Top contenders for the leadership of Alberta were in Edmonton Thursday night debating the biggest issues facing the province in what was expected to be the only leaders’ debate of this election campaign.

NDP leader Rachel Notley, UCP leader Jason Kenney, Liberal leader David Khan and Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel debated on a number of topics including; the provincial economy, pipelines, energy, education, healthcare and the province’s relationship with the federal government.

Panellists included CTV Edmonton's Erin Isfeld, CBC Alberta Provincial Affairs Reporter Kim Trynacity, Postmedia Legislature Reporter Emma Graney and CityNews Reporter Courtney Theriault.

When asked how the premier hopefuls would improve Alberta's relationship with the federal government, the candidates said the following:

Stephen Mandel, Alberta Party Leader  “We must begin a relationship with the federal government that they understand who Alberta is. Treat us fair, treat us equitably, because, if we’re going to continue to keep this conflict relationship we seem to have now, we’re never going to get anything settled.”

David Khan, Alberta Liberal Party leader “The truth is we’re not being treated fairly. However, hotheaded actions and misleading rhetoric are getting us nowhere. The Alberta Liberals were the only party standing against the turning off the taps legislation. Why? Because hurting our own industry just to hurt our neigbours isn’t a strategy.”

Rachel Notley, Alberta New Democratic Party leader  “Successive governments in Ottawa have failed us. I know Albertans are angry. I’m angry too, I’m frustrated. Mr. Kenney has been trying to say that I should just be picking fights and nothing else, not actually trying to work with Ottawa in a determined way. It might make me feel good but it’s not going to get pipelines built.  My job’s to stand up for Alberta, to advocate for Alberta, and that’s what I’ve done regardless of who’s in power.”

Jason Kenney, United Conservative Party leader  “Premier Notley has made a disastrous deal, an alliance with Justin Trudeau, and all we have to show for it is a jobs crisis, no pipelines and a carbon tax,” said Kenney. “We’ve laid out a detailed plan to fight for a fair deal for Alberta in the federation to keep our taxes here, to sue the federal government for invading our jurisdiction over oil and gas through their no more pipelines bill, C-69, and join four other provinces in suing the federal government to prevent the federal carbon tax from being imposed on us. I will make it clear to Justin Trudeau that if we do not get a fair deal in the federation, if we do not get a coastal pipeline, I am prepared to hold a referendum on removing the principle of removing equalization from the constitution of Canada.”

On the importance of acceptance and openness for all Albertans regardless of sexual orientation or social values

Notley “There are many issues that, quite frankly, have been settled in Alberta - on protecting gay kids, whether we allow racism to fester, whether woman should have control over their own health care decisions,. Quite frankly, Mr. Kenney’s candidates have put those issues back on the front page by being fundamentally out of step with what it is Albertans believe.”

Mandel “40 per cent of the children on the street today are from the LGBTQ community. That’s a travesty. Why is that? Because somewhere along the way they’ve gone home and their parents have said we don’t want you here. The GSAs are to be put in place so we can protect children. If we as a society cannot protect our children, what can we do?”

Kenney “We must respect the dignity of all people. We as Albertans judge people not on how they pray, who they love, or where they were born, but on how they treat others. I’m proud to lead the largest provincial party in Canada with 160,000 members, one of the most diverse teams ever presented in an election.  A quarter of our candidates have identified themselves as coming from visible minority backgrounds.”

“We must all join together in condemning hatred and supporting the diversity that I championed as Canada’s immigration minister.”

Khan “The test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable. Alberta Liberals was the first party to support GSAs in Alberta. In 2014 we introduced legislation to protect GSAs that eventually pressured the PCs to implement their own, and more flawed, bill. Our party is founded on a belief in the value of all human beings regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. We believe in freedom and equality of opportunity for all. We support diversity and will fight back against racism, homophobia, far-right nationalism and Islamophobia.” 


CTV Calgary spoke to Duane Bratt, MRU Professor and Chair of the Department of Economics, Justice, and Policy Studies at Mount Royal University, on Thursday morning about the importance of debates like this. He said debates don’t always matter but when they do, they can ‘swing an election’.

“Despite the hype, most debates don’t matter. But in the minority of cases, when they do matter, they matter a lot,” he said. “There’s always debate about the debate. The time, the date, who gets to participate, who are the panellists, what’s the format, it goes on.”

He says the 2015 debate was the ‘turning point’ in the election and that Notley’s performance won it for her over Jim Prentice.

“Sometimes it is a simple one-liner, sometimes it’s an overall tone. A lot was made in the 2015 election of when Jim Prentice told Rachel Notley ‘math is hard’, that was seen as diminishing and demeaning. But I think another key moment was a lot of voters, who were unhappy with the PCs but they didn’t know which party was the alternative, when Jim Prentice focused most of his attacks on Rachel Notley he unconsciously told the audience that she was the opponent.”

Bratt says people have not seen Notley and Kenney on the same stage before but that he doesn’t think the debate will have a major impact unless it is a ‘massive win’ for Notley or a ‘massive loss’ for Kenney, as he is leading in the polls.

“The economy has been the number one, two, three and four issue for four years now and that’s what continues to drive this. Having said that if Kenney continues to stumble on that tonight, in front of a live audience, it could have future repercussions for him.”

CTV News talked to voters on 17th Avenue SW about what the most important issues are.

“I’d like to hear just clearly what the platforms are,” said Brooke Christianson. “I think jobs are important, right, for Calgary. I think that’s the most important thing, is how they’re going to bring jobs back to Calgary.”