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

FVRL launches Cubetto’s Grand Tour across 14 libraries

Friendly wooden robot travels Fraser Valley teaching programming basics to those as young as three

Chilliwack Hospice Society gearing up for annual Hike

Funds raised at Chilliwack walk remain local to help support programs for community members

Gas prices in Metro Vancouver hit $1.72 a litre

And one analyst expects it to only go higher this week

PHOTO: Pollination time

Hyacinths attract bees looking for pollen

Chilliwack school board making effort to foster better relationships

Board reaching out to parents via dinner event, and online forum

What’s age got to do with it? B.C. couple with 45-year gap talks happy marriage

An Armstrong couple that has 45-year age gap began turning heads after being featured on show Extreme Love.

Vintage bottles, magic cards, a 1969 Playboy: Quirky items found in historic B.C. buildings

Crews set aside some of the funkier pieces emerging from the construction rubble

PHOTOS: Inside the ‘shoe house’ in Northern B.C.

A rare look inside the famous Kitseguecla Lake Road shoe house, with a tour led by owner Toby Walsh

Thieves steal five of Seven Dwarves ornaments honouring B.C. couple’s late son

For the second time in a year, several garden ornaments stolen from Cloverdale family’s front garden

Child, 11, accidentally shot in the chest at Alberta religious colony

Child taken from Hutterite colony to nearby hospital

Ceremonies, vigils planned in Toronto to honour victims of deadly van attack

Many of those who helped that day — first responders and Good Samaritans alike — still affected

Easter bombings a response to New Zealand attacks, says Sri Lanka minister

The Islamic State group asserted it was responsible for the nine bombings

Case of man charged in fatal Salmon Arm church shooting adjourned until May

Matrix Savage Gathergood charged with first-degree murder, aggravated assault

RCMP looking to retrace steps of woman found dead on Kelowna beach

Caitlin Midori Bradley, a 29-year-old dancer at a Kelowna bar, was originally from Surrey

Most Read