Tory dynasty facing tough competition


«More than half of Albertans think it’s time for a new government and our message (has) just connected. »




It started as a whisper among some Tory supporters, but as the Alberta election race draws to a close that whisper has gained strength and echoes in statements of anxiety over who will even bother casting a ballot in today’s pivotal vote.

With polls pointing to a large segment of undecided voters, some veteran Tories are sounding the alarm over the potential loss of seats a low turnout could bring to the longstanding Tory dynasty.

Rod Love, former premier Ralph Klein’s top political advisor, says the undecided camp is "worrisome" in many ridings because most undecided voters are Conservatives.

He points to disaffected Tories who, in the summer, didn’t bother voting in a key Calgary byelection in Klein’s former riding, allowing the Liberals to secure the seat.

"Staying home because you’re frustrated won’t prove anything," he said yesterday. "Staying home could elect Liberals."

But Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft, obviously, sees it differently. In one of his last campaign stops he told reporters that Calgary started feeling different as far back as 2004 and a strong desire for change has emerged.

"More than half of Albertans think it’s time for a new government and our message (has) just connected," he said.

Political analysts say the Tories are easily headed towards forming the next government, but it remains to be seen if it will be a reduced majority or even a minority.

"We know that people want change, we know they are upset on any number of issues, but at least a plurality of voters seems to be saying they’re going to vote for the Conservatives," said Keith Brownsey, a political scientist at Mount Royal College. "There’s a disconnect here."

Meanwhile, Stelmach greeted supporters in south Edmonton yesterday while Greenpeace activists — who’ve dogged his campaign for nearly a month — protested continued oilsands development nearby.

"This is a critical election," Stelmach said. "It’s one that’s clearly going to set the path for Alberta heading into its second century."

The undecided camp, he said, appears to be decreasing and each campaign office will be encouraging Albertans to cast their ballots today.

NDP Leader Brian Mason spent the final day of the campaign in a familiar place — on a bus. The former ETS driver whistle-stopped his way through a number of ridings and predicted a Tory majority. He said Taft and the Liberals are a spent force and told voters to elect a strong NDP opposition to speak out for ordinary Albertans.

Residents can find out where to vote by calling 1-877-422-8683 or by visiting –with files from Reuters

Steve Lillebuen/Metro Edmonton