The Battle for Alberta began yesterday and Albertans will be heading to the polls on May 29th for the province’s 31st general election. Two women, Danielle Smith of the United Conservative Party (UCP) and Rachel Notley of Alberta’s New Democratic Party (NDP), both of whom have served as Alberta premier, are the leading candidates in a tight race to run the province.
In an election dominated by personalities, both the UCP and NDP will campaign on competing visions for economic stability, fiscal responsibility, funding for education and improving the healthcare system.
Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming provincial election:
The Battleground: Calgary will be the key battleground in the race and the likely focus of all major campaign announcements for the next 28 days. The NDP will need to win most of Calgary’s 26 seats in traditionally conservative Calgary, to overcome UCP’s expected dominance in its rural base. The UCP’s electoral prospects in Calgary will likely hinge on their ability to convince voters that electing the NDP will put at risk the improved economic conditions experienced in the city in the last year. The UCP has already announced provincial financial support for the long-awaited Calgary Flames arena, a move that may entice and soften target voters for the UCP. Based on recent polling, the NDP and UCP are more or less tied in Calgary ahead of the election.
- Affordability and the Economy: The provincial government forecasted a $2.4 billion surplus this year due to oil and gas royalties, giving the UCP the fiscal firepower and credibility to woo voters in uncertain economic times. Wasting no time, the UCP’s first campaign announcement was a commitment to a new 8% tax bracket on income under $60,000 (to the tune of $1 billion) and extending the Fuel Tax Holiday until the end of 2023.
- Healthcare: Like other provinces, the pandemic has exposed many vulnerabilities in the Alberta healthcare system. A sword issue for the NDP and a shield issue for the UCP, Rachel Notley has already made promises to bolster Alberta’s healthcare system, including coming out swinging on the first day of the campaign on the issue of ending the “healthcare crisis” by touting the opposition’s healthcare plan announced earlier this year.
- Energy and Environment: Alberta’s natural resources sector has a huge bearing on Canada’s climate goals of cutting emissions – 40% to 45% from 2005 levels by 2030. Should the UCP get re-elected, the federal government may need to make concessions on decarbonization policies, like an oil and gas emissions cap and clean energy regulations that have sparked resistance from the Alberta government over federal overreach. Since being elected in 2019, the UCP has enacted an aggressive strategy to promote and support the province’s oil-and-gas sector.
The Narrative: Both parties have presented forward-looking themes for their respective campaigns, but they will mean something different to each of the parties and their target voters. Similar to another provincial Conservative re-election campaign, Danielle Smith and the UCP is running on “Moving Alberta Forward,” signalling to voters that the status quo is working by touting the UCP’s record on the economy and interprovincial migration. While the NDP is running on “A Better Future,” signalling an opportunity for voters to choose a different pathway for the years to come. While both parties have yet to release their platforms, the UCP’s will look a lot like their 2023 Budget, which increased healthcare and education spending, made record investments in mental health, and invested significantly in community safety services.
What Does This Mean for You?
Government operations will transition into caretaker mode, meaning announcements and activity will stagnate until at least May 30th, when a new government is elected.
Alberta’s oil and gas industry is poised to be a leader in the developing and integrating clean technologies and renewable energy, and support for the industry (albeit in different fashions) is a fundamental belief for both parties. Investment attraction is essential to driving the economy in creating stability, supporting existing jobs and creating new ones, all while expanding opportunities to increase exports globally – we can expect both parties to be talking about their plans for attracting investment into the province. Other key investment areas for the province include agriculture, forestry and tourism.
If you are seeking government relations advice on how to navigate the Alberta government, contact the McMillan Vantage team at firstname.lastname@example.org.