Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason believes the spring election could be pushed into May as the provincial Conservatives seek to distance themselves from recent controversies.
“It’s not going well for the government right now,” said Mason, who spoke at Red Deer College on Thursday. He mentioned the recent controversial Gary Mar fundraiser, as well as revelations that some MLAs were regularly paid for serving on a committee that hasn’t met for three years.
As well, the Tories have been in hot water for a “bullying” letter Tory MLA Hector Goudreau sent to a school board and for waffling on the terms of an upcoming health-care inquiry.
The previous estimated election date was April 23, as Tory Premier Alison Redford promised to make the election call as soon as possible after passing next week’s budget, and this would allow for a 28-day campaign.
But Mason said Redford actually has until the end of May to call Albertans to the polls. “I believe they could delay the election,” he said, to do some damage control. “But “sooner would be better . . . I think most people would rather get it out of the way.”
Mason added that his party was the first to have a full slate of candidates in provincial ridings and a “coherent set of policies for Alberta.”
The NDP leader did not seem bothered that more Albertans appear to view the Wildrose Party as an alternative to the Tories than his left-of-centre party. “It depends on what you want as an alternative. If you want a party that’s more conservative than the Conservatives, then it’s Wildrose.”
Mason believes most Albertans would prefer a government that protects public health care, education, shows “a reasonable degree” of environmental stewardship, and allows for “reasonable electricity prices.”
He added, “That’s what the New Democrats can do . . . I think we’re ready to govern.”
Mason expected to speak to RDC students about the rising cost of education. While the provincial government capped tuitions, many post-secondary institutions are increasing revenues by raising other student fees.
“This loophole needs to be closed,” said Mason, who believes many students are already having trouble affording an education, or are graduating with a huge debt load.