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Battleground: An election expected to be won or lost in Calgary

With voters set to cast their ballot in this election campaign, polls and political watchers have said Calgary is where the election will either be won or lost for Alberta’s next government.

The United Conservatives are hoping to keep their support they gained in the city in 2019, limiting the New Democrats to only three ridings.

But University of Calgary political scientist Lisa Young says the NDP is hoping to break through that blue wave.

“Calgary has become a really interesting place politically,” she said.

“It's changing from its typical conservative orientation to electing much more progressive mayors.”

Young adds that with the growth of Calgary several conservative strongholds could be up for grabs including Calgary-Acadia, Calgary-Fish Creek and Calgary-Varsity.

“Calgary is a city that is changing in terms of its population,” said Young.

“It's becoming much more diverse and it's becoming more diverse politically.”

In 2015, the NDP crushed Calgary with an orange block securing 14 of 25 ridings. The Alberta Liberals won one seat and so did Greg Clark’s Alberta Party.

In 2019, the latter were obliterated and the NDP lost 11 seats.

The newly formed UCP took 23 of 26 seats after ridings were redrawn.

Young and other political watchers believe Edmonton will experience another orange wave, while rural Alberta will stick to its roots in Tory blue.

“This is the most interesting election in Alberta that I can remember,” said Young.

“For the NDP, turnout among younger voters is essential because we know that they have more support among younger voters and younger people tend to be less likely to vote. So I think there's been a real focus on getting those younger voters out.”

With several high profile progressive conservatives such as Thomas Lukaszak and Doug Griffiths steering clear of the UCP, they say they are “lending” their votes to the NDP.

“For the UCP, I think the focus has been on getting out their core supporters who might have been feeling a little bit reluctant,” Young said.

Voter turnout could also be what leads to who becomes the next premier.

More than 758,000 people voted during five days of advance polls.

But Young believes there are many who are still undecided, hours before polls close.

“Part of what might be going on is that they are typically conservative voters, but perhaps they don't feel comfortable with the current leadership of the UCP or with the UCP’s record,” she said.

“I think for those voters, it might be a difficult choice, because they're not happy with the other viable alternative; the NDP.”


Kristine Dawson who lives in Hillhurst, was born and raised in Calgary.

She says the lack of options on the ballot has proved difficult in making a decision.

“For years, (we) voted for David Swann because he was our guy, and he was Liberal,” said Dawson.

“It was this tiny little Liberal spot in the whole province. But you knew who you were voting for. It does feel like there's just two, this year, whereas before there were more options.”

Dawson says she has noticed some hesitancy, even within her own family for those wanting to vote.

“Definitely some complacency and apathy, that I feel,” said Dawson.

“We have three kids, and our middle one this will be her first time voting and she doesn't know what to do.”


Both political leaders spent a major amount of time in the city as well.

The UCP says Danielle Smith spent 19 days of the campaign between May 1 and 29 in Calgary campaigning, making announcements and meeting with voters.

The NDP says Rachel Notley spent 22 days on the trail in Calgary between the same period, visiting 20 of the city’s 26 ridings.