By Donovan Makus
Starting on February 1, we entered a new period in Albertan political history: the writ period. What this means requires a jaunt through the less-than-clear Alberta Elections Act, but as far as we’re concerned, it means Premier Notley could wake up any day and call an election, due 28 days after she makes that decision. While all the signs right now point to a later election, with a writ drop after a major government speech on March 18th, as of late February we find ourselves in an uneasy pseudo-election, where parties campaign more actively by the day but the election itself is nowhere near.
In this article, we’ll look at one of the only parties that has a chance of forming government (sorry to anyone who is a member of the Freedom Conservative Party or the Alberta Party). As it stands, the choice is between the United Conservative Party (UCP) on one side and New Democrats (NDP) on the other side. Next election cycle may bring a broader race, which would be a good thing for a province traditionally fond of a single-party rule with one weak opposition party, but the polling this time around (as unreliable as we know it can be in Alberta) is clear. This article will look at the history of the UCP, our current election situation, and how you can get involved in any political party that suits you, even if their chances of winning are low. Next issue, we’ll look at the other major party: the NDP.
While there were articles on the history of the UCP focusing on the now long-forgotten leadership race last year, it’s worth a quick recap. Formed during in July 2017, from the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties, the UCP went through a fast and contentious leadership race, won by Jason Kenney, and now has a nearly full slate of candidates, 82 at the most recent count (the real-time number for all parties is available on influential Albertan political pundit Dave Cournoyer’s blog, daveberta.ca). As the only large Conservative party, the UCP represents every mainstream Conservative idea and some less mainstream ones, as Reid covered in a previous article. This will be the party’s first election campaign, unlike the NDP, which has placed them at a disadvantage by reducing their institutional memory, a key advantage for the NDP. The road for the UCP has been rocky with allegations of rigged nominations, leadership races, spending violations, and other bad news cycles, and this will make for an interesting election campaign.
No matter which way you vote, this election will represent one where we have fewer excuses than ever in failing to vote. Elections Alberta has gone out of its way to make voting easy and accessible, with a new slogan of “Vote Anywhere.” True to the slogan, you truly can vote anywhere by walking into one of the numerous advance polls, mobile polls, or better yet, mobile advance polls–all three, confusingly, being separate entities. Practically speaking, “vote anywhere” means that you can vote in Edmonton even if you don’t live here, and some universities will even have their own polling stations, allowing students to vote in between classes. Major malls, airports, and more traditional sites like schools will also have these sites, making voting truly easy. While this makes voting easy, it may complicate election night, as ballots cast outside the riding will need to be couriered to Edmonton for counting, meaning some close-ridings, and potentially making it so that the results may not be determined on election night itself. To make voting even easier, you don’t even need photo ID to vote on election day–just show up at your assigned polling place and tell them who you are and that you’d like to vote. Quick disclaimer–you need to be on the list of electors in order to vote without ID. Some forms of advance or mobile polls will require ID, so make sure you have it available if you vote early or outside your assigned poll. Regardless of how you choose to vote, make sure you actually take the time out of your day to make your voice heard.
Voting is our civic right and duty, but it isn’t the only way you can get involved. Any political party is happy to see fresh, young faces, even it’s only because they expect you to be able to handle their mobile-device-based software and door-knocking routes with ease. Opportunities exist in numerous different ways to suit any skill set. For instance, if you’re interested in working on your ability to handle rejection, I would suggest phone banking. Nothing is quite as effective in helping you build a thick skin as having someone loudly hang up on you. If you prefer meeting people face-to-face, I would suggest door-knocking. People are also typically nicer than when you call them in the middle of dinner. While rejection is part of politics, the moments you meet supporters who are genuinely interested in progress and know the issues more than make up for the bad experiences. If you’d prefer behind-the-scenes work, political campaigns always need people to enter data, staff offices, and put up the lawn signs that will soon blossom in force as soon as the election is called. These are great ways to help out, but make sure you know how to handle a drill before you volunteer to assemble signs. I can genuinely say volunteering with a political campaign is a great way to make friends and be an advocate for the change you want to see in our province and preserving the great progress we’ve made. When you work on a campaign, you are making history happen.
So when you start to receive the admittedly annoying phone voter ID calls, see the lawn signs sprout out like early blossoms, and see roving bands of volunteers with clipboards in your neighborhood, reach out and get involved, make a difference, and make history, one election at a time.