Premier Jim Prentice is looking to gain a seat in Alberta’s legislature Monday in one of four byelections, but he rejects any suggestion that the votes are a referendum on his government.
“These are four individual byelections,” Prentice told a Calgary radio station on Friday.
- Calgary-Elbow riding profile
- Calgary-Foothills riding profile
- Calgary-West riding profile
- Edmonton-Whitemud riding profile
“You run hard on the basis that you’re four votes behind, which is why I’ve knocked on 6,000 doors myself over the course of the last period of time.
“I trust the judgment of the citizens in those ridings to make the choice.”
The vote caps a campaign of angry ads, pumpkins, no-shows, sod turnings and debates over the true meaning of political manners.
The legislature is set to resume sitting Nov. 17.
Prentice, who is running in Calgary-Foothills, called the byelections four weeks ago. The others are in Calgary-West, Calgary-Elbow and Edmonton-Whitemud.
All four have been strongly contested by opposition parties.
The Opposition Wildrose took to running attack ads on TV and radio. They reminded voters of failed Tory promises to fix health care and build schools, while spending lavishly on travel and office perks under former premier Alison Redford.
“Send the PCs a message. It’s time to put the service back in public service,” Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said in one radio ad.
Prentice and his running mates also came under fire for not attending many candidate debates.
Prentice did not participate in any debates in Calgary-Foothills, which prompted rivals to put a pumpkin in his place on stage. That led to the nickname “Pumpkin Premier.”
NDP member Brian Mason, in his farewell speech as party leader last weekend, used the Halloween gourd to craft a rallying cry, telling Albertans: “Don’t elect four more pumpkins!”
Knocking on doors
The PCs said they felt the best way to connect with voters was by knocking on doors.
Prentice criticized the Wildrose party for running the attack ads against him. He said political “courtesies” traditionally give a party leader a break in byelections.
The opposition, in turn, accused Prentice of being equally discourteous by running a passive-aggressive campaign for his candidates using taxpayer money.
In recent weeks, Prentice has announced millions of dollars for hundreds of new care beds to alleviate hospital bottlenecks and for dozens of new schools.
- Alberta to open 464 continuing care spaces over next 12 months
- Alberta schools promised $2B investment from province
Education Minister Gordon Dirks and Health Minister Stephen Mandel are both running in byelections.
On Friday, Dirks posed for photographers as he helped turn the sod on three new schools in Calgary. Opposition members cried foul, but Prentice said the ceremony was an apolitical site blessing organized by Calgary’s Catholic School District.
Time for change, says opposing candidates
The byelection outcomes don’t have the potential to change the balance of power. The Tories have 57 seats in the 87-seat legislature.
All the seats up for grabs were won by the Tories in the 2012 election, including Redford’s riding of Calgary-Elbow.
Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark, a candidate in that riding, said many voters are telling him it’s time for change.
“How many second chances does the PC party want?” said Clark in an interview.
“What I’m hearing from people at the doors is very clearly that after 43 years (in government), the PC party cannot represent change.”
- Calgary-Elbow byelection expected to be hotly contested race
- Nurse Donna Wilson running against health minister in byelection
- Kathy Macdonald chosen by Wildrose Party to take on Jim Prentice
Donna Wilson, the Liberal candidate in Edmonton-Whitemud, said voters need to remember the past if they want to shape the future.
“It’s not just our health-care system that is in deep trouble,” said Wilson. “(It’s also) our schools, post-secondary (institutions), our environment (and) our job creation.
“This is a government that has failed in every way.”