New Democrats enjoy popularity in Alberta but have been slow to get their federal candidates nominated, giving Liberals hope that an advanced level of preparedness will lead to a breakthrough for them in that province.
Polls and party officials suggest the Conservative party's blue sweep of Alberta, which has been punctuated in recent years by one spot of NDP orange in Edmonton, is about to become more mottled.
But while Conservative candidates have been nominated in all 34 Alberta ridings, and the Liberals have selected 25 candidates, the NDP has given the thumbs up to just 11.
That means the New Democrats have a lot of work to do, and a lot of nomination meetings to hold, in very short order.
NDP Premier Rachel Notley now holds power provincially, and the federal party has seen its support rise across Alberta since February when both the Tories and the Liberals started a slow slide. That has given New Democrats reason to be chuffed about their prospects in the October federal election.
But the Liberals say they have been working for a long time in the ridings they consider to be good bets, and that will give them an advantage if Tory seats start to fall. The Liberals say there are about eight Alberta constituencies, all urban, that might be pried from Conservative hands (or taken for the first time, in the case of the six that have been newly created.)
"We are incredibly excited by the team on the ground in Alberta," said Jeremy Broadhurst, the Liberal party's national director.
"We have made an effort to nominate people for well over a year now. We've got 25 of our candidates on the ground working hard" he said. "It's not a coincidence that [Liberal Leader Justin] Trudeau was in Calgary on the first full day of the campaign."
A senior Liberal official who has been working his party's campaigns in Alberta says early nominations have given them an advantage. He points to Matthew Grant, the Liberal candidate in Calgary Confederation nominated last June, who has raised more than $100,000 in donations, has knocked on 30,000 doors, and has put up 1,000 signs. The NDP won't have a candidate to challenge Mr. Grant until this weekend.
The Conservatives are still favoured in that riding, which does not have an incumbent. And, if a Notleyesque Orange Wave ripples federally through Alberta, the Liberals know Mr. Grant is unlikely to be sent to Ottawa. But the ground game could win a close election, which is what they are hoping for.
And Calgary Confederation is not the Liberals' top prospect. There are some ridings, like Calgary Centre and Fort McMurray-Cold Lake where their candidates did well in recent by-elections and where their hopes are even higher.
The New Democrats say the nomination processes are controlled by their members, the riding associations set the date and are responsible for candidate recruitment.
But Brad Lavigne, the senior campaign adviser for the NDP, says it's more complicated that that. Ms. Notley's majority New Democratic government has created momentum for the party in that province, said Mr. Lavigne.
And that has created "an unfortunate challenge," he said, "because we have now so many multiple candidate runoffs to seek the nomination that the vetting is taking longer than for other parties."
This is a good problem to have, said Mr. Lavigne.
So the fact that the NDP is starting a little later out of the gate is not a worry, he said. "It's the message that the party is delivering that brings people's support over. The New Democratic Party is the choice for Albertans who want to defeat Stephen Harper. That message is resonating."
But the Liberals counter that Ms. Notley's success provincially does not mean the party has that kind of support at the federal level. And they, too, think their party could be the first to take the first big bite out of Conservative Alberta.
"You can't put a price on being prepared and being ready for the ground game," said Mr. Broadhurst. "Alberta is ready for a change. That's the lesson of the past few months. And we think we're in a position to capitalize on that."