Calgary – A lot has happened in the last week. The Wildrose Party continues to dominate Alberta politics. Voters believe education and the healthcare system are the top issues in this election. A televised and online debate, which many say did not give anybody the win. A Wildrose candidate claiming homosexuals will feel the wrath of God.
Indeed, it has been a busy week in one of the most contentious provincial elections in recent memory. Despite the controversies, Danielle Smith, leader of the Wildrose, is maintaining a lead over Premier Alison Redford’s Progressive Conservatives.
According to a Return on Insight (ROI) poll for CBC, the Wildrose leads the field with 43 percent, while the PCs sit in a close second with 36 percent. Raj Sherman’s Liberals are in a distant third with 11 percent, Brian Mason’s New Democrats have nine percent and Glenn Taylor’s Alberta Party is last with only one percent.
The same poll found that healthcare and education are the most important issues for voters in this provincial election. More than half of respondents said healthcare was their primary concern, while 42 percent listed education as a top issue. The economy, jobs, government spending and oil and gas rounded off the list.
The environment or climate change were not concerns of Albertans in the poll, and even Smith believes the debate over climate science should continue because, according to recent remarks in an online debate held by the Edmonton Journal-Calgary Herald, the science “is not settled.”
“We’ve always said the science isn’t settled and we need to continue to monitor the debate,” responded Smith. “In the meantime we need to support consumers in making the transition to cleaner fuels.” She did state, though, that the world is transitioning away from hydrocarbon fuels and agreed with Sherman’s stance on the issue.
“We believe the best way to reduce emissions is through consumer rebates for energy audits, microgeneration and home renovations, as well as broad based tax breaks for investment in research and development for new environmental technologies,” wrote Smith.
The wrath of God for gays?
Judging by Smith’s responses to questions in debates, on the campaign trail and at media events, does the right-wing leader adhere to Alberta’s values? A one-year-old blog post by Allan Hunsperger, a pastor and the Wildrose candidate for Edmonton-South West, who wrote that gays “will suffer the rest of eternity in a lake of fire, hell, a place of eternal suffering,” made the news last week, but didn’t seem to hurt the Wildrose.
Smith dismissed the issue and told reporters “we will not legislate contentious social issues.” Gay activists are urging Smith to drop Hunsperger from the party, but she argues that those were his personal views and will not “discriminate against anyone.”
Hunsperger released a statement Sunday: “I fully support equality for all people, and condemn any intolerance based on sexual orientation or any other personal characteristic.”
MPs supporting Wildrose
In an interview with EdmontonJournal.com, Calgary West Conservative Member of Parliament Rob Anders said that most of the 28 Alberta MPs are “quietly” leaning towards Smith and the Wildrose. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has told MPs in Alberta to freely support anyone they feel is the better candidate.
“I think I can safely say that the majority of members of Parliament inside the Alberta caucus, that I’m aware of, are leaning Wildrose,” explained Anders. “There are still a few stragglers who are supporting the Progressive Conservatives, but they’re more reluctant to make a public admission of that because they see the numbers and where things are heading.”
Anders told the Hill Times that under a re-elected PC government, taxes could be going up and that is the most important issue for him in his decision to support a politician.
Alberta voters head to the polls on Apr. 23.