CALGARY – On the final day of an often brutal and bitter provincial election campaign, the two contenders for premier Alison Redford and Danielle Smith blitzed Alberta’s biggest city while throwing barbs each at other.
And, in one important election-related race — fundraising — Smith’s upstart Wildrose Party appears to have trounced the establishment Progressive Conservatives. Wildrose said it raised $2.3 million during the campaign — a record in Alberta — while the PCs raised $1.5 million.
Smith’s first event on the final campaign day was at a Sikh temple. On the way in, she was heckled, asking to explain the "Caucasion advantage."
One of her candidates, running in an ethnically diverse riding, had said earlier in the campaign that he had an advantage as "Caucasian" in that he would be better able to speak for different cultural groups, a comment for which the candidate quickly apologized. Smith said the comments were wrong and hurtful but stood by the candidate, Ron Leech.
At the temple Sunday morning, a Progressive Conservative candidate and temple member, Manmeet Bhullar, said Smith was welcome to attend but, "it would be nice if she brought an apology with her." Leech’s comment has prompted Wildrose opponents to use talk shows, social media and letters to the editor to brand the party as bigots.
Meanwhile, Redford was taking shots at Smith for Smith’s views on climate change. Smith has said the science remains "unsettled" when it comes to man-made global warming and her government would cancel a $2 billion program to help companies in Alberta with carbon capture and sequestration burying the greenhouse gases that cause climate change underground.
"I don’t understand what that looks like if the person who is trying to grow those markets and talk to people around the world about what environmental sustainability looks like, denies climate change," Redford told reporters during one of the nine campaign events she had scheduled Sunday.
"I don’t know what that does to the Alberta economy. I don’t know what that does in terms of generally the economic development of our country."
Smith, seeking to topple the 41-year-old Progressive Conservative party dynasty, told supporters at a rally in the city’s northwest that support for Wildrose is growing despite "the increasingly vicious attacks and the fearmongering by the Redford PCs. But you can’t scare Albertans by recycling attacks lines written by the Ottawa Liberals. The only people who are running scared are the Redford PCs."
Smith attacked the Tories for giving themselves huge raises and rolling out $7 billion in new spending promises during the campaign which started just days after the PCs tabled and passed their own budget in the legislature.
"The choice that Albertans make tomorrow is between a corrupt PC government that it is only out for themselves or a new Wildrose government with new ideas that put Albertans first," Smith said.
– With files from Lisa Mrazek