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Leaders Smith and Notley cast advance ballots as Alberta election enters home stretch

Alberta’s two main political rivals cast their ballots Tuesday as the provincial election campaign entered the home stretch with the start of advance voting.

Alberta’s two main political rivals cast their ballots Tuesday as the provincial election campaign entered the home stretch with the start of advance voting.

United Conservative Party Leader Danielle Smith and NDP Leader Rachel Notley both cast their ballots in Calgary, which has been the main battleground in the campaign.

Election day is on Monday, less than a week away.

Notley marked her ballot at the main downtown library at an event with about 30 young people. She encouraged more to get engaged.

“We know there’s a lot of myths out there that young voters are less likely to vote,” said Notley.

“I think it’s just a myth, because young voters are so dedicated, so passionate. They’ve been working so hard on this campaign. This is an important election for Alberta.”

Polls suggest it continues to be a tight race with people under the age of 45 leaning toward the NDP and those over 45 gravitating to the UCP.

Notley said her party will continue knocking on doors and holding rallies to remind voters it has a plan to reinvest in Alberta while increasing access to family doctors and avoiding budget deficits.

“More and more conservatives are coming to me saying, ‘I’m a lifelong conservative voter, but what I see in Danielle Smith and this new UCP is not my values,’” said Notley.

“They often say that they’re going to lend us their vote, and I say that’s just great. Because, quite frankly, I think all Albertans should always only ever lend their vote because leadership has to earn it.”

Smith cast her ballot in the city’s southwest.

Traffic at the Haysboro community centre was steady after the advance polls opened. But there was only one other person inside when Smith — accompanied by her support team, security officers and a throng of media — arrived.

Smith was asked to verify her address, answered “yes” when asked if she was a Canadian citizen and laughed and thanked the poll worker who asked her if she was over 18.

She declined to speak to the media.

The campaign has centred around both parties warning voters they cannot trust the other side.

The UCP has said the NDP made a bad situation worse when Notley was in power from 2015 to 2019, hiking taxes and running up debt and multibillion-dollar deficits as oil prices were slumping.

The NDP has said the UCP, voted into government under former premier Jason Kenney in 2019, also ran up deficits until oil prices spiked during the last two years of its mandate.

Both parties have promised to maintain high spending and deliver budget surpluses dependent on oil prices not taking another nosedive.

The UCP has also said the NDP’s promise to hike the corporate income tax rate to 11 per cent from eight per cent will be catastrophic for the economy.

The NDP has said that at 11 per cent it would still be the lowest rate in Canada. The NDP has also promised to end the small business tax, except for regulated professions such as law offices and consulting firms.

The NDP has taken aim at Smith’s stance on health care, particularly comments she made before re-entering politics. Smith has said consumers need to begin paying out of pocket for some medically necessary services, such as visiting a family doctor, in order to keep medicare viable in the long term.

Smith has since promised not to implement these reforms and respect the medicare system.

Smith has also declined to discuss other proposed reforms, such as pulling Alberta out of the Canada Pension Plan, saying such topics will be revisited after the election.

Notley also noted that last week Alberta’s ethics commissioner ruled Smith broke ethics rules and threatened to undermine one of the pillars of democracy by pressuring former justice minister Tyler Shandro earlier this year to make the prosecution of a COVID-19 protester “go away.”

Shandro refused to do so.

Smith has characterized the decision as a difference of opinion but said she’s happy to take guidance from the ethics commissioner on how best to interact with the justice system.