From a dog fight between two sitting MLAs in northern Alberta to a conservative grudge match near Calgary, hear are 10 constituencies to watch in Tuesday’s Alberta election:
This redrawn constituency on Calgary’s eastern boundary is a grudge match between Freedom Conservative Party Leader Derek Fildebrandt and United Conservative candidate Leela Aheer. Fildebrandt says he was told by UCP Leader Jason Kenney in late 2017 that he would not be allowed to run in the constituency, shared with Aheer due to the redistribution, because the party felt it was Aheer’s best chance to win and they needed female candidates. Kenney denies there was an ultimatum and Fildebrandt was later expelled under a cloud of controversy.
If the Alberta Party hopes to escape the outer rim of Alberta’s political universe, it needs its leader, Stephen Mandel, in the legislature. Mandel is well known in Edmonton, having served as its mayor and as a health minister in the former PC government of Jim Prentice. His opponent, Lorne Dach, is a backbench NDPer who won the constituency with 55 per cent of votes in 2015 but does not have a high profile. The UCP candidate is Laurie Mozeson.
A wide open race among all four parties found itself in flux when United Conservative star candidate Caylan Ford, an Oxford-trained international governmental relations expert, quit the race amid reports she made online comments sympathetic to white nationalists, a charge she says is untrue and distorted. The constituency was the only one held by the Liberals at dissolution, but MLA David Swann has retired and Liberal Leader David Khan hopes there is residual support there to get him into the legislature. He is challenged by NDP Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley and Angela Kokott for the Alberta Party, a well-known broadcast journalist. Jeremy Wong is running in Ford’s place for the UCP.
This area southwest of Edmonton has become the face of the debate over intolerance in the election. Midway through the campaign, homophobic and anti-abortion statements made by UCP candidate Mark Smith surfaced in the media. However UCP Leader Jason Kenney, while denouncing the remarks, resisted calls to toss Smith overboard as a candidate. Smith, the UCP’s education critic, captured the constituency for the Wildrose party in 2015. NDP member Kieran Quirke, Gail Upton (Alberta Party), and Ron Brochu (Liberals) hope to capitalize on the controversy.
This constituency includes a fight between high-profile politicos Greg Clark and Doug Schweitzer. Clark was the only Alberta Party member elected to the legislature in 2015, winning it handily with 42 per cent of the vote. Schweitzer ran as a candidate for the UCP leadership and was a campaign manager for former PC premier Jim Prentice. Janet Eremenko is hoping to win it for the NDP and Robin Mackintosh represents the Liberals.
The UCP candidate is former Edmonton Eskimos president Len Rhodes. Kenney appointed him in February, bypassing three grassroots candidates. One of those candidates, Arundeep Singh Sandhu, said Kenney had encouraged him to run, and the decision sparked a protest rally. Rhodes does not live in the area but Kenney said it was a one-off decision to recruit a star candidate. Rhodes is running against Jasvir Deol of the NDP, Amrit Matharu of the Alberta party and Maria Omar of the Liberals.
The Alberta Party is hoping name recognition and controversy surrounding the UCP will help it win this seat. The Alberta Party candidate is legislature member Rick Fraser, who briefly joined the UCP after his Progressive Conservatives merged with the Wildrose party. Matt Jones replaced UCP candidate Eva Kiryakos during the campaign after Kiryakos quit over her comments about Muslims and transgender washrooms. The Liberal candidate is Leila Keith and Heather Eddy represents the NDP.
This redrawn central constituency is a bellwether for NDP fortunes in Calgary for those who subscribe to the theory of vote splitting. Finance Minister Joe Ceci is running again and is the only NDPer who won in Calgary in 2015 with more votes than the combined totals of rival candidates for the Wildrose Party and the Progressive Conservatives. Those two parties have since merged to become the United Conservatives. Ceci is up against the UCP’s Tom Olsen, a former journalist and spokesperson for former PC premier Ed Stelmach. Omar Masood is running for the Alberta Party and Jennifer Khan represents the Liberals.
Thanks to boundary redistribution, at least one sitting legislature member is guaranteed to lose on Tuesday. Marg McCuaig-Boyd, the energy minister, is running in this rural northern area against UCP legislature member Todd Loewen. In 2015, McCuaig-Boyd won the seat despite polling far behind the combined vote of the now-merged Wildrose and PC parties. Loewen, running then for the Wildrose, edged out the PC candidate in the now-defunct Grand Prairie-Smoky. Travis McKim is the Alberta Party candidate and Wayne Meyer represents the Liberals.
Environment Minister Shannon Phillips, the face of Alberta’s climate change and carbon tax program, is seeking re-election for the NDP. She won the constituency handily in 2015 with 59 per cent of the vote. The Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose party combined for just 37 per cent. She is running against UCPer Karri Flatla. The UCP has made the carbon tax the focus of its election campaign and has promised to repeal it as job one in the first legislature sitting. Pat Chizek is the Liberal Party nominee and Zac Rhodenizer is running for the Alberta Party.
By Dean Bennett in Edmonton
The Canadian Press