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Successful smears: Will mudslinging be effective in Alberta's election?

It's only the third official day of campaigning, but it's already easy to spot a growing trend ahead of Alberta's provincial election: negativity.

Both front-running parties have already repeatedly relied on attacks to smear their opponent's brand.

On Wednesday, the NDP had its sights set on two resurfaced videos of Danielle Smith conversations.

The first, a September 2021 video discussion Smith had about medicare, has her opponents convinced the UCP leader is in favour of privatization.

"I wonder if an error was made in choosing physician services to be under that umbrella," Smith said during a Fraser Institute discussion.

"Because not every time you go to the doctor is it essential."

The second video involves another recorded Smith interview, in which she talks about a then-current border blockade.

"We want to see it win at Coutts so that (former premier) Jason Kenney, (Saskatchewan Premier) Scott Moe, together, become the first premiers to turn it around at the provincial level," Smith said.

"Once again, it shows that Albertans can't trust Danielle Smith to provide stable, competent leadership," NDP leader Rachel Notley said.

The mudslinging wasn't just happening in Edmonton.

In Calgary on Wednesday, the UCP said a New Democrat plan to bring the electrical system to net-zero by 2035 is the most expensive promise in Alberta's history.

A UCP press release said the plan would result in the province having to shut down or retrofit many of its natural gas power plants.

The report was published by Navius Research, which immediately took to social media to refute the UCP's interpretation of its numbers.

Notley also disputed the math.


The latest sparring is a great example of what voters can expect to see more of in the lead-up to May 29.

It's not hard to envision things becoming even more contentious.

But will the negativity sway voters?

One political scientist says it's always dependent on multiple factors, but in 2023, it could help Notley.

University of British Columbia political scientist Richard Johnston believes the tactic might be more successful against Smith than it was in 2019 against Kenney because the former has hours and hours of recorded talk shows and podcasts and a number of controversial statements.

"One of the things that parties try to teach their candidates is to limit their social media exposure because that's the hostage to fortune," Johnston said.

"So, (Smith) could say, 'Well, that was then and this was now,' but in a way, that's the kind of attack that has truth value. It's her own words. She said it."


For the second campaigning day in a row, Smith didn't field reporter questions.

She did make a brief appearance on an Edmonton radio show and disputed NDP claims her party is hiding her so she doesn't say something bad.

But moving forward, the UCP head says she'll only take questions if it's on an important policy announcement.