Newspaper article The Canadian Press

From Faith to Fear: Alberta Election Winds Down with Tories in a Dogfight

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

From Faith to Fear: Alberta Election Winds Down with Tories in a Dogfight

Article excerpt

Faith to fear: Alberta election nears vote day

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EDMONTON - Alberta voters deliver their verdict Tuesday in an election campaign born out of faith, now climaxing in fear.

It was supposed to be a 28-day victory lap for Premier Jim Prentice, who called the election a year earlier than mandated by law with 70 of the 87 legislature members in his Progressive Conservative tent.

But campaign polls have the Tories in a three-way dogfight, their four-decade dynasty threatened by the rival Wildrose on the right and the surging NDP to the left.

Political analysts say if Prentice wins majority government it will not be because of his campaign, but despite it.

"It really has become a campaign plagued by gaffes and process stories rather than vision and platform," says Bob Murray, vice president of research at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Prentice called the election last month to gain a mandate on his proposed budget, which he called a paradigm-altering, 10-year blueprint to diversify revenue and lessen dependence on volatile oil royalties.

It hiked dozens of taxes and fees while freezing or cutting spending across government and running up a debt for infrastructure that will hit $30-billion by the end of the decade.

On campaign doorsteps the budget galvanized the Opposition Wildrose party and its new leader Brian Jean, who criticized Prentice for not cutting deep enough while hiking taxes.

And it galvanized the NDP party and Leader Rachel Notley, who criticized Prentice for cutting too deep while hiking taxes.

"It was a budget that had something for everybody to hate," says Lori Williams, a policy studies professor with Mount Royal University in Calgary.

"Even though it has some very good elements and was good for working families, I think the number of increases in fees and the cuts made it a pretty unpopular budget."

Prentice has also had to deal with scandals, setbacks and rollbacks. …

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