The Alberta election kicked off Monday with voting day set for May 29, but the two main political parties have already been campaigning for several weeks.
Here’s a look at what are expected to be key issues for voters and what leaders have been promising.
The governing United Conservative Party is surfing into the campaign with a petro-fuelled $2.4-billion surplus, which has allowed for spending hikes virtually across the board, particularly in health and education. The UCP is promising no personal or business tax hikes without a referendum, as well as changes to ensure more surplus dollars are committed to long-term savings.
The NDP is adopting recommendations from an economist to use fixed formulas and rules to keep future spending in check while committing more money to long-term savings.
The NDP is promising the largest health-care recruitment inand the creation of family health teams with physicians and related specialists, including nurses and mental health therapists, to ensure more Albertans have timely access to primary care.
The UCP says it’s continuing its work to lower surgical wait times by using chartered surgical centres and on reducing ambulance bottlenecks through hiring and administrative reforms. It has budgeted $158 million to help recruit and retain health staff.
Both parties have promised not to roll back procedures currently covered by medicare.
Crime and Safety
The UCP is promising to deliver 100 more street-level police officers for high-crime locations in Edmonton and Calgary due to rising safety concerns, particularly on city transit. There is also money to clean up drug paraphernalia and help those dealing with mental health and addiction issues.
The NDP is promising to restore funding cuts to municipal police forces due to the UCP taking a larger share of fine revenue. It says it would address crime and its root causes by hiring 150 more officers and teaming them up with social support staff, including mental health workers.
The city, experiencing high downtown office vacancy rates, is expected to determine the election given polls suggest the NDP dominates in Edmonton and the UCP holds sway in rural areas and smaller centres.
The NDP is promising to revitalize the core with a $200-million downtown Calgary campus.
The UCP says it plans to revitalize the city by directing $330 million toward a new arena and entertainment complex on the edge of the downtown to replace the Saddledome, the home of the Calgary Flames of the National Hockey League.
Polls suggest NDP Leader Rachel Notley is more popular than her party, with the reverse for UCP Leader Danielle Smith.
Notley is battling concerns from when the NDP was in government from 2015 to 2019. There were spending and tax increases during low oil prices, which led to multibillion-dollar budget deficits and soaring taxpayer-supported debt.
Smith enters the campaign under an ethics investigation after offering to help an accused with his trial on criminal charges related to a COVID-19 protest at the Canada-United States border. She has also raised questions after promising to uphold medicare while declining to disavow previous comments advocating that Albertans pay out of pocket for basic care such as seeing a family doctor.