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'Prickly' Alberta election will have implications for B.C.: expert

If you've checked out the Alberta election on Twitter, you may have come across a picture of NDP leader Rachel Notley's dog with quills in his face.

Notley wrote Edmonton had a lot of wildlife, and the pooch, named Johnny, would be fine. That's probably the nicest jab of the whole campaign, according to political scientist, Duane Bratt.

"It's been a very heated election. And some of the rhetoric has just been way over the top," he told CTV News.

Bratt said there are probably a few reasons for the fever pitch of some of the politicking. One is that elections aren't usually close in Alberta. This time, the race is close, but also the two parties are very different. Danielle Smith's United Conservative Party is leaning further right, while Notley and the NDP are steadfastly left.

"So there's a wide vacuum in between the two parties," explained Bratt, adding, "There is a hangover from COVID that has made our politics very, very nasty. So yeah, it's an election the likes of which we haven't seen before."

Among the lingering effects of COVID-19 are a heightened dislike for Justin Trudeau and the federal government in the wake of their pandemic policies. Smith has often tried to link Notley to the prime minister and federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.

Yet for Bratt, the type of rhetoric that goes too far includes a tweet from a Smith supporter who says people will "hunt down" NDP supporters -- if that party wins.

Bratt points out that didn't come from a bot account, but a public figure who has been commenting on the election. He's also worried by rhetoric coming from the Take Back Alberta group.

"Which is an insurgency within the United Conservative Party, led by a man, by David Parker, who gave a speech saying you know, you could vote in socialists, but you have to shoot your way out," added Bratt.

In addition, Bratt pointed out the group was training volunteers to be election scrutineers and monitors, and to watch out for buses full of voters. Bratt said those comments seem to point to non-white Albertans.

As for the campaign itself, Smith is focused on economic issues, pointing out how bad finances were when Notley was premier.

Notley is emphasizing healthcare, claiming Smith would get rid of some of the universal aspects of the system.

Smith is also promising to opt out of the Canada Pension Plan and to replace the RCMP with a provincial force. Then, there's the Sovereignty Act.

"The Sovereignty Act was the principal piece of legislation passed by Smith last fall, that would allow the provincial government to unilaterally nullify federal laws and direct provincial entities to violate federal laws," said Bratt.

Even with an NDP win next door -- relations could be frosty. Notley as premier took on the B.C. government over environmental and energy issues related to the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Election day in Alberta is May 29th. Top Stories

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