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Analyzing the rural and urban vote in Alberta election 2019

Global News with Melanee Thomas 10 April 2019

In 2015, Alberta NDP captured a significant portion of the urban vote and, while the party gained seats in rural ridings, the majority still went to the conservative Wildrose.

In the upcoming election, the Freedom Conservative Party has chosen to strategically target rural Alberta, where leader Derek Fildebrandt believes FCP candidates stand a good chance.

“It’s important to have, in the very least, some Freedom Conservative Party [members] in the opposition to hold the government to account and pull it in a more conservative and Alberta-first direction,” he explained.

“Or to potentially hold the balance of power in a minority government.”

University of Calgary political science associate professor Melanee Thomas says the FCP strategy isn’t a bad one.

“If people in rural areas were UCP partisans or conservative partisans and not liking something about the party, they’re much more likely to … if there’s a party to the right they can transfer their vote to,” Thomas said.

She added that despite Alberta being very urbanized, the province still has a lot of rural districts.

“If a party sweeps Edmonton and Calgary completely, they can form government with that.

“If they sweep rural areas, they simply have to pick up one or two in the cities and they’ve got a government.”

When asked whether Fildebrandt thought his party could be missing out on urban votes in Edmonton, he said that his priority was to place candidates where he didn’t believe the NDP could win.

“We do have a lot of people who have reached out to us disappointed that we don’t have candidates in their areas.

“We’ve encouraged them to hold their nose and vote UCP in those constituencies.”

Ultimately, Thomas believes the 2019 election could play out similarly to 2015, where Calgary voters played a major part in the outcome.

“It comes down to Calgary. I expect the NDP will hold in Edmonton. I expect the UCP will hold in rural,” she said. “Calgary, like in 2015, is a toss-up.

“The way that Calgary goes, so too does government.”

In 2015, the NDP won 14 of 25 Calgary seats.

The Freedom Conservative Party has 24 candidates running the provincial election. Most have been placed in rural ridings, with several in Calgary and just one in Edmonton.