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Smith vs Notley: The Alberta 2023 Election Faceoff

(Rachel Notley vs Danielle Smith) 

The Election: May 29, 2023

Canada will see three provincial elections in 2023. Two of which seem to have an obvious outcome based on the polling data we are seeing. The provincial election of Prince Edward Island has already been called and looks to be favourable to the incumbent premier of the Progressive Conservative party, Dennis King. Manitoba’s incumbent is at the opposite end, Heather Stefanson’s approval rating is the worst in the country; with recent polling suggesting her approval ratings have dropped even further. According to current polls, the Manitoba NDP is favoured to win a majority in Manitoba.

The last province with an election this year is Alberta, where the Alberta NDP and United Conservative Party are gearing up for one of the most competitive election races in recent Alberta history. Both parties are neck and neck according to the latest polls, and approval ratings for both party leaders are similarly matched.

Both Danielle Smith and Rachel Notley will battle it out fiercely in the province’s most matched rivalry yet. Both leaders face each other head-on in an election where both are equally likely to win. A simple mistake or poor choice of words could prove fatal for either party’s chances.

The province's polling shows the United Conservatives dominating rural Alberta. They will likely pick up close to a majority of their seats in rural Alberta. According to 338Canada, the UCP may lose a few seats in Nothern and Southern rural Alberta. Seats that were previously won by the UCP in the 2019 election. Such losses could prove fatal come election day. 

Indeed, Premier Danielle Smith has indicated that a focus on retaining the party’s rural seats will be a priority. 

In Edmonton however, the province’s capital and second-largest metropolitan population, polls suggest that the ANDP will win all seats in the Edmonton metropolitan area. Potentially winning all 23 seats in Edmonton, up from the party’s previous election win of 22 seats.

Political pundits indicate that the real battlegrounds are in Calgary, Alberta’s largest metropolitan population. Polls indicate that a large majority of seats in Calgary are toss-ups between the UCP and ANDP, with some swath of seats favouring the NDP while others favouring the UCP.

However, looking at the election result from the previous 2019 election, the UCP dominated Calgary. But polls and analysts indicate that things could be vastly different this time for the UCP in Calgary.

Likewise in 2015, the ANDP dominated Calgary, which led to their historic majority win. The following election, the UCP dominated Calgary in 2019, which led to their majority comeback win. 

The Flipped Margins 

Although the majority of Calgary ridings are toss-ups between the two parties, the UCP party has a substantial margin advantage in a number of ridings they won from 2015 incumbent ANDP candidates. Many of these ridings include margins over 15%, including a dozen ridings in Calgary that swung to UCP from ANDP incumbents with over 10% margins, with the majority of the dozen having over 15% and 20% margins. The ANDP will have to campaign hard to overcome these margins even if current polls indicate they are matched with the UCP in these ridings. For the ANDP, it's a hill to climb.

The Leaders

All eyes are on the party leaders. Voters will look to which leader speaks to them the most. Which leader can captivate the mind of the voter? And which leader Albertans think will lead the province in the right direction.

For Albertans, the choice is between a staunch pro-Albertan provincialist against a more sympathetic federalist who still believes in pro-Albertan ideas. For Smith, painting Notley as a Trudeau sympathizer will be key to galvanizing her base. For Notley, painting Smith as an unstable political leader who flip-flops on her political stances will be key to convincing unsure voters over to the ANDP.

Both leaders are political veterans in Alberta politics. Smith had led Alberta’s infamous Wildrose party from 2009 to 2014.

As for Notley, Notley’s ANDP was the first party to end the 44-year Progressive Conservative reign in 2015 (the PCs had been in power since 1971). 2015 was also their first election win since the inception of the party.

Policies of the NDP

Smith has made some controversial statements about anti-vaxxers claiming that they were the most discriminated against people in the country, bringing wide criticism from media and Indigenous people. Smith has repeatedly claimed that she has Indigenous heritage while providing no evidence of such heritage. She has also made comments on Indigenous history that Indigenous leaders have considered to be “ignorant” and “whitewashing”. Smith’s government is also accused of attempting to influence the Alberta Crown Prosecution’s rulings on recent protests that took place in the city of Coutts. 

Notley has taken advantage of Smith’s various controversies by campaigning herself to be an “anti-corruption” and pro-stability party. Notley says that her party will focus on policy, not “personality”. Notley goes on to say: 

“We're going to try to talk about their vision for the future of Alberta and our vision for the future of Alberta and … which one reflects the mainstream aspirations of Albertans."

Notley says her focus on the policy will be centred around affordability, the economy, and healthcare. Learning from when her party lost the 2019 election. The ANDP party platform can be found here.

Smith’s Budget 2023

With government tax revenue at historic highs in Alberta due to high oil windfalls, the Smith government has unveiled budget 2023 to be a massive spending budget. The budget allocates billions in increasing funding for healthcare, child and senior benefits, public safety, road and broadband infrastructure, and addressing workforce shortages. The budget also allocates $13.4 billion to paying down the provincial debt and establishing a new framework mandating the government to pay off its debt over time. Full details of Smith’s budget can be found here

Who’s Going to Win? 

The election is to be held on May 29 202, with each party going to ramp up their election campaign efforts by late March and the beginning of May. Unfortunately for Albertans, both parties seem to be serious parties that have a lot of firepowers to garner votes, be it with the NDP’s rhetoric of stability or the UCP’s rural advantage. Whatever the strategy, the battlegrounds and the main electoral efforts for both parties will be in Calgary. Whichever party can garner more support in Alberta’s largest city, wins the election.

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Tags: Canada election 2023 Conservative policy NDP campaign Smith polls budget alberta prospects Notley


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