I’m sorry right off the bat to use a hockey analogy, but bear with me.
As you all know (I hope), the Alberta election was officially called earlier this week and we will go to the polls on May 29.
It’s been the worst kept “secret” in politics because former Premier Jason Kenney enacted a fixed election date when he was in power. He did so to prevent “endless” election cycles.
This seems ironic now when you think about it because I feel like we’ve been in an election for months already. Ever since Danielle Smith won the UCP leadership, politicians seem to have been counting down the days until the writ dropped.
This is kind of like in hockey when a team is fighting for a playoff spot in the months leading up to the postseason. If that team sneaks into the playoffs and wins a few games, the quotes always come out along the lines of, “we’ve been fighting for playoff lives for months,” or, “it’s just another game because we’ve been playing playoff hockey for months.”
This election seems remarkably similar to me because I feel like both the UCP and NDP have been jockeying for position since that day in October. Smith named a new cabinet, one of the biggest in provincial history, in all likelihood to keep those ministers on her side in May.
Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley has been all over the province non-stop, never failing to point out the missteps of the government, which is the job of the opposition regardless of an election. But the NDP also set its candidate list in many ridings months before the suspected election date, including here in Red Deer. A strategic move to be sure. Those candidates’ faces are well known in the community by now.
Because the writ only dropped Monday, we are still learning about a litany of other candidates that are committed to running in the election. Papers for candidates need to be submitted to a returning office by May 11, 10 days after the writ drops, so we won’t have an official list until then.
And those parties could end up making a significant difference to who ultimately wins the election.
Provincially, the fight is between the NDP and the UCP. It’s a razor-thin margin right now, with polls having the parties a point or two apart in most reporting over the past few months.
What’s been interesting so far is how much history is haunting both leading candidates.
For Danielle Smith, it’s her propensity to say one thing and do another. She’s been in the media for a long time and knows that news cycles don’t last all that long, so she says what she thinks people want to hear in the moment — the thing that will get her the most votes and earn the most favour with her base and when the opportunity presents itself, makes a decision.
If it pisses people off, she simply says she wasn’t to be taken seriously when she said that thing. Whether it was five years, five months or five days ago, she’s gotten very well practiced at numerous variations of the phrase “imprecise language.” She’s talked extensively about privatized health care or pay-per-use health care in the past, yet made a “healthcare guarantee” a few weeks ago.
Rachel Notley on the other hand, is haunted by her record. Every time she makes a promise, people point to her time in office and say, you didn’t do that when you had the chance.
Whether it was not committing to hospital renovations in Red Deer, the disastrous rollout of Bill C-6 or what happened to the economy while she ran (a lot of that had to do with a global recession), she is fighting an uphill battle with many voters.
Notley has made a number of promises campaigning, like actually building the hospital in Red Deer, helping bring in more health-care workers and working to reduce class sizes with more schools.
Smith has had some time in office as well and while she’s battled her fair share of controversies, she did help Albertans with breaks on fuel and financially with affordability payments. Regardless of the missteps, people will remember those things at the ballot box. While those things matter, I think it’s also important to look at your local representative and decide whether they are the person you want to represent you in the legislature. The leader matters for the direction of the province, but your local representative matters if they listen to you, hear you and take a stand for things that they promised when they ran.
Don’t vote for the party you’ve always voted for because they’re the party you always vote for, vote because you believe in the representative to make a difference for things that matter to you. Do your best to dive into your candidate’s voting record in the legislature if they are an incumbent. If they’re a challenger, listen to how they speak in the community and the message they pass on in public engagements over the next month.
They’ll both make promises, every party and representative does. Judge the actions of the individual. Do they care about your community? Do they embrace anger or do they bring a message of hope for better days ahead?
This election won’t be an easy one for voters and from all accounts, it looks like the province is more divided than it’s ever been. I urge you to have your say, for if you choose to complain and don’t cast a ballot, you had your chance and you passed it up. If you’re tired, worn down or apathetic to politics in the coming weeks, you won’t be alone. But not participating in the democratic institution that our country and province provide, in my mind, is a graver mistake than choosing a candidate with whom you don’t entirely agree with. Voting is really the only opportunity we have to make sure politicians who write laws or guide our province are accountable to what we want — what we need and value.
Part of living in a democracy and being a contributing member of society is participating in the democratic process. There are people in plenty of countries that don’t have that right guaranteed.
For everyone who has complained over the last four years, on one side or the other, May 29 is your chance to have your voice heard.
Byron Hackett is the Managing Editor of the Red Deer Advocate.