Alberta Election Tests Conservatives’ Hard-Right Turn

Sitting on the terrace of a cafe overlooking a park commemorating the birthplace of the vast oil industry in the western Canadian province of Alberta, Audrey Sirk Vanek and Ernestine Dumont faced a political dilemma.

In a province long at the center of Canadian conservative politics, two elderly women were unwavering supporters of the Conservatives.

But now, as Monday’s provincial election approaches, he said he’s been turned off by the hard right turn the province’s Conservative Party took while governing Alberta during the pandemic, the Covid-19 pandemic. Extremist protests against bans and unsubstantiated claims about vaccines.

The United Conservative Party’s hard right turn has made a province a sure win for Canada’s conservatives in Monday’s election. In addition to being a referendum on the party’s ideological shift, the vote could also serve as a gauge of conservative attitudes across the country.

Led by someone who compared people vaccinated against Covid-19 to Nazi sympathizers, Alberta’s Conservative Party has drifted so far to the right since the pandemic that it has overtaken the left-leaning New Democrats. The party has begun to gain control of the province. A Conservative loss in Alberta would deal a blow to Canada’s far-right political viability.

“The pandemic has allowed a radical, right-wing group to flourish here,” said Ms. Cerkonik, a retired health care administrator who likes Ms. Dumont, adding that she might want to invalidate her. So they will spoil their vote. “I have to do what I can to try to stop it.”

Anger over pandemic laws, particularly vaccine mandates for cross-border travel, sparked truck convoys in Alberta that spread east, eventually paralyzing Canada’s capital for nearly a month and border crossings. locked up.

The anger has also distorted the political landscape, leading to the current prime minister and party leader for a small, socially conservative faction of the United Conservative Party, Daniel Smith, 52, a far-right former journalist. A columnist and radio talk show host, paved the way for installation.

After becoming Prime Minister last October, he announced that The unvaccinated “were most discriminated against. group” he had seen in his own life, and in May, a video surfaced of people like him who chose to get vaccinated. Hitler’s followers

In a province with a large and long-standing Ukrainian community, he suggested that parts of Ukraine could be. “Feel more connected to Russia.And should be separate. One of his first legal acts was to sign into law what he claimed to be. Allow Alberta to ignore federal laws..

And Ms Smith broke ethics rules to intervene on behalf of a prominent protester who was facing legal action. Last week, the province’s ethics commissioner found he broke conflict-of-interest laws when he spoke to his attorney general on behalf of a priest facing criminal charges for inciting a border blockade as part of a protest. is facing

“When you look at public opinion data pre-Covid, during Covid and whatever it is in this era; there’s something different in the water in Alberta from a cultural-political perspective,” in Calgary, the province’s largest city. said Daven Brett, a political scientist at Mount Royal University.

This difference may also be reflected in the next federal elections.

Canada’s conservatives will challenge Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party in the October 2025 election.

The federal Conservative Party also replaced its leader during the pandemic with militant right-wing politician Pierre Poilever, who welcomed truckload protesters to the capital, Ottawa. Coffee and donuts And who shares Ms. Smith’s propensity for inflammatory rhetoric.

On Monday, Alberta voters have a stark choice between the United Conservatives and the New Democrats, or NDP, which held power in Alberta from 2015 to 2019.

The NDP then took power from the Conservatives, who had run Alberta from 1935 to 2015, taking advantage of the division among the Conservatives to score a landslide victory. He installed Rachel Notley, a lawyer for labor groups, but her approval rating sank as oil prices plummeted, hurting the province’s budget. The party lost power in 2019.

Ms Notley, 59, is again representing the NDP in this election. During campaign stops, she presents Ms. Smith as unexpected and promoting ideas that most voters reject, such as selling public hospitals to for-profit businesses or giving patients access to public hospitals. Paying fees for — both are considered politically toxic in Canada.

“This election is about leadership and it’s about trust,” Ms. Notley said at a campaign rally in Calgary. “Albertans don’t have enough trust to trust him to protect our health care.”

Ms. Notley said she plans to expand transit lines and build new schools and hospitals.

For her part, Ms Smith has warned voters that Ms Nolly’s party is bent on a spending spree that will inevitably lead to higher taxes.

Ms Smith promised to reduce crime and cut taxes. She also looks to the United States, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has just announced his entry into the Republican presidential primary, as “my hero” to define her conservative values.

During the debate between the leaders of the two parties, Ms Smith tried to focus on Ms Knowle’s performance as prime minister.

“Ms. Notley likes to show grainy videos of things I’ve said while on the radio and that’s because she doesn’t want to go on the record,” Ms. Smith said. “And because she didn’t want to go on her record it was an absolute disaster.”

To be prime minister again, Ms Notley needs to see her party win the most seats on Monday. According to Janet Brown, head of a Calgary-based polling firm, her hopes depend largely on how well her party does in Calgary, which has historically been a strong base of support for the left. Is. According to the survey, the New Democrats are already firmly ahead in Edmonton, the provincial capital and one of their traditional bases of support.

“I’m not discounting any possible outcomes,” he said.

A deciding factor, he said, may be Calgary’s large and rapidly growing ethnic communities.

At a sprawling community center in a Calgary neighborhood home to many South Asian immigrants, Rishi Nagar, host of a local Punjabi-language morning radio show, said the United Conservatives had already won many South Asian voters before Ms. Smith became leader. was separated.

His predecessor, Jason Kenney, appeared on his program and suggested that the high rate of Covid infections in South Asian communities was a result of their failure to adhere to public health restrictions, although Mr Nagar and other community leaders pointed out That they work. The jobs that exposed them to the virus.

“We’re the people sitting at the cash counter of grocery stores,” he said. “We are people driving taxis. We are people driving buses. Don’t you think that is the reason for the outbreak?

He said many South Asian voters trusted Ms. Notley to provide more funding for schools and health care, even if her party was more left-wing than many of them. Voters may not embrace her party, but people love Rachel Notley. “People don’t like Daniel Smith.”

Ms. Smith still has support in rural Alberta.

At a junior high school event at the rodeo grounds in High River, Alberta, Ms. Smith’s hometown, Frank McKinley, a retired auctioneer, said she was little used for public health initiatives and was only Vaccinations were administered so that they could vacation in the United States.

“The whole covid thing with these people going around on these masks, how dumb was that?” They said.

While Mr. McKinley will speak at some length about what he thinks of as Ms. Knowle’s flaws, he is less enthusiastic about Ms. Smith.

“He’s fine,” she said.

More than anything else, Mr McKinley’s vote reflected his desire to keep the New Democrats out of power. “It’s really scary,” he said. “Because if the NDP comes back, we’re done.”

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