Alberta party leaders ramp up rhetoric ahead of Tuesday vote
By Karen Kleiss, Edmonton Journal
PC leader Jim Prentice prepares for a hug during a rally for Edmonton-Meadowlark candidate Katherine O'Neill at the Cha for Tea Palace Restaurant on May 3, 2015, in Edmonton.
Photograph by: Greg Southam , Edmonton Journal
EDMONTON - On the last weekend of the 2015 provincial election campaign, party leaders pulled out all the stops, amping up the rhetoric and traversing the province to win voters’ hearts.
More than 1,000 NDP supporters turned out for a political rally Sunday in Edmonton where leader Rachel Notley responded directly to the five Tory-connected businessmen who attacked her party Friday.
The men, who together donated $95,000 to Jim Prentice’s long-governing Progressive Conservative party over five years and received millions in government contracts and appointments, urged Albertans to “think straight” and vote Tory in the May 5 election.
“Right here in this city on Friday, the PC party made ... their final case to Albertans,” Notley said.
“It was delivered by five conservative businessmen. They lined up in front of the media in a luxury penthouse boardroom, in a tower not too far from here, and they asked this: Why? Why should we have to pay anything?”
The packed Ramada Hotel ballroom erupted in boos. Notley listed the reasons she has pledged to raise Alberta’s corporate tax rate to 12 per cent from 10 per cent: To help pay for education, health care, seniors’ care and child care.
“Jim Prentice said Alberta is not an NDP province,” Notley said. “He’s right, because Alberta doesn’t belong to any political party. Alberta is not a PC province, it’s not a Wildrose province, Alberta belongs to Albertans.
“And Albertans — Albertans — are going to decide who the government is. Not Jim Prentice. And not his five friends.”
Also campaigning in Edmonton on Sunday, Progressive Conservative Leader Jim Prentice cautioned voters against experimenting with “a different approach.”
Speaking to hundreds of worshippers at a Sikh gurdwara in Mill Woods, Prentice said his party will maintain the economic strength of the province.
“That is what is at stake in this election. This is not the time for us to depart and take a different approach,” Prentice said.
Afterward, Prentice said voters have a choice between the Tory “free enterprise vision” and the NDP, which would raise corporate taxes and initiate a royalty review.
“We don’t need a royalty review. We shouldn’t be increasing taxes and costing ourselves jobs at the very moment that it’s going to damage the economy,” Prentice said.
Over the weekend, both Notley and Wildrose Leader Brian Jean pledged to reform Alberta’s election financing laws, banning union and corporate donations. Jean continued the theme Sunday, releasing his party’s donor list and calling on his opponents to do the same.
“Bluntly, it does look like Jim (Prentice) is in the pocket of big business and Rachel (Notley) looks like she’s in the pocket of big unions,” Jean said in Calgary on Sunday.
“The Wildrose, however, is funded by everyday Albertans from right across the province, from every city and every town and right across rural Alberta.”
The Wildrose list shows the party received $735,567 in total contributions over $250 from 442 donors, and more than $1 million in total. Tories and Liberals released no figures. A spokeswoman for the NDP said the party has raised $1.2 million during the election from 10,000 donors, but had not yet compiled a list for release.
In an open letter to Notley released Sunday, interim Liberal leader David Swann proposed to work with the NDP if a minority government is elected Tuesday, but then attacked NDP policies.
“While we agree on many social issues, Alberta Liberals have serious questions about the NDP’s economic plan and budget,” Swann wrote.
“How much will you be increasing royalties by and how many job losses do you expect,” he asked, though Notley has pledged only to review royalty rates, not to raise them. “Does the NDP anticipate that Albertans, under your leadership, will be losing jobs, making less money, or both?”
The final poll of the campaign by Mainstreet Technologies showed the NDP with 44 per cent support among decided voters, compared to 26 per cent for the Wildrose and 21 per cent for the Progressive Conservatives.
The NDP support, however, is heavily concentrated in Edmonton and the numbers may not translate into seats in Calgary and rural Alberta, pollsters have said.