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New look? Why an Alberta NDP shift could attract voters

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It's long been considered the home for Alberta's left-leaning voters, but experts believe a policy shift is tilting the NDP toward new territory.

Political watchers say the New Democrats are rolling out new ideas -- ideas around energy and budgets, for example -- that are typically considered right-wing.

And they believe people are taking notice.

"This is one of those campaigns where you might start to see people think a little differently," former Alberta premier Alison Redford told CTV News.

"We have had a history of people who voted conservative their entire life in Alberta, and people that have not voted for the NDP. But we start to see inside of these economic discussions that the leaders are having, almost a morphing of ideas and issues.

"It's not as easy to distinguish what is an NDP idea from a conservative idea anymore."

Redford won't endorse either side but did acknowledge some "traditional" Tories are -- perhaps unexpectedly -- moving toward Rachel Notley.

The NDP leader has made a push in the first week of campaigning to bring in more first-time voters.

So has Danielle Smith and the UCP.

She believes her party represents a better chance for working people to get ahead.

But as one party shifts, many see the other front-runner also moving.

Redford believes Take Back Alberta may be playing a role in the new conservative identity.

"Now, we're seeing a lot more discussion about what the UCP actually is," she said.

"Is that party the United Conservative Party, or is that a party that's being run by other organizations?"

Redford's former deputy premier agrees.

In fact, Thomas Lukaszuk says his Progressive Conservative cabinet colleagues -- and even some of former premier Ralph Klein's staff -- do, too.

"This is the Wildrose that we so much detested as Progressive Conservatives, except it's on steroids right now," he said.

Lukaszuk says he'll be casting a ballot for the NDP because he believes their competitor has gone too far to the right side of the political spectrum.

"This isn't about tribalism anymore," he said. "This isn't us versus them. Join Team Alberta. And if you have to hold your nose, lend them your vote this time around."

UCP RESPONSE

UCP candidate Ric McIver doesn't buy the claims the NDP is a new party.

"Rachel Notley has been recycling old ideas all campaign, and this is no different," he told CTV News in a statement.

"In 2019, Ms. Notley asked Calgary conservatives to vote for her. They voted for low taxes, jobs and investment instead. The UCP has delivered on all those fronts, with major success."

McIver says his party will create more jobs, cut taxes and make life more affordable. 

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