The polls are now closed in Alberta, and it’s time to see what kind of history will be made.
Polls opened at 9 a.m. Tuesday, and Premier Rachel Notley walked to her polling place with her family in Edmonton around 10:30 a.m. Both of her children were voting in their first provincial election.
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“Voted,” said Ethan Notley, 20, as his mom filled out her ballot.
She then looked up as her 18-year-old daughter walked by to cast her vote.
“It’s her first time, too,” Rachel Notley told reporters, before walking over to put her vote in the ballot box. “Here we go. It’s going, it’s going, it’s gone. Can’t change my mind now!”
The four-week campaign focused on personal attacks and on Alberta’s fragile economy, which has been struggling with sluggish oil prices and unemployment levels above seven per cent in Calgary and Edmonton.
Kenney, who already cast his ballot in the advance polls, 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 would have a profound affect on students and patients.
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 an as yet unrealized promise of one pipeline expansion to the coast.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, whose province is one of three challenging the federal carbon tax, told reporters Tuesday that he hopes Kenney wins the election.
“Hopefully today we’ll have another partner with my good friend Jason Kenney,” he said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked in Kitchener, Ont., whether he was concerned about his climate plan should Kenney win.
“We have chosen to put a price on pollution right across the country and there are conservative politicians who are using taxpayer money to fight a price on pollution in court,” he responded. “They are using your dollars to try to make pollution free again, which makes no sense.
Trudeau said the federal government would continue to work on growing the economy, while tackling climate change.
During the campaign, Notley 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 by combining the economic conservatism of the UCP with the social progressivism of the NDP.
The Liberals, led by lawyer David Khan, are running 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.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press