Alberta’s opposition parties may not like the early call, but they’ll have no choice but to hit the ground running today as the campaign begins for an election on May 5.
Albertans were not scheduled to go to the polls until the spring of 2016.
But as was widely expected, Premier Jim Prentice dropped the writ on Monday, saying his plan to wean the province from its dependence on oil revenues demands an endorsement from the people.
Prentice starts off today with an appearance at the coal mine in Grande Cache, then makes stops in Edmonton, Ponoka and Lacombe.
NDP Leader Rachel Notley will spend her first day of the campaign attending rallies in Calgary and Lethbridge.
Wildrose Leader Brian Jean hopscotches across the province with visits to Calgary, Kananaskis and Spruce Grove.
The Tories held 70 seats in the 87-seat legislature at dissolution, including 11 members of the Wildrose opposition who crossed the floor to join the government.
However, several of the defectors failed to win their nominations as Conservatives, including former leader Danielle Smith.
Jean is now focused on getting his five-member team back into the fight with the goal of retaining official Opposition status, and says future defections will be met with a $100,000 fine from the party.
The NDP had four members but Notley says she’s seeing unprecedented support across the province partly because of Prentice’s budget and partly because of a legacy of financial mismanagement and scandal under the Tories.
Prentice’s recent budget called for increases in taxes and fees, and cuts to public services, to help cope with a drop in oil prices that erased an estimated $7 billion from Alberta’s bottom line this year.
But while Prentice has said everyone must help fix Alberta’s cracked fiscal foundation, he has not raised oil royalties or changed corporate taxes because he says doing that could harm the economic recovery.
The Liberals had five members in the legislature, but only two — party leader David Swann and house leader Laurie Blakeman — are campaigning again, and the party only has candidates nominated in about 30 ridings.
Blakeman, who favoured a merger with the Alberta Party earlier this year, is running under the Alberta Party and Green party banners in an effort to fend off the Tories.
The Alberta Party, which did not hold any seats, has 32 confirmed candidates and is considering another 10. There were two vacancies in the last legislature, caused by the resignation of two cabinet ministers, and a former Wildrose member was sitting as an Independent.