Central Alberta voters have a diverse range of choices across the political spectrum in Monday’s provincial election.
In all, nine of Alberta’s 15 official parties have a candidate in the region’s eight ridings. Missing are the Alberta Liberals, and a pair of one-candidate parties, Buffalo Party and Pro-Life Alberta Political Association.
UCP and NDP have candidates in all of the province’s 87 ridings. The central region also has a large share of candidates other small political parties, including Solidarity Movement of Alberta, Wildrose Loyalty Coalition, Reform Party, Advantage Party and Wildrose Independence Party.
In Innisfail-Sylvan Lake riding, Randy Thorsteinson is the Reform Party’s only candidate this election. Also competing in the riding is Jeevan Mangat, leader of the Wildrose Independence Party and one of only two candidates it has running in this election.
Another party, Advantage Party of Alberta, is running only four candidates and one, Carol-Nordland Kinsey, is looking for votes in the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre riding.
There are also three independent candidates with no party affiliation, including two in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain-House-Sundre, Tim Hoven and Fred Schwieger, and in Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin, Marie Rittenhouse.
Of the Independence Party of Alberta’s 14 candidates, four are running in central Alberta in the Red Deer North, Drumheller-Stettler, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake and Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills ridings.
Wildrose Loyalty Coalition has 16 candidates including four in central Alberta in Lacombe-Ponoka, Red Deer South, Drumheller-Stettler and Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House.
The Solidarity Party of Alberta, formed in 2022 by controversial preacher Artur Pawlowski, is fielding 38 candidates, including seven of the right central Alberta ridings.
The Green Party of Alberta has 41 candidates, including four of eight central Alberta ridings: Red Deer North, Red Deer South, Lacombe-Ponoka and Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin. the Alberta Party has 19 candidates, one of whom is vying for the Lacombe-Ponoka seat. The Alberta Liberal Party is a shadow of its former self with 13 candidates, none in central Alberta.
A sizeable group of veteran politicians are looking for another four years. Three UCP cabinet ministers and a former minister are among the seven central Alberta incumbents who will be seeking to return to the legislature after Monday’s election.
The one new UCP face is in the Lacombe-Ponoka riding, where Jennifer Johnson was nominated as the party’s candidate. But Premier Danielle Smith said earlier this week Johnson, if elected, will not be allowed to join the UCP caucus because of homophobic and transphobic comments she has made.
Johnson is up against Myles Chykerda (Alberta Party), Dave Dale (Alberta NDP), Daniel Jefferies (Wildrose Loyalty Coalition), Nathan Leslie (Solidarity Movement of Alberta) and Taylor Lowery (Green Party of Alberta).
In Red Deer North, UCP Education Minister Adriana LaGrange will be seeking a second term. Her opponents are: Vicky Bayford (The Independence Party of Alberta), Kallie Dyck (Solidarity), Heather Morigeau (Green Party) and Jaelene Tweedle (NDP).
In Red Deer South, incumbent UCP Jason Stephan is also hoping to return for a second time. He faces: Michelle Baer (NDP), Pamela Liebenberg (Solidarity), Ashley MacDonald (Green) and Jesse Stretch (Wildrose Loyalty).
Another UCP cabinet minister looking to return is Rick Wilson, who was Indigenous Relations Minister in the last government and hopes to represent Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin for a second term. He is up against: Justin Fuss (Green), Suzanne Jubb (Solidarity), Marie Rittenhouse (Independent) and Katherine Swampy (NDP).
Nate Horner, who served as UCP agriculture minister after being elected in 2019 is seeking a second term in Drumheller-Stettler. He is facing: Carla Evers (Solidarity), Juliet Franklin (NDP), Shannon Packham (Independence Party of Alberta) and Hannah Stretch Viens (Wildrose Loyalty).
Devin Dreeshen, who was UCP Transportation and Corridors Minister in the last government, will seek to be elected to represent the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake riding a third time. He was elected in a byelection in 2018 and won again in the 2019 general election.
Dreeshen is opposed by: Jason Heistad (NDP), Jeevan Mangat (Wildrose Independence), Brandon Pringle (Solidarity), David Reid (Independence) and Randy Thorsteinson (Reform).
In Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre riding, former environment and parks minister Jason Nixon will seek a third term. He was elected in 2015 as a Wildrose Party candidate, which later merged with the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, to form the UCP. His opponents are: Vance Buchwald (NDP), Tim Hoven (Independent), Carol Nordland Kinsey (Advantage Party of Alberta), Fred Schwieger (Independent) and Tami Tatlock (Wildrose Loyalty).
In Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, Nate Horner, who was made Speaker of the Legislative Assemby in 2019, will see a third term. He was first elected as a Wildrose candidate in 2015. He will face: Judy Bridges (Solidarity), Cheryl Hunter Loewen (NDP), Katherine Kowalchuk (Independence Party) and Cam Tatlock (Wildrose Loyalty).