Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith felt compelled to snuff out a controversy, which questioned her position on "Conscience Issues." While recent polls indicate that the Wildrose Party may have lost some ground because of the controversy, overall the party still holds a healthy lead over the Progressive Conservatives, while Wildrose leader Danielle Smith's approval rating has slipped slightly.
On Wednesday Smith said when her party elected a leader it was clear to them that they elected a pro-choice, pro-gay marriage candidate.
"When our members elected me they knew they were electing a candidate that was pro-choice and pro-gay marriage. The only way we're going to be able to become a mainstream, big-tent
conservative party capable of forming government is to focus on the
issues that matter to Albertans. If I am elected premier, a Wildrose
government will not be legislating in areas of morality."
While this issue was infused by a Calgary blogger, it was quickly taken up by Progressive Conservative leader Alison Redford. It reminded this blogger of U.S. politics "deja vous," where Rick Santorum got sucked into social issues, such as abortion and contraception. It effectively changed the focus of his campaign.
In Canada, the issue of gay rights has already been handled by the Supreme Court, including gay marriage and abortion. Smith also affirmed that the promised citizen initiatives would have to stand the test of being constitutional and in accordance with Canada's Charter of Rights.
While this should put the matter to rest, Smith is doubtful that it will. She believes that it was pushed by the Progressive Conservatives to divert the discussion from the real issues.
"I think what you see normally when a conservative challenger comes up,
you see this very commonly that these kinds of issues are brought up to
fearmonger. We saw it with Preston Manning, with Stockwell Day, we saw it with
Stephen Harper so it actually doesn't surprise me that it has come up
this election but it does disappoint me."
The Progressive Conservatives have recently framed the Wildrose Party as the party of old, white guys determined to resurrect regressive social policies. The Progressive Conservative campaign manager, Susan Elliot, has suggested that the target of the citizen-initiatives would be women.
"Ethnic minorities are targets. Gays and lesbians are targets. We're the targets of those kinds of things."
Despite those suggestions, the Wildrose Party continues to lead in the polls. A CTVHQ poll, published yesterday, finds that 43% of decided voters favour the Wildrose Party, followed by Progressive Conservatives at 29%, the NDP at 12% and Liberals at 11%.
In the meantime, Progressive Conservative Leader, Alison Redford's approval rating has dropped from 59% to 46% last week. Danielle Smith, who had an approval rating of 56% has slipped slightly to 54%, which could be within the margin of error.
50% of Albetans believe that the Progressive Conservatives do not deserve re-election, while 23% say they should be re-elected. 27% are unsure.
Tonight at 6:30 pm the Alberta Leader's Debate will be broadcast throughout the province by a media consortium. While debates in Alberta normally haven't received a lot of attention, this debate will be pivotal. It may be the turning point for those still undecided. The focus will undoubtedly be on the two women that lead the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative Party. Smith will most certainly go after the PCs wreckless spending. If the debate remains stays on the issues that matter, it could be an interesting exchange.