social Credit Party has one.

For the last month, Albertans have been waiting for an election to be called. In preparation for the upcoming election, parties have already started their campaigning with forums, political advertisements and headline-making campaign buses. Now the heat is on with only 28 days to win the hearts and votes of Alberta residents.Liberal leader Raj Sherman faces quite a challenge in a province that has voted conservative for the past 40 years.
Photo courtesy of: Dave Cournoyer/ Creative Commons

After she officially called the election, Redford told reporters, “This election will be a defining moment where we will decide what we want the future to be and how we want to conduct ourselves.”

Indeed, it will be interesting to see how the political parties of Alberta conduct themselves over the next 28 days. It is a race where many Albertans believe we may see a change in provincial politics; a change that hasn’t taken place in more than 40 years, as since the Progressive Conservative party’s 1971 victory under Peter Lougheed, they have been the ruling party in Alberta.

“(The PCs are) still in majority government territory, just not with the overwhelming majority they had before.”
—Duane Bratt, political scientist

The PCs haven’t made things easy on themselves coming up to the election either. Some Albertans have questioned Redford’s role as leader and the party has come under fire over the “committee who never meets,” Gary Mar’s suspension and the coming to light of illegal party donations.

Political scientist Duane Bratt of Mount Royal University suggests Redford could have handled the committee scandal better. “Instead of getting her caucus to return six months pay she should have convinced her caucus to pay it all back,” he says. “The appointment of former Supreme Court Justice John Major was the right thing to do, but she couldn’t wait for his reports. She had to get in front of this and she didn’t.”

However, Bratt went on to say the PCs still have a viable chance in the upcoming election.

“They’re still in majority government territory, just not with the overwhelming majority they had before,” he said.Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Party promises to bring change to the province.
Photo courtesy of: Dave Cournoyer/ Creative Commons

The Wildrose, however, has latched on to the idea that Albertans need change; an idea that Bratt suggests is going to be the biggest issue for the Wildrose to drive home.

The party has already been working on its campaign for weeks: with their anti-Bill-26 coaster campaign and recent attack ad hitting the airwaves, the party has given the province lots to talk about.

Danielle Smith, leader of the Wildrose, said in a statement Monday: “Alberta has long awaited a viable alternative to represent and defend its interests. I am happy to say they need wait no longer, because Wildrose is here with new ideas that put Albertans first.”

However, other fledgling parties, such as the Alberta Party, have already come forth with their political platform for the upcoming election. Some feel the Wildrose has done nothing but reject the ideas of the PCs instead of making their own platform clear to the public.

In spite of these claims, a statement on the Wildrose party website promises, “Over the next four weeks, Wildrose will put forward a positive platform to balance the books, enhance our economic prosperity, improve our democracy, and address the real needs of hard-working Alberta families.”

alamb@cjournal.ca