With Calgary’s National Music Centre as the backdrop, NDP leader Rachel Notley made the announcement that Albertans will be casting their vote come April 16.
The press conference was called early Tuesday morning, the day after the throne speech was delivered to open Alberta’s spring legislative session.
It was widely speculated that the writ would be dropped shortly following the throne speech, but recent events involving the United Conservative Party and an investigation by the RCMP had some thinking the ruling NDP would hold off and wait until more details emerged.
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“My friends, it’s time for an election,” Notley said, as she kicked off her first official campaign speech of the election.
Notley spoke directly to various groups in her speech. She said progressive and moderate voters share values with the NDP. But she also spoke to Conservative voters.
“I hope to earn your support in this election too. A growing number of conservatives here in Calgary and across Alberta are coming to have very serious doubts about Jason Kenney as premier.”
She said a nasty record of intolerance should have no place in the premier’s office.
She took aim directly at Jason Kenney throughout her speech, bringing up the ongoing controversy about the UCP leadership race.
“Jason Kenney wants two Albertas. One for the wealthy, and one for the rest of us. He wants two Albertas divided over people’s rights.”
Speaking to youth, She said Alberta can still be a leader in climate change, and then reminded youth voters of an election promise by Kenny to create a youth minimum wage.
“The minimum wage is the minimum wage.” she said. “There are no second-class citizens in Alberta.
Jason Kenney put out a tweet not long after Notley’s event, framing the choice in the election as an economic one.
Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt said the timing was right for the NDP to call the election.
“I just thought with the stuff over the weekend, and some hints in the throne speech, I thought she might extend it,” Bratt said.
“But I’ve been saying for a month that she would call it today.”
That “stuff over the weekend” includes the escalation of the United Conservative Party (UCP) situation involving leader Jason Kenney’s alleged running of Jeff Callaway as a “kamikaze” candidate against Brian Jean in the 2017 UCP leadership campaign. On Saturday, it was reported that the RCMP had taken over the investigation.
“This is the best opportunity I think they’ve got,” Bratt said.
“They don’t have to deliver a budget, university students will still be on campus April 16, which they want, so I think they’re going ahead with the time they established a month ago.”
Some called for the election call to be delayed until the police investigation is completed, but Bratt notes that was unrealistic.
“A police investigation can take months, and they don’t have months to delay, so what’s the point of waiting a week or two hoping that more stuff comes out?
“Or they may feel that the story’s hot right now, there may be a few more stories that come out immediately, let’s continue and go forward with our timing.”