Could Alberta be heading to the polls in mid-April? Speculation is swirling as the province announced Tuesday that the legislature will sit on March 18 for an NDP throne speech.
By law, the 2019 provincial election has to be held between March 1 and May 31.
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Pollster and political commentator Janet Brown said the government has a few options when it comes to Premier Rachel Notley‘s March throne speech, the first being to hold the speech and immediately call an election.
In that case, the election would happen four weeks later.
Another option on the table would be to hold the throne speech, have a short spring session and then call the election, Brown said.
The third option, as Brown sees it, would be that the government has the throne speech, a spring session where they pass a budget and then calls the election.
“Running on a budget is a risky strategy,” Brown said. “If you look at recent history, Jim Prentice dropped a budget and then lost the election. Alison Redford dropped a budget and then almost lost the election. But if you look at [Ralph] Klein years, Klein was sort of more famous for doing a throne speech and not doing a budget.”
According to NDP deputy director of communications Shannon Greer, it’s not known yet whether the throne speech will mean a budget, adding that “all options [are] still on the table.”
Brown said that passing a budget before calling an election might be difficult for the NDP, as people will want to “dissect” the document, calling the government to account for some of its decisions.
“Also, given the current state of the economy it’s probably not going to be a good news budget,” she said. “I think a lot of people think there’d be a risk in dropping a budget.”
However, Brown said if the NDP doesn’t drop a budget, they lose their position to call for the Opposition United Conservative Party to drop a “counter budget” heading into the election.
Brown said she’s leaning toward the possibility of a writ drop to accompany the throne speech, meaning the election would happen on or around April 15.
“I don’t think the election would go much later than that,” she said.
Brown added she’s heard a lot of rhetoric around how important it will be for the NDP to engage young people and post-secondary students as campaigning becomes ever more a priority. Considering students are still on campus and in classes in mid-March, Brown said that could also be a catalyst for holding the election then rather than in May when students are back in their home ridings.
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