Observers say absence of Klein will impact outcome of provincial election

Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft is claiming victory during the first week of the province’s election campaign, saying his party is poised to make big gains in Edmonton and Calgary.

He’s up against a Tory dynasty that is eager to extend its 37-year reign and maintain a lock on southern ridings while a string of smaller parties are touting their dedicated grassroots movement of supporters.


But speaking in his Edmonton-Riverview constituency yesterday, Taft said voters in Edmonton and Calgary are ready to elect a Liberal government while the Tories surprisingly made a few blunders out of the gates.

"For the first time in a long time, Calgary is politically fluid and the people are looking at all of their options — they’re not necessarily committed to the Conservative party," he said.

"We feel we’ve really set the agenda for the first week of the campaign. We’ve led away on the issues in this province."

Years ago, such a pronouncement was considered nearly ridiculous since former premier Ralph Klein’s vast popularity virtually guaranteed a Tory sweep, especially in his Calgary hometown. But today, with Albertans heading to the polls on Mar. 3 with rookie Conservative Leader Ed Stelmach at the helm, critics say things are different.

"The Klein factor was huge, but he’s gone now," noted political analyst Keith Brownsey of Calgary’s Mount Royal College.

But Rod Love, Klein’s former political adviser, told Metro that he still expects a Tory victory come election day, although he’s not sure how large that victory will be.

The New Democrats, however, are striving to lump the Liberals and the Tories together, attacking both parties for accepting donations from big oil.

Meanwhile, Stelmach has spent most of his time on the campaign trail in rural areas or Calgary neighbourhoods, but he returns to Edmonton today to make an announcement at the Shaw Conference Centre.

division of power

  • Upon the dissolution of the legislature, the Tories held 60 of the 83 seats in the province while the Liberals had 16, the majority held in Edmonton. The New Democrats had four while the Wildrose Alliance had one seat.