Election season has the money and promises flying left, right and centre in Alberta.
While promises and blank cheques are being handed out in all four corners of the province, swing ridings – such as Banff-Kananaskis and several in the City of Calgary – are among the biggest victors of what is proving to be a neck-and-neck race between the UCP and NDP.
The writ will likely be dropped May 1, but all candidates are are in full campaign mode already.
If you’re a Bow Valley resident, expect to hear a lot throughout May about what the NDP and UCP can do for you in the next four years.
The issues in the valley and the entire riding are well-known and hardly unique from other areas of the province. Education, healthcare, ambulance coverage, housing, affordability and Indigenous relations and reconciliation are key factors for anyone planning to vote.
Where it does get unique for the region is the role tourism plays and the importance of the environment and wildlife in what is the most visited area of Alberta, but is also flush with several provincial parks and a national park that feature elk, bighorn sheep and grizzly bears.
What each candidate thinks of those issues will come out – if they already haven’t – in the coming days and weeks.
For now, though, it’ll be like the valley has won the lottery with what has or will be promised.
The Town of Canmore benefitted from such a promise with a two-hectare parcel of land in the Palliser-area gifted from the province to the municipality.
A special tourism designation for Banff, Canmore and Jasper made its way past first reading in a private member’s bill, but died on the floor when the legislature ended before the election.
Though Premier Danielle Smith has voiced she’s not a fan of the Kananaskis Conservation Pass, she has said the majority of her party remains in favour of it and shows no sign of removing it.
The NDP, however, has left no doubt in its plans to remove the pass if elected.
Each party has also planned to throw hundreds of millions into improving a healthcare system that’s been largely left to wither on the vine, while social services such as the Family and Community Support Services program could see a financial increase if promises are kept.
The long-discussed and much-maligned Alberta Provincial Police force has the NDP intent on keeping the RCMP. The UCP is mostly silent if this will be moving ahead, which is important with the entirety of Banff-Kananaskis policed by Mounties.
The Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation got a sweetheart deal with the province chipping in $330 million with a new $1.2 billion culture and entertainment district, including a new event centre and arena. Of course, with city taxpayers picking up $537 million, residents are the ones ultimately being hoodwinked in the gift of an arena.
The inundation of announcements, funding and promises are coming in fast and furious, with anyone subscribed to emails from either the UCP – and the province – or NDP likely having their inbox overflowing.
It’s good the political parties are outlining their plans and goals for the coming years since it gives voters something to look back at when seeing what the elected representatives can do for their riding in the coming years.
However, it’s equally important for voters to think critically and look at the overall picture of recent years as opposed to simply focusing on what’s been tossed their way in the last month or two.
As polls open and people begin to plan on who to cast their ballot, it’s important to look at each party’s track record and not be blinded by the immediate past.