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EDITORIAL: Provincial election key for Banff-Kananaskis

The countdown is on for the next provincial election. At some point in the next 12 months, Alberta voters will head to the polls to decide who will lead the next provincial government. With an election set for May 29, 2023, it’s not outside the realm
June 2, 2022
Cartoon by Patrick LaMontagne/www.lamontagneart.com.

The countdown is on for the next provincial election.

At some point in the next 12 months, Alberta voters will head to the polls to decide who will lead the next provincial government.

With an election set for May 29, 2023, it’s not outside the realm of possibility one could be called sooner with the United Conservative Party in a weakened and unknown position as Premier Jason Kenney announced his eventual resignation after the party’s May leadership review.

It’s still unknown who will replace Kenney after he said he’d be stepping down after a slim margin of support at the leadership review, but whoever takes his place has a lot to rebuild in little time.

Kenney will continue to cling to power until the UCP can select a new leader to take his spot, leaving further uncertainty on who will be running in the 2023 election for the UCPs and what the party’s priorities will be.

The UCPs has been its own worst enemy. From MLAs travelling during COVID-19, severe mishandling during the pandemic, party infighting and the possibility of the party splitting, the conservatives have little time to find the path forward.

On the opposite spectrum, the NDP has pushed its campaigning into hyperdrive as the understanding of weakness has provided opportunity to gain potential voters across the province.

NDP leader Rachel Notley has said they expect to have 40 candidates before the end of June and the full 87 candidates announced by the fall.

The NDP candidates and MLAs have been everywhere and anywhere in attempts to raise further attention, hear from constituents and drive home key issues and the party’s goals.

Locally, UCP policies on healthcare, conservation, education and tourism have all been divisive. In Canmore and Banff, there has been a renewed push to attain resort municipality status and continued focus on receiving additional provincial help to address the affordability issues that are spiraling out of control and the severe lack of housing.

The Banff-Kananaskis riding features a diverse wealth of issues ranging from the environment and wildlife in Bow Valley communities of Banff and Canmore compared to more rural, agricultural and commercial and industry-based issues in Bragg Creek, Springbank and Rocky View County.

The riding covers 15,939 square kilometres and has a population of just under 50,000.

In the 2019 election, MLA Miranda Rosin took the newly formed riding with 51 per cent of the vote compared to 42 per cent with incumbent NDP MLA Cam Westhead.

Of registered voters, 68.7 per cent turned out. In Canmore, polling numbers were among the lowest in the riding with many only seeing 20-35 per cent of those eligible to vote do so. It was slightly higher in Banff, but still mostly between 30-45 per cent at voting stations.

Advanced polling also went decisively for Rosin as roughly 45 per cent of her votes came from those doing so ahead of election day.

Across the province, the UCPs regained provincial control from the NDPs after the former Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties largely split the vote in 2015.

Though struggling in her first two years in office, Rosin has seen victories of late.

She was among 17 MLAs who publicly criticized the provincial government for having what they saw as too strict of public health measures and travelled out of province in December 2020 when it was recommended not to due to the pandemic.

However, recent months have seen construction of the long-awaited wildlife overpass at Lac Des Arcs begin, $17.5 million in funding come to the Canmore Nordic Centre for needed infrastructure improvements and an increase in hours at Canmore General Hospital for CT scans.

The NDP nominee for the riding, Sarah Elmeligi, was selected in March after campaigning for several months. She has continued to meet with constituents in what has continued to be seen a winnable riding for either party.

Elmeligi has lived and worked in the region for more than 15 years and been a vocal conservation advocate, bear biologist and conservation planner.

With the election soon to sneak up on people across the province, residents will have the opportunity to raise issues important for the community.