Calgary has become the “battleground” between the United Conservative Party and the NDP in the upcoming 2023 provincial election. Recent polling has shown the parties evenly matched in the city and according to MRU political scientist Duane Bratt, if the 26 seats in Calgary are split, the UCP will still win the election. 

Of the city’s ridings, Bratt identified Justice Minister Tyler Shandro’s riding, Calgary-Acadia, as a key race to watch.

Acadia has gone back and forth between conservatives and NDP for the past three elections, but according to Bratt, that is not the only reason that the fate of the riding is unclear. 

This story is part of an editorial partnership between the Calgary Journal and MacEwan University journalism.

The other reason falls to the public opinion of the current MLA, Shandro who generates strong reactions.

“There is distrust of him across the political spectrum,” said Bratt, noting that Shandro’s role as health minister during the COVID-19 pandemic made him a focal point of concern for those who believe that there were not enough health restrictions and from those who believe there were too many restrictions. 

“He is a very interesting case,” Bratt added. “He is not liked by, obviously, NDP supporters, but I don’t think he is completely trusted by conservative supporters either.” 

The United Conservative Party announced in August that Shandro won the nomination. At the time of this nomination, Shandro was in the midst funding negotiations with legal aid lawyers and rolling out details of the UCP’s proposed provincial police force.  

Since January, Shandro has used his Twitter page to post about the work he is doing as the justice minister. His own tweets include topics like the proposed Alberta Firearms Act and federal bail reform.  

Shandro and his office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Running against Shandro is Diana Batten, who was announced as the NDP candidate at the end of May 2022. 

UCP candidate Tyler Shandro
NDP candidate Diana Batten

Batten is a registered nurse and was drawn into politics during the COVID-19 pandemic. She identifies healthcare as being the most important thing constituents want to talk about. 

“It is obviously something that is very near and dear to my heart and to theirs,” Batten explained over a phone interview, sharing the frustrations she has heard from constituents about finding a family doctor, surgery waitlists, and even people unsure whether to call 911 or not.

“Our poor healthcare system is such a disaster, and my constituents are feeling it.”

If elected, Batten stated that access to primary care through the NDP’s proposed Family Care Teams is a top priority. 

Of the neighbourhoods that make up the Calgary-Acadia riding, the community of Acadia is known for having a higher rate of older adults and seniors, according to Malcolm Jubinville, president of the Acadia Community Association.

Ensuring seniors have health and social programs easily accessible in the community is a big priority as is affordability. Jubinville said they aren’t planning a community forum but are hoping to see the candidates out and about in the riding.

“We just want people in the community to meet the candidates and speak to them as real people,” he said.

Keith Simmons, the current vice-president of the association, shares similar ideas as Jubinville and is looking forward to working with whoever is elected.

So far, the province’s other parties have not announced candidates for the riding.

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Remi Baker is a student at MacEwan University in Edmonton.