The Edmonton-Strathcona riding lies in the heart of the city and is well known for its urban pulse. From the bustling U of A campus to the historic Old Strathcona district and vibrant Whyte Avenue — it is home to many of Edmonton’s top destinations.

However, since COVID this pulse is waning and the area seems to be slipping into cardiac arrest. Constituents are facing rising living costs, including higher utility bills, general inflation of essential goods, and tuition increases for post-secondary students.

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

“There’s a lot at play here,” says Jean Johnson, executive director of Edmonton’s French Quarter Business Association. “Whoever forms the next government will have to have a social conscience.”

Meet the candidates

NDP Leader Rachel Notley has held the riding since 2008 and is running again. This year, she is facing Green Party candidate Robert Gooding-Townsend, UCP candidate Emad El-Zein and Buffalo Party candidate Andrew Jacobson.

The Edmonton-Strathcona riding is often seen as a “given” for the NDP, who have maintained a stronghold since 1997. Notley was elected premier in 2015 and then lost the race for premier to Jason Kenney in 2019 — but still won her riding with over 70 per cent of the vote.

There is some overlap between the Green Party and NDP platforms, especially when it comes to improving public services such as healthcare and education. While it’s likely that Notley will win the seat again, the other parties can still play an important role.

This is Gooding-Townsend’s first time running in an election, and he explains that his values led him to the Green Party.

“We have to take the environment seriously, not as a sole issue, but as something fundamentally underlying all the other issues,” he says.

UCP candidate Emad El-Zein
NDP Leader Rachel Notley
Green Party candidate Robert Gooding-Townsend

The decades-long NDP stronghold in the area doesn’t seem to faze Gooding-Townsend. He explains that while “Notley has done so much and is a remarkable person… her attention is on playing the electoral game across the province.”

Notley was unavailable for an interview but said in a written statement that she plans to be present in her riding during the election.

“I’m very accessible to my constituents all year round, and they’ll see me during the 28-day campaign,” she said.

Cost of living a major concern

According to Abacus Data, affordability and the economy are two issues voters are most concerned about going into this election. In this riding, where there are many students, seniors, and young families — the blow of inflation hits especially hard.

Young families who purchased homes a few years ago and are now returning to the bank to renew their mortgages are facing major rate hikes, which amount to significantly higher monthly mortgage payments.

In terms of helping people combat the cost of living increases, Notley said in her statement that “an Alberta NDP government will be focused on the things that matter to you: helping your family manage the cost-of-living, and building a resilient Alberta economy with good-paying jobs and investment opportunities.”

Jordan Wilkie, leader of the Green Party, says the NDP’s plan doesn’t go far enough. His party favours a guaranteed income for all citizens.

“It’s a fundamental right for [people to have] housing or universal basic income.”

Post secondary education

While the UCP has pledged to cap post-secondary tuition growth at two per cent beginning in 2024-25, students are still facing tuition hikes this upcoming year.

The Edmonton-Strathcona riding encompasses the University of Alberta main campus and Campus Saint-Jean in the French Quarter, which means many students are eligible to vote in the riding. Both Wilkie and Notley agree that tuition rates — which have incrementally increased over the last four years — need to be addressed.

“We are for free tuition, and we want to see basic income for students and free mental healthcare for students,” says Wilkie. He explains that funding for basic income programs will come from raising royalty rates on oil and gas and raising taxes for large corporations to 12 per cent “in line with other provinces.”

If elected, Notley promises to “reinstate the tuition caps we had before and provide predictable and stable funding to post-secondary across the province.”

Notley says she will serve her term no matter the results

The election is likely to be a close race between Notley’s NDP and the United Conservative Party, led by current premier Danielle Smith.

Duane Bratt, a political science professor at Mount Royal University, believes this is a pivotal election for Notley.

“I think if she does not form a government, this is the end of the road for Rachel Notley,” he said. “Notley is more popular than Smith, but Notley was also more popular than Kenny and she lost to him.”

So then the question is will Notley commit to serving the full four-year term as MLA if the NDP does not form government?

An NDP spokesperson says she “will continue to serve as the MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona should she win her seat, despite the election results.”

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Eva Driessen is a student at MacEwan University in Edmonton.