United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney, left to right, Alberta Liberal Party leader David Khan, Alberta New Democrat Party leader and incumbent premier Rachel Notley and Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel greet each before the start of the 2019 Alberta Leaders Debate in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday, April 4, 2019. Record numbers of Albertans are turning out to cast ballots at advance polls for next Tuesday’s provincial election. (Codie McLachlan/The Canadian Press)

Decision day in Alberta: Voters head to polls in provincial election

Almost 700,000 people voted early in malls, airports, recreation centres and even an Ikea store

Voters are heading to the polls in the Alberta election today and advance turnouts suggest it could be busy at the ballot boxes.

Almost 700,000 people voted early in malls, airports, recreation centres, public buildings and even an Ikea store. That was well ahead of the 235,000 who came out early in the 2015 election that saw Rachel Notley’s NDP deliver a surprise knockout blow to the 44-year run of the Progressive Conservatives.

This time around, the Progressive Conservatives are no more.

The PCs merged with another right-centre party, the Wildrose, to create the new United Conservatives under former federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney.

The four-week campaign focused on personal attacks and on Alberta’s fragile economy, which has been struggling for several years with sluggish oil prices and unemployment levels above seven per cent in Calgary and Edmonton.

Kenney has argued that Notley’s government has made a bad situation worse with higher taxes, more regulations and increases in minimum wage.

Notley, in turn, has said Kenney’s plan to freeze spending and pursue more private-care options in health care will have a profound impact on students in the classroom and on patients waiting for care.

The campaign also featured Alberta’s relationship with Ottawa, specifically Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Notley said her success working with Trudeau — or picking her fights with him as necessary — is what led to progress on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to the B.C. coast. She expects construction to begin this year.

She said Kenney’s promise to challenge Trudeau in court on everything from the federal carbon tax to proposed energy industry rule changes is cynical, self-defeating shadow-boxing given the collaborative realities of political decision-making.

Kenney has campaigned on the “Trudeau-Notley alliance” that he says has turned Alberta into a doormat for Trudeau and other oil industry foes with no more than a faint and as yet unrealized promise of one pipeline expansion to the coast.

Notley has also tried to make Kenney’s character an issue. A number of his candidates have either quit or apologized for past comments that were anti-LGBTQ, anti-Islamic or sympathetic to white nationalism.

Kenney has called the attacks a “fear-and-smear” red herring to distract from the NDP’s economic track record of multibillion-dollar budget deficits and soaring debt.

On the political fringes are the Alberta Party and the Liberals, each of which elected one candidate to the legislature in 2015.

The Alberta Party, led by former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel, is running a full slate of candidates. It’s promising to be the safe centrist middle ground by combining the economic conservatism of the UCP with the social progressivism of the NDP.

The Liberals, led by lawyer David Khan, are running on a similar platform with one significant exception — a provincial sales tax.

History will be made no matter what.

Notley will either be the first Alberta NDP premier to win re-election or the first leader in the province to fail to win a renewed mandate on the first try.

Since its creation in 1905, Alberta has elected multi-term dynasties: the Liberals (1905-1921), the United Farmers of Alberta (1921-1935), the Social Credit (1935-1971) and the Progressive Conservatives from 1971 to 2015.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Small class of just over 100 graduates from Vernon high school

PHOTOS: Clarence Fulton Secondary’s Class of 2019 celebrates

Vernon’s police station a shame

LETTER: Writer asks city to invest in our force

Vernon’s homeless-populated park to get porta potties, despite concerns

Vernon city council votes to install 2 portable units for the summer months

Alleged Vernon shoplifter tracked down by RCMP

Retail store’s loss prevention officer’s description of suspect helps lead to Vernon arrest

North Okanagan student relearns how to take steps forward

The Vernon Convocation starts at 4:30 p.m. at the Vernon campus, OC Facebook to stream event

VIDEO: Killer whale steals fisherman’s catch off North Coast

Fishing duel results in eager orca snagging salmon in Prince Rupert

UPDATED: Highway 97 near Penticton reopened after serious crash

Accident closes highway in both directions

Kelowna Rocket invited to Hockey Canada National Under-17 Development Camp

The 16-year-old was selected by the Rockets 18th overall at the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft

Fate of accused in Canadian couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbott’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

Okanagan RCMP serve up slices and support for Special Olympics B.C.

Last years inaugural campaign raised more than $12,000

Car window smashed with a bike in Kelowna

A staffer working in the area on the incident says vandalism is a reoccurring problem

Vernon artist featured at Kelowna exhibit

Mariel Belanger one of three female indigenous artists

Kelowna Mayor’s walking tour of Rutland cancelled

Growing issues surrounding supportive housing leads to rescheduled meeting with concerned resident

Hergott: Moral obligations and your will

Lawyer Paul Hergott discusses wills and moral obligation

Most Read