Monday, 23 April 2012

Election Day in Alberta - Will it Change the Political Landscape?

After twenty eight days on the campaign trail, Albertans head to the polls today.  The election is seen as a referendum on the leadership of Alison Redford, Progressive Conservative,  perceived by many as a bureaucrat and Danielle Smith of the Wildrose Party.

Redford was elected leader of the Progressive Conservatives, which have been in power for 41years, after Gary  Mar, a former PC cabinet minister, won the first two ballots, but did not reach the 50% threshold required.  Redford edged ahead on Mar, after the second choices of the third placed candidate were counted.

 After appointing Gary Mar as Alberta's envoy to Hong Kong, Redford ordered the probe and suspended Mar without pay when it was revealed that Mar had allegedly used his office to promote a fundraising event to pay off debts incurred running against Redford in last year's PC leadership race.

Redford had initially asked the Ethics Commissioner to lead the probe, however when he advised Redford that he didn't have the jurisdiction she assigned the case to Peter Watson, who works out of the Premier's office. 

The Rutherford show revealed that Gary Marhad been cleared of ethics violations and reinstated as Alberta's envoy to Hong Kong.  Rutherford quoted anonymous sources.  Alison Redford, who suspended Mar without pay said she had no knowledge of his reinstatement.

 "I didn't know it had been resolved until I heard that it was on Rutherford this morning.  We put in place that process because it is a public service circumstance. It's something that Peter Watson has been dealing with. I haven't been made aware of it so I have no comment on it."

During Redford's campaign there were allegations of doctor and school board intimidation, a refusal to hold a public inquiry on health care delivery and the famous "Do Nothing Committee".  The committee collected $1000 a month and never met for 39 months.  There is also the issue of high voltage transmission lines and property rights.  Let's not forget the Tory get away prior to passing resumption of the legislature.

Redford felt it was important to pass a budget prior to the 28 day election campaign, yet she didn't campaign on it, instead she has made millions in additional promises, without a plan to pay for them. 

While the Progressive Conservative Party in Alberta has been touted, by the national media as a centre of right party, this is no longer the case.  Under Redford the party has placed more emphasis on the "Progressive" label.

Redford says she wants to change the "character" of Alberta.  She has come across as one who knows what is best for Albertans.  PC Party Platform

Redfords main opponent, Danielle Smith, Wildrose Party has run a well organized campaign. The campaign rolled out its platform early, which was based on fiscal responsibility, a balanced budget,  a family pack, an Alberta Energy Dividend, a "Wait time Guarantee" and the Alberta Accountability Act.  Read More Here.

Smith also faced her share of controversies. She refused to criticize two Wildrose candidates after they made, what could be considered, racist and anti-gay comments.  She stated that she was both pro choice and pro gay marriage and that a Wildrose government would not legislate on conscience issues, since those issues were protected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Nonetheless the fear mongering continued. Yet Redford has MLAs with similar views.

She attracted more criticism in the last week of the campaign for stating that the scientific debate over climate change still hadn't been settled.  She did however state that this was not a reason not to act on climate change.  That part was lost on the national media. 

The Liberal leader Raj Sherman and NDP leader Brian Mason have run a robust campaign.  Both parties say that neither the PC or Wildrose Party can be trusted.  Raj Sherman made a last effort Robocall last night, bashing both leading parties, stating that he would fix health care and "Alberta I have your back."  There has been some talk on strategic voting.  It is not clear how that would play out overall.

What is clear that there will be much larger voter turn-out than in the last election, where only 40% of voters turned out.  For 41 years the Tory Party ruled Alberta and in today's election there is a viable contender. 

Be sure to vote today.  For information on polls across Alberta check out the Elections Alberta Webiste.


Wildrose Eyes Majority

Even if the party were to take 30 seats in rural and small-city Alberta – a conservative estimate – they’d need to win only 14 seats in Calgary and Edmonton to take the province, Mr. Taras said.
Edmonton, which has traditionally been a hotbed of progressive support, is also facing several four-and even fiveway races, making it highly unpredictable.
In Calgary, however, Wildrose is polling well ahead of the Tories.
The Tories, on the other hand, must hold Calgary if they are to prevent a majority Wildrose government.
“Calgary is the place you gotta win, and that’s the difference,” he said.
However, some polling data suggest even Ms. Redford’s affluent downtown seat in Calgary-Elbow may not be safe.
“She’s in the crosshairs,” Mr. Taras said.
Ms. Redford denied her constituency was so divided, saying she had good support from the community.  National Post

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