Albertans may have told pollsters going into the final days of the campaign that trust in government is their top ballot issue, but talk about the economy dominated as Progressive Conservatives tried to fend off the surging New Democrats.
With Alberta's economy flirting with recession and the province's unemployment rolls growing quickly, a group of Edmonton business owners have called for locals to be "thinking straight" and vote for Tory Leader Jim Prentice.
"We want to make sure that people are thinking straight when they enter into the ballot box," said businessman Doug Goss, who has donated money to the PC party.
"I have someone telling me that I need to pay more tax," said John Cameron, CEO of Keller Construction. "Why is it me? Why the corporation? If we go back a couple of years, the way that things were, the amount of taxes we paid, it would be fine."
At a time of low oil prices and record deficits, the Tories have proposed spending cuts and a fiscal plan that would end the province's flat income tax while keeping corporate taxes where they are. Mr. Prentice has said Alberta has a $7-billion revenue shortfall and taxes must go up.
NDP Leader Rachel Notley has promised to introduce a progressive income tax that would top out at 15 per cent for those making over $300,000, while raising the province's corporate tax rate from 10 to 12 per cent. The new money would go to funding health and education as Alberta's population continues to boom.
"Jim Prentice has said you need to pay more to get less, and it's really important we don't ask the corporations to pay a single cent more," Ms. Notley said at a campaign stop in St. Albert on Friday. "Albertans will make a choice about whether that reflects their values and interests."
Federal Conservative Health Minister Rona Ambrose weighed in on the Alberta campaign on Friday, calling an Alberta NDP government a "risky experiment."
On Thursday night, Mr. Prentice warned at a PC fundraising dinner in Edmonton that only he was in a position to stop Ms. Notley's NDP. "This is the same NDP that made our grandparents so hesitant," he said.
However, a number of Albertans have voiced concerns about accountability after the Tory government's nearly 44 years in power. A quarter of Albertans told a poll commissioned by the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald that their leading concern was accountability and trust, followed by the economy at 14 per cent.
Mr. Prentice called the election a year early while the official opposition Wildrose party was in disarray. The Tory Leader orchestrated a mass floor crossing of the Wildrose leader and the bulk of her caucus last December – an act unprecedented in Canadian history.