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Alberta election: Here’s what the rest of Canada should know

Category: Political News,Politics

Albertans are heading to the polls Tuesday after a tumultuous provincial election campaign, and it’s shaping up to be a busy day.

Nearly 700,000 residents have already cast ballots in advance polling — that’s compared to the 235,000 that voted early in the 2015 election.

Much of the campaign has focused 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.

READ MORE: Alberta election cheat sheet — A last-minute voter’s guide

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.

The Alberta election is an important one to watch, even beyond provincial borders. Here’s what to know.

WATCH: Voters head to the polls after divisive election campaign in Alberta

Parties and key campaign promises

New Democrats

The New Democrats are running to be re-elected under the leadership of Rachel Notley, who became premier in 2015 after a surprise knockout blow to the 44-year run of the Progressive Conservatives.

The NDP is running on the platform of a stronger and diversified economy. Many of its promises focus on policies regarding child care, education, and health care.

READ MORE: How Canadian provinces are taking on affordable child care — and how it compares to the world

Among health-care promises, the NDP has pledged to add more long-term beds for seniors and reduce surgery wait times. It has also said it will cover prescription drug costs for middle and low-income seniors.

The party has promised to increase education funding for more teachers and to build or upgrade schools.

Notley has also said the party would expand a pilot program that capped daycare costs at $25 daily.

The NDP has also said it will forge ahead with its Climate Leadership Plan, which includes a carbon tax.

WATCH: Race tightening in Alberta provincial election

United Conservative Party

Jason Kenney, best known for being a prominent Cabinet member under former prime minister Stephen Harper, is leading the United Conservative Party.

The UCP was created when the PCs merged with the Wildrose Party. Its platform revolves around “standing up” for Alberta.

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

The party has pledged to fix that by cutting Alberta’s corporate income tax rate from 12 per cent to 10 per cent. It has also said it will push Ottawa to revisit its equalization plans.

READ MORE: Transcript — Charles Adler’s fiery interview with UCP Leader Jason Kenney

Health-care wise, the party has said it will explore private care options. It has also pledged to review the NDP’s education curriculum.

The UCP has vowed to scrap the carbon tax and challenge the federal government’s plan in court.

WATCH: Trudeau says Jason Kenney helped negotiate equalization formula

Liberal Party

The Liberals, led by lawyer David Khan, have campaigned on freedom of choices, equality, and fairness of economic opportunities.

The Liberals would put a cap on classroom sizes. For health care, the Liberal Party would create new long-term care beds and increase funding for affordable dental care programs.

The party has vowed to create a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

READ MORE: Alberta election promise tracker — Where do the parties stand on the major issues?

Alberta Party

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.

It would increase spending for education assistants. The Alberta Party would also provide annual dental checkups for children 12 and under.

It has promised to cancel the NDP’s carbon tax for families.

WATCH: Trudeau says Jason Kenney helped negotiate equalization formula

Campaign controversies

The four-week campaign has been fraught with controversies, including some fighting (and often personal) words exchanged between Notley and Kenney.

A key focus on Kenney’s criticism of Notley has been her relationship with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Kenney has campaigned on the “Trudeau-Notley alliance,” saying the premier 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 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.

Meanwhile, Notley has fired back at Kenney taking aim at his character. A number of his candidates have either quit or apologized for past comments that were anti-LGBTQ, Islamophobic or sympathetic to white nationalism.

READ MORE: UCP candidate in central Alberta under fire over homophobic, anti-abortion comments

Kenney has faced increasing questions over why his party seems to be dealing with such issues more than others.

The UCP leader rejected such criticism in an interview with Global News Radio’s Charles Adler on April 4. He has also labelled such attacks a “fear-and-smear” campaign, saying it’s a ploy to distract from real issues.

Notley has also criticized Kenney’s plan to pursue more private-care options in health care, saying it will have a profound impact on patients waiting for care.

WATCH: Trudeau says he ‘looks forward’ to working with next Alberta premier

How will this impact federal politics?

Depending on who wins the Alberta election, things could change for Trudeau.

A Global News/Ipsos poll released Monday shows that while support for the NDP has continued to grow throughout the campaign, a majority of the province still supports Kenney’s UCP.

READ MORE: If Jason Kenney wins Trudeau may be in for a headache, experts warn

“In terms of the national campaign, Kenney winning adds another conservative voice in the premier table that is critical of Trudeau,” said Jared Wesley, a political scientist with the University of Alberta.

He said Kenney may campaign against Trudeau in the federal election with other conservative leaders, such as Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe.

“He is playing the role of the unofficial opposition,” Wesley said.

A Notley win would be helpful for Trudeau in this federal election year, said Andrew McDougall, a lecturer of political science at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

Although the UCPs are not the same party as the Conservatives, McDougall said Andrew Scheer would probably prefer Kenney to win. Scheer has even joined Kenney on the campaign trail.

On Tuesday, Trudeau told reporters he “looks forward” to working with Alberta’s next premier.

— With files from Global News reporters Caley Ramsay, Katie Dangerfield and The Canadian Press

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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