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Politics First name terms only apply to female candidates in Alberta campaign

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, left, and Conservative leader Alison Redford take part in a debate during the Alberta Election Leaders Debate in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday April 12, 2012.

Jason Franson/The Canadian Press/Jason Franson/The Canadian Press

It's Dr. Sherman, Mr. Mason, Alison and Danielle.

During Alberta's leaders' debate Thursday evening, candidates bounced between formal titles and first-names. It tended, however, to fall on either side of a gender split – Liberal Raj Sherman and New Democrat Brian Mason, both men, were typically referred to by last name, while Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and Progressive Conservative leader Alison Redford occasionally became Alison and Danielle.

In particular, Dr. Sherman regularly began attacks on Ms. Redford, who stood immediately to his right, by looking at her and saying her first name. "Alison, we already have multidisciplinary care," he said in one rebuttal on healthcare. "Alison, first you bring in a fudge-it budget," he later began. "Alison, you were in cabinet and you gave yourself a 34 per cent pay raise," he said. "Alison, you, have a record. A very bad record."

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Ms. Redford, meanwhile, referred to Ms. Smith once by her first name ("I see things very differently than you Danielle, and I'm not at all surprised," she said) and earlier referred to the Wildrose energy rebate as "Dani-Dollars."

Ms. Smith rarely used names, typically sticking to formalities when she did. Mr. Mason, meanwhile, regularly used them but rigidly employed formal titles and, in turn, was referred to as "Mr. Mason." (An aside: his NDP slate of candidates includes 41 women, far more than another other major party and the only even close to parity.) On the trail, however, first names are common as leaders strive to make themselves approachable. Ms. Redford typically altogether avoids naming other candidates and regularly introduces herself – in keeping with her party's advertisements – simply as "Alison." Dr. Sherman often calls his Liberals "Team Raj," and Ms. Smith also does away with formalities for herself. Her Twitter account, after all, is @ElectDanielle. Another – @PremierDanielle – was recently claimed.

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