Alberta election: Why Calgary is a key battleground between UCP and NDP

In Calgary’s south, a few hundred United Conservative Party supporters gathered for a rally on the weekend to kick off the provincial election campaign.

UCP Leader Danielle Smith, flanked by Calgary candidates, told the small crowd Saturday that the election was about moving the province forward.

“Let’s go out and knock some doors and win this,” Smith said to cheers.

Read more: Alberta election called Monday for May 29 vote

Farther north in the city, NDP candidates were busy knocking on doors as Leader Rachel Notley held a rally with the campaign slogan “A Better Future” in her home Edmonton constituency before hitting the road to Calgary.

“Incredible day,” Notley tweeted Saturday. “I am so excited to head down the highway (Sunday) and meet our amazing Alberta NDP supporters in stops all over Calgary!”

Story continues below advertisement

Both parties have been focused on Alberta’s largest city ahead of the May 29 vote.

Click to play video: '2023 Alberta election officially underway'

2023 Alberta election officially underway

Pollster Janet Brown said Calgary will be the battleground of the election, with surveys suggesting Edmonton is safe territory for the NDP while the rural areas are strong for the UCP.

“When I took a big, deeper dive into battleground Calgary, what I found is that the NDP has a slight edge, probably in a position to win about 18 out of the 26 seats in Calgary, but that may not be enough to get them to a majority situation,” she said.

“And it was really interesting to see that there’s much stronger support for the NDP in the north and the south part of the city is where the UCP has their strength.”


United Conservative Party leader Danielle Smith, centre, speaks at a campaign launch rally in Calgary on Saturday, April 29, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh


Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley addresses supporters as she kicks off her campaign for the provincial election in Calgary, Monday, May 1, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colette Derworiz

NDP candidates in Calgary said they have had a positive response at the doors.

Story continues below advertisement

“People, I think, are concerned about Smith and some of the riskier moves she’s made around the Canada Pension Plan, around the sovereignty act, calling criminal defendants,” said Kathleen Ganley, who is running for re-election in Calgary-Mountain View, just north of downtown.

Ganley said health care, education and affordability are issues on the doorsteps, but a big difference she’s hearing this year is concern about Smith’s leadership.

Read more: Alberta election: UCP has slight lead over NDP but leaders in dead heat, Ipsos poll finds

“I talked to a lot of people who identified themselves as conservative who are voting NDP,” she said. “Conservatives are checking their values against the way the province is currently being governed, and they’re finding a mismatch. They’re finding a better match in Rachel Notley.”

A UCP candidate in Calgary said he’s hearing some concerns about Smith’s leadership, particularly her views on the privatization of health care, but he suggested that’s due to misinformation from the NDP.

“People are confused,” said Jason Luan, the legislature member for Calgary-Foothills in the city’s northwest. “Even my own supporters are saying, ‘Jason, I don’t recall you ever talking about this.’

“I say, ‘It’s coming from nowhere.’”

Click to play video: 'Latest stories on the Alberta election trail'

Latest stories on the Alberta election trail

Smith has declined to say whether she stands by or is disavowing earlier comments she made proposing Albertans pay out of pocket for medically insured services as a way to keep the health-care system sustainable. She declined several times before the election call to say whether she stands by a policy paper she wrote in 2021, which urges Albertans to begin paying for services covered by medicare, including visits to a family doctor.

Story continues below advertisement

The UCP government, however, has committed not to delist any current medically insured services or to having Albertans pay for services or prescriptions covered by medicare.

Luan said he NDP is using Smith’s past comments to give a false impression, adding that he supports her as leader.

Read more: Alberta election: Campaign enters 2nd day, UCP and NDP leaders in Calgary

Seniors, he said, are raising concerns about government replacing the Canada Pension Plan with a provincial one, but he noted no decision has been made.

“I urge everybody … to check out and fact-check every other opponent’s numbers,” he said.

Calgary city council has weighed in, approving a YYC Matters campaign last week with some of their key issues — similar to past provincial and federal elections. Its priorities include ensuring economic, social and climate resilience, as well as transforming the city’s downtown.

Click to play video: 'Decision Alberta: The races to watch for in 2023 election campaign'

Decision Alberta: The races to watch for in 2023 election campaign

A new arena for the Calgary Flames, southeast of downtown, could also become an issue.

Story continues below advertisement

A deal between the city, the province, Flames owners and Calgary Stampede was announced less than a week before the election call.

At a news conference that day, Smith said the provincial cabinet and Treasury Board must approve the province’s contribution after the election.

Read more: Calgary arena deal splits voters: poll

“That’s why, on May 29, I’m hoping Calgarians give our (UCP) government a clear mandate to proceed with this arena deal.”

Duane Bratt, a political science professor at Mount Royal University, said it’s too early to say whether the deal helps sway voters in Calgary.

“Smith believes that this will be a big boon to her,” he said last week. “Whether she’s right or not, we’ll have to see.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta election: Ridings to watch in battleground Calgary'

Alberta election: Ridings to watch in battleground Calgary

Bratt said it’s clear the UCP strategy is to go after the left in general, while the NDP strategy is going after Smith herself.

Story continues below advertisement

“If I’m the UCP, I want it to be less about leaders and more about party brands because their conservative party brand is much stronger,” he said.

“If it’s fought based on parties, the UCP wins. If it’s based on leaders, the NDP win.”

— With files from Dean Bennett in Edmonton

More on Canada

View original article here Source