There’s little mystery surrounding the 34 federal ridings in Alberta – a province where the biggest question about the election results is whether the Conservatives will win all of those seats or almost all of them.
But that dynamic has meant Alberta has received short shrift from the national campaigns, with the main party leaders stepping foot in Alberta only a handful of times, if at all. And it means the issues driving voters here – a painful economic downturn, the Trans Mountain pipeline and a perceived unfairness in the equalization program – have been largely absent from the national campaign.
The Liberals had a breakthrough in Alberta when Justin Trudeau came to power in 2015, picking up four seats in a province where they previously had none. The NDP also held onto its lone Alberta seat in Edmonton.
This year, antipathy toward the federal government and Mr. Trudeau in particular has pollsters speculating that the party could be shut out entirely. And the NDP’s Linda Duncan isn’t running again in Edmonton-Strathcona, where that party’s opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline could become a major barrier for its candidate.
Mr. Trudeau visited Edmonton on the second day of the campaign but hasn’t been back since. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has been to Alberta twice, with one event each in Edmonton and Calgary. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May attended a climate march in Calgary last month, while NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh hasn’t been to the province at all. The People Party’s Maxime Bernier has also campaigned in Alberta.
Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Scheer have both promised to get the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion built, with Mr. Scheer also pledging to rip up recently passed environmental legislation, repeal the carbon tax and build national energy corridors.
However, Duane Bratt, a political science professor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University, said the leaders haven’t spent much time talking about those issues outside the province.
“It’s not just the lack of leaders; the other thing is it’s a lack of attention on the issues that are galvanizing Albertans,” Dr. Bratt said.
He said 2015 was unusual for the Liberals because Mr. Trudeau actually did spend a significant amount of time in Alberta, though he said previous leaders such as Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin barely made an effort in the province.
Former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper would finish his campaigns in his hometown of Calgary but, Dr. Bratt said, even his attention was largely focused elsewhere. Mr. Scheer’s two Alberta stops pale in comparison with the dozens of events he’s held in suburban Toronto-area ridings.
“Of course he’s taking Alberta for granted,” he said. “But what are you supposed to do when the province is in the bag for one party? You go where the votes are.”
Kent Hehr, the Liberal incumbent in Calgary Centre, said voters should consider what the governing party has done for Alberta – namely purchasing the Trans Mountain pipeline – instead of Mr. Trudeau’s travel schedule.
“Our policies show how well we’re treating Calgary," Mr. Hehr said.
He couldn’t say whether Mr. Trudeau would be back in Alberta and the party declined to confirm the leader’s plans.
The Conservatives didn’t respond to a request for comment about their approach to Alberta, while NDP press secretary Nina Amrov said the party hadn’t decided whether Mr. Singh will visit the province before election day.
Lori Williams, who also teaches at Mount Royal University, said it’s a mistake for the party leaders to ignore a province entirely, even if they don’t believe there are many seats in play. She said it’s also important if a party wants to grow in the future.
“It’s just being a good democratic representative, acknowledging that there are a number of people in Alberta that do support you, and a number who could be persuaded to support [you], whether or not it’s enough to win a seat,” Prof. Williams said.
We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.