Alberta's political parties drop the gloves for the 2019 election
For three weeks of the campaign so far, Alberta’s political parties have been staring each other down over platform promises but more often than not, the fighting has gotten ugly.
While standard attack ads have already come out, both the United Conservatives and New Democrats have targeted each other’s candidates and their backgrounds at different times over the campaign.
The mud-slinging has even taken aim at each party’s leaders, as in the most recent example of Jason Kenney posing with Varinder Sidhu, a man who pleaded guilty to mistreating temporary foreign workers two years ago.
The UCP released a statement afterwards indicating that Kenney wasn’t aware of Sidhu’s legal history.
The NDP, however, says the attempts to discredit Kenney and his candidates aren’t part of a “smear campaign.”
“There is more negativity than in the past because, quite frankly, the team that Mr. Kenney is putting forward, those are the characteristics and that is the way they would be described,” Rachel Notley told the media on Wednesday. “It is different than the team that Jim Prentice put forward, for instance, and so it’s a valid area of discussion and I won’t apologize for ensuring that Albertans understand what it is.”
She adds the details about the UCP that have come to the surface aren’t coming from anyone in her camp either.
“They’re coming from other sources, sources that are working independently.”
Duane Bratt, a political scientist with Mount Royal University, says there are a number of different sources on the ‘dirt’ that’s being dug up on the UCP.
“In some cases, what we’re seeing with the Kenny-Callaway collusion story, that’s coming from ex-UCP members or UCP members who are unhappy with the process.”
He adds the UCP is also employing the same sort of tactics, for example bringing up old stories about alleged sexual assault by Joe Ceci in 1999.
“Nothing has ever come out of that but they keep putting it out, over and over again.”
Bratt says social media has also provided a very different battleground for this sort of strategy too.
“That one photo of Rachel Notley at an anti-oil-gas protest when she was in opposition; if I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen that in social media over the last four years, I’d be a very wealthy man.”
There are some scandals that could hurt the parties more than they realize, such as the ‘kamikaze campaign’ against the UCP.
“I think this story is not going to end on April 16. Those investigations are going to continue,” Bratt says. “It’s already had an impact by raising doubts about the leadership and the trustworthiness of Jason Kenney. I don’t think it’s moving a whole lot of votes but it may have helped the NDP in some ridings.”
Of course, the real test will come on Election Day.
(With files from Jordan Kanygin)