Alberta is gearing up for its next political showdown as the province prepares to head to the polls in the upcoming 2023 provincial election.
As voters across Alberta begin to consider their options and weigh the possibilities, the stage is set for a high-stakes campaign that has already captured the attention of the province and the nation.
In Edmonton, those in the West Henday electoral district are preparing for a potentially contentious debate. As what some would consider a swing district, it is also one of the newer districts in the Capital city. Edmonton-West Henday was created in 2017, after the Electoral Boundaries Commission recommended renaming Edmonton-Meadowlark and subsequently moving various neighbourhoods around the districts.
In 2019, the district was contested for the first time after its creation resulting in the sitting of MLA Jon Carson for the New Democratic Party, who is now retiring. Despite the current NDP hold on Edmonton, the first contest was a considerably close call of only 518 votes.
The Key Issues
“It is affordability and health care, that are the two most important ones,” says Duane Bratt, a political science professor at Mount Royal University. “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. So, a very different dynamic.”
Brooks Arcand-Paul, an Indigenous lawyer and the Edmonton-West Henday candidate for the NDP, agrees that affordability is one of the most important issues in his riding.
“I’m hearing it every day that I go on the doors, and we go quite often. One of the major ones is affordability.” He says.
This story is part of an editorial partnership between the Calgary Journal and MacEwan University journalism.
He added that throughout his ongoing campaigning, he has seen the toll the lack of affordability has taken on constituents.
“I spoke with a person in the riding, and they were living on a main thoroughfare, and when I went to the door, I had a good conversation with them… Their number one concern was that for the past couple of weeks, they had only been eating rice. Because they could only afford [that] between the rent, and insurance and utilities. They could only afford to buy a bag of rice to eat between her and her husband for a couple of weeks. And in that moment, I knew that this affordability crisis that we’re facing right now, it’s a big one.”
So far, candidates from the NDP, UCP, Green Party, and Liberal Party have been confirmed for the 2023 election.
The United Conservative candidate, Slava Cravcenco, is undoubtedly Arcand-Paul’s biggest competitor for the 2023 vote based on forecasted election results here from 388Canada. Cravcenco, who has a bachelor’s degree in economics and law, was confirmed earlier this year. According to his website, his promises align with the UCP, and he highlights the importance of free enterprise, low government interference, and fiscal responsibility.
Though the UCP have been in power since 2019, there has been contention throughout the province since the leadership appointment of Danielle Smith after former Premier Jason Kenney’s resignation in 2022.
Smith, who formerly led the now-defunct Wild Rose Party, proposed a new Sovereignty Act last November. The act is aimed at protecting Alberta’s interests and increasing autonomy within Canada and would require Ottawa to obtain the province’s consent before making any major decisions that affect Alberta. Smith argues that the province’s economy has been held back by federal policies, but that greater autonomy would allow Alberta more independence to compete on a global scale. The proposal has already generated significant debate.
Along with the Sovereignty Act, Duane Bratt sees Smith’s role of party leader being a potential roadblock for the UCP this election.
“In our very first press conference, Danielle Smith said that the unvaccinated were the most discriminated group in her lifetime.” Bratt also said Kenney and the pandemic’s shadow still loom largely over the UCP and Alberta.
“All of this is a backlash to Jason Kenney bringing in COVID restrictions, so this group called Takeback Alberta, which organized against Kenney in the leadership review in May also then supported Smith, and what brought them together was fighting COVID restrictions.”
Though current forecasts do have the Edmonton-West Henday riding sitting somewhat comfortably in the NDP’s favour, this race will still be one to watch. The election is set for May 29. More information about registering to vote, your riding and candidates can be found at Elections Alberta’s website.