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Jason Kenney and Rachel NotleyThe Canadian Press

Good morning. Wendy Cox here.

There has been no mention of “sunny ways” during this Alberta election campaign.

The optimistic phrase was originally used by Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 1895 and picked up again in 2015 by another Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau. It was a call for a new, more positive way of doing politics. The phrase is now being mocked, given the federal Liberals’ troubles in Ottawa around the SNC-Lavalin matter.

In Alberta, though, a phrase hasn’t been coined to describe the darkness of the two leading campaigns.

United Conservative Party’s Jason Kenney has hammered a message to voters of a dismal economy wrought by the provincial NDP and a scornful and neglectful betrayal of Albertans at the hands of the federal Liberals. A second term for the NDP’s Rachel Notley, he has maintained, would deepen the economic slump. Mr. Kenney has argued he is the warrior Alberta needs to reassert the province’s might.

For her part, Ms. Notley, who is trailing in the polls, has campaigned hard to cast Mr. Kenney as an intemperate social conservative with a long-standing aversion to gay rights. She has warned that her opponent’s economic plan will transfer wealth from workers to their bosses.

The week, The Globe has published profiles of the two leaders.

Justin Giovannetti paints a vivid picture of the uphill battle Ms. Notley is fighting. She is armed with popular opinion in her favour: Poll respondents consistently put her personal popularity above that of Mr. Kenney. But liking her and voting for her appear to be two different things. She is beset by economic woes, a pipeline project that remains stalled and as a result, an unfulfilled bargain with Albertans that in exchange for accepting a carbon tax to combat climate change, the NDP would ensure Alberta realized a pipeline to take more of its oil and gas to wider markets.

Mr. Giovannetti writes: “She has presented the election as a choice between helping the rich – with Mr. Kenney’s largest spending promise to cut corporate taxes by a third – and taking care of everyone else. It builds on a time in office that saw her focus her efforts on social spending, along with raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and enacting tough new labour laws.”

James Keller’s portrait of Mr. Kenney, published today, reveals a man of more nuance than his opponents might portray. Mr. Kenney, Mr. Keller writes, has been steeped in political action and conservative causes since his time at university.

Mr. Kenney attended the University of San Francisco, a private Jesuit school in a city he later described as “Sodom by the Sea.” He spent his time there as part of a debate club called the Philhistorians, writing for the student newspaper, The Foghorn, and as one of the school’s most vocal opponents of abortion and gay rights.

But Bernie Farber, a former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, told Mr. Keller that Mr. Kenney was a study in opposites.

On the one hand, Mr. Kenney earned his respect while working on files such as an international Holocaust education project and seemed to embrace new Canadians. But he said Mr. Kenney was also responsible for some of the Harper government’s more alarming policies involving minorities, in particular refugees and Muslims.

“At one point in his career, he did and said not just the right things but the morally correct things to do in relation to human rights,” said Mr. Farber, whose Canadian Anti-Hate Network has been critical of the UCP.

“And then, at the flip of a switch, it would be like we had a different Jason Kenney.”

This is the Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here. This is a new project and we’ll be experimenting as we go, so let us know what you think.


Fort Mac isn’t so sure about Kenney:

Fort McMurray should deliver some of the safest seats for Alberta’s United Conservative Party when voters head to the polls on April 16. But as Jana G. Pruden reported, despite a strong local fondness for conservative politics there’s deep apprehension in the heart of the oil sands about what kind of premier Jason Kenney would make.

Mr. Kenney’s social conservatism has rubbed some voters the wrong way, with continuing issues surrounding his party’s views on gay-straight alliances in schools. Other voters say they’re thankful for NDP Leader Rachel Notley’s support during and after the 2016 wildfires.

It’s time to talk about Red Deer:

Red Deer is Alberta’s middle child, the proud city midway on the highway between Calgary and Edmonton that is so often overlooked as its other siblings hog all the attention. Jana G. Pruden also went to Red Deer and she found a city whose citizens want politicians to focus on them and their local issues for a change.

A long-delayed hospital expansion is a ballot box issue in Alberta’s third-largest city, where serious health problems can often require transport to Calgary or Edmonton. George “Joe” Smith told Ms. Pruden about his 150-kilometre ride in an ambulance while he suffered a heart attack. “Why didn’t they do something in the last 10 years?” he said.

Money laundering:

A retired senior Mountie enlisted by the B.C. government to look into money laundering in the province has revealed that there are only five RCMP officers in British Columbia tasked with investigating the crime. Peter German’s latest report notes that their numbers are so low – there are supposed to be 25 of them – that rather than pursue criminal charges against the international criminals that have set up shop in the province, the Mounties are referring cases to the Civil Forfeiture office.

Although the office can seize the proceeds of the suspected criminals’ ill-gotten gains without laying charges, the office cannot send the accused to trial.

“Both civil forfeiture and criminal [prosecutions] have a part to play in this, but one in the absence of the other is not good,” Mr. German said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Indigenous development:

Vancouver city reporter Frances Bula exclusively writes that the Squamish First Nation has plans to develop 3,000 apartments on land at the foot of the Burrard Bridge, a main artery into the city’s downtown. It would be the largest urban development of its kind by an Indigenous group.

Although some residents in the Kitsilano neighbourhood have opposed housing developments in the past, this one will be different: The land is part of the Squamish Nation’s reserve and they are not bound by city zoning laws.

Squamish council member Khelsilem, who was authorized to talk about the Squamish project on behalf of the nation, said there have been some informal talks with city officials about the development. He said the development will provide an economic development opportunity for his nation’s 4,000 members. As well, the Squamish are considering making the development’s units rentals, which could help Vancouver with its acute shortage.

The nation has already selected the developer, although Khelsilem would not reveal the company. Nation members are being asked for their approval for the plans in a referendum.

Breaking the ice ceiling:

Politicians might be slagging each other on the airwaves, but Albertans have a refuge: The Calgary Flames have come off a fantastic season, they are in the playoffs and the Saddledome is packed. Even Edmonton Oilers fans, after watching their team fail to qualify again, have something to cheer for in Joanne Kuzoff, reports Marty Klinkenberg.

Ms. Kuzoff is one of only two women who drive a Zamboni full-time in the NHL and she will make her playoff debut Saturday as the Flames face the Colorado Avalanche. “It can be a boys club, but it doesn’t have to be,” she told Mr. Klinkenberg.

She worked her way up from small municipal arenas in Ontario, learning how to pilot four tonnes of steel blades and hot water in an ice ballet watched by tens of thousands. Now she’s in the big leagues.


Campbell Clark writes on how Alberta’s biggest climate change challenge isn’t Justin Trudeau, its Ontario Premier Doug Ford: “The Ford government’s position is that Canada should meets its emissions-reductions targets, but that Ontario is doing more than its fair share. By that logic, other provinces, notably Alberta and Saskatchewan, will have to do more. A lot more: the equivalent of shutting down the oil sands.”

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