As election day loomed in Alberta, United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney spent his final days on the road in an end-of-campaign foray into Edmonton, in the hopes of balancing out a potential UCP government with more MLAs from the province’s capital.
Kenney spent Sunday in Edmonton taking part in events for the Sikh holy day of Vaisakhi, and on Monday embarked on a whistle-stop mad dash through the city and its suburbs. The UCP leader said he fears taking power with a lopsided, Calgary-centric government, especially after a caustic election campaign.
“Sometimes in the past there were PC governments that had only one or two seats in Edmonton. I don’t think that’s good for the province, for the government or for the city,” said Kenney, in an interview with the National Post on Friday.
NDP leader Rachel Notley, meanwhile, is doing her best not to lose her party’s grip on the city. At Edmonton’s Polish Hall on Sunday afternoon, Notley gave one of the final speeches of her campaign to a crowd of about 1,000 people.
Notley waited outside the doors, her security standing by, while the crowd was warmed up — literally, given the sweaty hall — taking a selfie, waving at children and chatting with staff.
After wading through a crowd of supporters toting orange New Democrat signs, to the sounds of Serena Ryder’s Circle of the Sun, Notley gave a rousing speech — her voice sounding slightly hoarse, preaching to the converted and imploring conservative apostates to join her party.
Then, it was off to Calgary for a Monday morning event and back again to Edmonton for an afternoon appearance.
While polls have suggested, for a long time, that Notley’s New Democrats will be in trouble Tuesday, the campaign has remained thoroughly upbeat.
No doubt, some of it’s putting on a brave face — nobody’s going to vote for a party that morosely admits it’s going to lose — but Notley has insisted there’s a path to majority for the NDP.
“We have a path to victory, we know the areas that we can win and we know that there are enough of them that we could still win a majority government,” she said in a Friday interview in Canmore.
And, if they don’t win, the feeling is that they will be on track for a strong opposition. These are the low moments — when staff wonder which side of the aisle they’re going to be on after Tuesday.
The question, then, is whether or not Notley remains at the helm of the party. “That’s too far, hypothetically, down the road,” Notley said Friday. She swears, though, that she’ll be in the legislature, regardless of whether or not it’s as premier.
The Kenney campaign kicked off Monday morning in Sherwood Park, a suburb east of Edmonton, then headed to the city’s south end for a pizza lunch with campaign volunteers. Kenney stuck around in the south end for some door-knocking after lunch, all in ridings that the campaign sees as winnable despite the iron grip Notley’s NDP asserted on the city in the 2015 election.
With the NDP pulling support from the province’s public service unions, the capital city has been one of the few strongholds left for the NDP, as its support erodes amid a sputtering economy.
Although Kenney says his party is “very much focused on the private sector,” if the UCP forms government he hopes to empower Edmonton’s healthy contingent of public servants “and listen to them about how to better provide services.”
“At the same time, the majority of people who live in Edmonton are tied to the private sector economy,” said Kenney, in an interview with the Post. “So my pitch to the city is it’s a great, industrious city deeply connected to our resource industries. And we’ve got some great Edmonton candidates. Let’s ensure that Edmonton is a strong voice in a future government.”
How much all the door-knocking and beating the bushes for votes will matter is also hard to predict, with nearly 700,000 advance ballots already cast. That means about 25 per cent of the province’s electorate has already visited a polling station before election day.
For the first time Albertans were allowed to vote from outside their electoral district in advance voting, with more than 200,000 voters taking advantage of that. Those ballots may not be fully counted until the weekend.
Both major parties have claimed the high turnout is a positive sign for their campaigns, with Kenney telling the media in Sherwood Park on Monday that pockets of high turnout match-up with areas of conservative enthusiasm.
“It’s common sense that when there’s high turnout, that is a vote for change,” said Kenney.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019