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Politics Politics Briefing: With one week to go until Alberta’s election, Notley’s uphill battle continues

Good morning,

Rachel Notley has seven days left to change the tide before Albertans head to the voting booth.

But, trailing in the polls, Ms. Notley doesn’t mind being an underdog writes The Globe’s Justin Giovannetti in a profile of the NDP Leader.

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“You know what, I’m fine with it,” she told The Globe and Mail from her Calgary office in early March. “My whole career in politics has been fighting from that position, and we’ve had some successes from there. So I’m quite comfortable with it. I don’t feel the level of worry that you see reflected in the media. Yeah, we’re starting a little behind – that’s totally cool, that’s what campaigns are for.”

Now, with only one week left in this campaign, Ms. Notley is still running an uphill battle. It’s a position with which she’s become familiar. Most polls have had her party trailing conservative opponents since soon after her election in 2015.

After four years in power, she’s facing a largely unified right after the creation of the United Conservative Party in 2017 with the merger of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta and the Wildrose Party. Led by former federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney, the UCP has adopted a populist brand of politics that builds off the PC dynasty that ran Alberta for 44 years before Ms. Notley’s win.

The thing is, Albertans seem to like Ms. Notley. Her personal popularity rating is high, she’s considered likable, smart and hard-working. Her handling of a bruising recession gets a passing grade.

But that might not be enough, says Janet Brown – an independent pollster based in Calgary.

“When I hold focus groups, the phrase I hear all the time is: I’m glad she’s come around – on pipelines, on keeping spending under control. If you ask people, they’ll say she’s done a sufficient job of managing the fiscal situation, but this election is about who will do that best going forward. She’ll get a satisfactory rating from most people. The question is whether that is good enough.”

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ALBERTA ELECTION UPDATE

In Fort McMurray, the UCP is finding it’s not so simple to win the heart of the oil sands.

Rachel Notley says she expects Ottawa to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to the west coast by the end of May.

Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel says his government would create 6,000 new jobs and start a new innovation fund for the province’s agriculture and agri-food industries.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

The Liberal government is leaving the door open to suing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer for saying Prime Minister Justin Trudeau interfered in the criminal prosecution of Montreal-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

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SNC-Lavalin is implementing a new round of cost-cutting amid mounting pressure on the engineering giant to meet its financial forecasts for the year.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has tabled the federal government’s budget bill – a wide-ranging piece of legislation that is expected to be rushed into law before Parliament comes to an end in June.

Canada’s Immigration Minister is promising new, tougher legislation to crack down on unscrupulous immigration consultants by giving the industry watchdog that oversees them more power to investigate and punish offenders.

Facebook said it has banned former Rebel media commentator Faith Goldy as part of a move to push back against white nationalism and organized hate on its platform.

Canada’s national cybersecurity agency says it is “very likely” Canadian voters will encounter foreign cyber influence before and during the fall federal election.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says he will find out why his department’s websites pay tribute to every other Canadian mission except the 1994 deployment to Rwanda.

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford will put his mark on the province with his government’s first budget this week, which is set to tackle the province’s deficit and feature everything from childcare rebates to new licence plates to tailgating at sporting events.

Quebec’s health care network will change its policies after a pregnant woman was forced to transfer hospitals last week and delivered her baby in a car, Health Minister Danielle McCann said.

The White House attacked the credibility of Robert Mueller’s team ahead of his report’s release.

The European Union has begun preparations to retaliate over Boeing subsidies, an EU official said a day after Washington listed EU products it plans to hit with tariffs in their aircraft dispute.

The deepening uncertainty surrounding Brexit is fuelling calls for a referendum on the future of Northern Ireland.

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on the Liberal threat to sue Andrew Scheer for libel: “The threat adds fresh fuel to the SNC-Lavalin bonfire. The only question seems to be: What on earth were the Liberals thinking?”

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Andrew Coyne (National Post) on Justin Trudeau’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair: “Take a step back, put this latest move in the context of the government’s previous attempts to contain the scandal, and a pattern emerges: a series of similarly baffling moves, each one of which might easily be dismissed as pea-brained, imbecilic, even suicidal, but which when taken together add up to a subtly brilliant play for the sympathy vote.”

Fay Faraday (The Globe and Mail) on the abuse of foreign workers: “For the sake of these workers, we can no longer claim we are shocked. We must act in order to end the abuse.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on Alberta, Ontario and carbon taxes: “Mr. Ford and Mr. Kenney both say they’ll fight those carbon taxes in court. Mr. Ford’s position seems to make it impossible for Ontario and Alberta to agree on emissions cuts.”

Aaron Wherry (CBC News) on carbon taxes: “Debating an increase of 4.4 cents in the price of gas while the planet burns might seem like arguing about the price of a drink on the Titanic. But it might be as good a frame as any to understand the policies and politics of this moment.”

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on trade relations with the U.S.: “The free-trade uncertainty caused by Mr. Trump is not over. Not by a long shot.”

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