Politicians make final plea for votes

CALGARY — Premier Alison Redford reminded Albertans one last time that the future of the province’s economy and its reputation on the world stage are at stake as they head to the polls today to elect a new leader.

CALGARY — Premier Alison Redford reminded Albertans one last time that the future of the province’s economy and its reputation on the world stage are at stake as they head to the polls today to elect a new leader.

Her rival in what’s expected to be a tight race, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith, used the final day of campaigning Sunday to accuse the Conservatives of running a “non-stop mudslinging machine.”

While Redford struck a positive tone throughout much of the day, she took a shot at Smith, who has drawn criticism for questioning the science behind climate change.

“I don’t understand what that looks like if the person who’s trying to grow those markets and talk to people around the world about what environmental sustainability looks like denies climate change,” said Redford.

“I don’t know what that does to the Alberta economy. I don’t know what that does in terms of generally the economic development of our country.”

Redford said the results of Monday’s vote will affect the rest of the country.

“My sense in the conversations that I’ve had with a number of national media in the last two or three days is that Canadians are very interested in this because they know that a great part of Canada’s economic success does depend on Alberta’s economic success,” Redford told reporters and supporters on one of many campaign stops in Calgary.

On Tuesday morning, “it’s going to matter an awful lot not just to us, but to Canada and to the world who the premier of our province is, and the team of people behind that premier.”

Alberta is home to the world’s third-largest oil reserves and is a major producer of natural gas. Redford said her party has the experience and policies necessary to ensure Alberta can grow its export market reach and be a player on the world stage.

Smith, who hopes to make history by giving an end to the 40-year-old Tory dynasty, visited a Sikh temple Sunday morning before speaking to about 400 cheering supporters where her campaign team was introduced.

With the crowd chanting “One More Day”, “One More Day”, Smith launched a tirade against Redford and the Conservatives.

“Her campaign has been a non-stop mudslinging machine never missing an opportunity to stoop even lower with personal smears and broadside attacks,” Smith said to cheers from the audience.

“Our rallies, as you can see, just keep getting bigger and bigger despite the increasingly vicious attacks and fearmongering by the Redford PCs and their proxies.

“Our Wildrose wave just keeps on rising and it just goes to show you can’t scare Albertans by recycling attack lines written by the Ottawa Liberals.”

Smith has been under fire for the past week for comments made by two of her candidates.

Calgary candidate Ron Leech told a radio program that he had an advantage in his multi-cultural riding because he was Caucasian and could speak on behalf of other ethnic groups.

Edmonton candidate Allan Hunsperger wrote a blog last year in which he said gays and lesbians would end up in an eternal “lake of fire” if they didn’t change their ways.

Smith returned to familiar campaign themes Sunday and said Albertans need a party that has new ideas. She said the Progressive Conservatives still have problems even after 41 years in power.

“The Redford PC party sure does not deserve another term in government and frankly it can’t be trusted with another term. How much more time do they need to fix the problems that they created? Four more years? Forty more years? How much longer do they need to get it right?,” Smith added.

Redford became premier after scoring an unlikely victory in the Progressive Conservative leadership race last fall. She has spent much of her tenure so far touting a Canadian energy strategy and lobbying south of the border in favour of the controversial Keystone XL Alberta-to-Texas oil pipeline.

During a visit with supporters in a coffee shop, one voter presented Redford with a bouquet of yellow flowers, followed by another, Melissa Centofanti, who gave the premier a card.

Centofanti said she normally votes NDP, but the ascent of the right-wing Wildrose party compelled her to vote Tory for the first time.

“I know there’s going to be moments where it will be difficult, but it’s too important. The environment is too important. We are going to regret it if we don’t take care of things now, and I really feel like the other candidates are irrelevant in Alberta because oil is such a big part of our economy,” said the 42-year-old mother.

Redford said she’s never experienced an election in which voters have been so engaged, and she said she expects an “incredibly high” voter turnout, based on the interest seen in advanced polls so far.

“This is fantastic. This election will define our future and it will also describe for the rest of Canada who we truly are and what we want to be.”