4.12.2015

Alberta Election Begins: Battles to Watch

The Election Campaign Nobody Wanted is well underway in Alberta and early indications are it’s up for grabs.

Several polls (yes, polls are completely and totally unreliable as proven in the last election) suggest a tight 3-way battle which seemingly shows that the anti-PC vote divides along provincial lines.

In Edmonton, the New Democrats are riding a mini-surge of popularity due greatly to likable leader Rachel Notley.  Citizens of Capital City usually swing left, so this comes as no real surprise.

The NDP campaign has gotten off to a very good start, but they seem to be focusing more on scoring PR points against the Prentice PC’s than they are selling their own platform, which is quite telling.

Perhaps more shocking is the support for the Wildrose down south in Calgary.  While Alberta’s largest city is traditionally more conservative than Edmonton, many pundits predicted the upstart party would be a mere shadow of its former self after the infamous floor-crossing escapade.  Not so, apparently.

New leader Brian Jean brought instant credibility and has capitalized on the forgotten thousands of party members and has rejuvenated the Wildrose.  So much so, the party actually appears more capable of stepping into the governing role than it did under former leader Danielle Smith.  If the Wildrose can capture enough of the rural vote (again, traditionally conservative) by convincing those voters that they are a better choice than the default PC’s, the Wildrose might continue to shock the experts.

The PC’s hit the ground running, which comes as no surprise considering they pretty much released their platform in the form of Budget 2015.  Noticeable is their early method of strategy: full attack mode, demanding ‘specifics’ and ‘details’ of each opposition party’s platform in an attempt to catch their foes off-balance. 

Unfortunately for Team Prentice, that strategy seems to be backfiring, as practically each time the Tories try to set the trap, the target escapes by responding with valid info.  Last week, Prentice publicly challenged Brian Jean’s Wildrose to present details of their plan to balance the budget, in anticipation of lots of scary stuff in which to spin.

Instead, Jean’s party returned volley with a plan that not only seemed more acceptable to the average voter, but didn't include 59 new and increased taxes and user fees. 

Whoops.

One emerging and perhaps unanticipated hurdle for the Progressive Conservatives is leader likability.  While Brian Jean is certainly lesser known than Jim Prentice, he already enjoys a higher level of favorability than the current Premier. 

In the battle of the also-rans, the Alberta party and Alberta Liberal party continue the illogical fight over the same small segment of voters.  Interesting is the fact that the AP is creating more buzz than the Liberals.  So much so, that many are predicting this election to be the final nail in the Alberta Liberal coffin.

Can the Alberta Party translate social media enthusiasm into real-world success?

The answer may be found in Calgary-Elbow, courtesy Alberta Party leader and candidate Greg Clark. Up against PC MLA and Education Minister Gordon Dirks, Clark represents the only real chance to win an initial seat for the new party.

It’s something I’d love to see, actually. 

This election campaign is a mix of those who still stick by the PC’s, and the rest of Albertans who want to ‘throw the bums out’.  Where those votes pool will determine the outcome, and could make the Election Campaign Nobody Wanted one of the most interesting in years.

Battles to watch:

Calgary-North West
Former Wildrose president Jeff Callaway goes up against incumbent PC MLA Sandra Jansen. 

Notable: Callaway is a serious contender. Jansen’s association with the flawed initial Bill 10 might be a factor.

Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview
NDP incumbent Deron Bilous faces a challenge from mini-star PC candidate and current Edmonton city councillor Tony Caterina. 

Notable: interesting not for an anticipated close battle, but for the PC reaction after a Bilous landslide.

Highwood
Wildrose candidate Wayne Anderson tries to return the seat to the Wildrose, while PC candidate Carrie Fischer attempts to hold on.

Notable: Will voters stay with the Wildrose and elect Wayne Anderson, or will PC candidate Carrie Fischer continue to ride the wave of success after defeating floor-crosser Danielle Smith for the PC nomination?

Strathmore-Brooks
A full slate of candidates features one Derek Fildebrandt for the Wildrose.  Simply put, if he is victorious he will emerge as one of the bright lights in the Legislature.

Sherwood Park
My stomping grounds.  Current PC MLA Cathy Olesen, a former Strathcona County mayor, tries to hold off a challenge by Wildrose hopeful Linda Osinchuk, also a former Strathcona County mayor.

Notable: Osinchuk defeated Olesen for County mayor.  Osinchuk was a leadership candidate for the Wildrose and could easily suffer her second consecutive loss versus the capable and popular Olesen.



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