There’s some deja-vu this election in Brooks-Medicine Hat, where many of the same candidates are on the ballot just over six months after they competed against each other in a byelection.
The November byelection was triggered after MLA Michaela Frey resigned following Danielle Smith’s victory in the UCP leadership race. Smith called for and ran in the election, securing her seat with 54.5 per cent of the vote.
NDP candidate Gwendoline Dirk received 26.7 per cent, while Barry Morishita, the Alberta Party leader, won 16.5 per cent. Voter turnout for the by-election was 35.5 per cent. All three candidates are running again this time.
This story is part of an editorial partnership between the Calgary Journal and MacEwan University journalism.
“It gave me a whole lot of optimism because we gained tremendous momentum here in this riding,” Dirk said about the by-election.
“Now I’m able to visit more parts of the riding, and I’m connecting with so many more people.”
For the May 29 election, there are a few concerns that are top-of-mind for Albertans.
“It is affordability and healthcare that are the two most important ones. This is in stark contrast to the lead up to the 2019 election, where the issues were about oil and gas and the economy and jobs,” says political scientist Duane Bratt of Mount Royal University.
For instance, Bassano Mayor Irv Morey revealed his town had been without a permanent doctor for close to a year, the Calgary Herald reported.
It’s an issue that is top of mind for Morishita.
“At the end of the day what it comes down to is we can’t keep putting money in the same system and expect a better result.”
Dirk’s NDP team, however, is campaigning on expanding the approach used in nearby Taber: creating health teams.
“You don’t actually need to build new clinics to do this, although that is part of the plan: to build 10 new clinics,” she said.
Premier Smith was also contacted for comment about her riding, but did not respond.
Looking forward, both Dirk and Morishita share their own goals and concerns for the election.
Right now in Alberta, surgeries are at 115% when compared to pre-pandemic volumes. That equates to 6,000 surgeries every week for Alberta patients!— Danielle Smith (@ABDanielleSmith) March 29, 2023
Our UCP government has already hired over 700 new doctors and 1,800 new nurses to help with capacity and to https://t.co/WN9cK1fYc3…
Given that Medicine Hat-Brooks has historically been a conservative riding, Dirk hopes to change this and says, “any gain is a victory.”
According to an Angus Reid poll from March, Smith’s approval rating is sitting around 46 per cent.
Morishita has concerns about the campaign climate as a whole, and whether or not Albertans will get to “actually discuss better plans and better ways forward,” with the polarization he sees.It will all come down to who shows up to the polls. In the 2019 general election, voter turnout reached 67.5 per cent, our highest voter turnout since the 1970s.