Albertans will be heading to the polls in mid-April to vote for the province's next government.
Premier Rachel Notley called the election Tuesday morning at 9:45 a.m. in Calgary. A 28-day election period means Albertans will vote April 16.
“My friends, it is time for an election,” Notley said.
“My name is Rachel Notley and I am running to be your premier again.”
St. Albert incumbent NDP candidate Marie Renaud says she has been chomping at the bit for the election to be called.
“It's a good time. We've achieved the goals that we set out (to). I think we're all ready to go and excited and we are all really gelled on what our vision is for the future,” Renaud said.
The writ drop came one day after Notley introduced a throne speech focusing on health care, childcare and strengthening democracy.
In the speech, the NDP government promised to reduce wait times at hospitals, give more access to women’s health services and reduce the cost of drugs for seniors.
In a press conference Monday at the Royal Alberta Museum, Notley said the session will kick off with Bill 1, an act to protect public health care.
The premier said the bill aims to defend Albertans from “American-style health care” creeping into the province.
“Whether you come to hospital with a fur coat or no coat, you deserve the same world-class health care as everyone else,” Notley said.
St. Albert UCP candidate Jeff Wedman said the NDP wants the election to be about health care and social programs, and while those are important, the real issue is the economy and jobs.
“I don't see this protecting healthcare thing is anything other than trying to change the channel from how bad Albertan workers are hurting right now,” Wedman said.
Wedman said Bill 1 was just spreading fear and said the province does not have privatized health care.
“The UCP plan is in no way, shape or form pushing that,” Wedman said.
The UCP candidate said the NDP is trying to distract from its “atrocious economic record.”
Neil Korotash, the Alberta Party candidate for Morinville- St. Albert, said the economy, jobs, healthcare and education are all important, and there is not one issue that will define the election. He added the Alberta Party’s number one priority is the economy.
“It was sort of shots fired in terms of trying to differentiate themselves and position it so they're going to be the defenders of public health care as opposed to the other parties perhaps,” Korotash said of the NDP’s first bill.
He said he hasn’t heard Albertans demanding that type of legislation.
“There's no threat to our public health care system. So it's absolutely about the messaging going into the election,” Korotash said.
Prior to calling the election, Notley delivered her press conference Monday in front of students and their parents, noting the throne speech was about her audience.
“Our throne speech is about these kids. It’s about their parents and it’s about families in Alberta. It’s about making sure that we build an Alberta that includes all Albertans.”
Much of the speech reviewed the NDP’s accomplishments over their last four years in government. The speech painted a rosy picture of the NDP's four years in office and highlighted some of the changes the party has made, including banning corporate and union political donations.
The NDP also touted their record on diversifying the economy and noted the government’s commitment to building the Trans Mountain Pipeline.
“Years of inaction on pipelines left us overexposed to the price of oil. This is what we inherited and what we set out to fix. The job is not done, but we’ve made good progress,” Notley said.
“Gone are the days where we pay lip service.”
Along with reminding Albertans of its record, the government took aim at governments of the past.
“For decades, governments in Alberta responded to economic busts in a predictable way. They made things worse, and everyday Albertans paid the price,” said Lt.-Gov. Lois Mitchell, who delivered the speech.
“This time, however, with a new government in Edmonton, things would be different. Everyday Albertans – our families, our communities, our jobs – would come first. Your government would not pay lip service to honest government and then build Sky Palaces.”
The government also noted an affordable child-care program may be on the horizon, but gave no specific details.
In the St. Albert riding, incumbent NDP candidate Renaud will face off against the UCP's Jeff Wedman, the Green Party's Cameron Jefferies, Liberal candidate Kevin McLean and Albera Advantage Party candidate Donald Petruka, as well as independent Sheldon Gron.
Morinville-St. Albert will see a race between the NDP's Natalie Birnie, UCP candidate Dale Nally, Green Party candidate Cass Romyn and Alberta Party candidate Neil Korotash, as well as independent Mike Van Velzen.
The rural riding of Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland will see a race between NDP candidate Oneil Carlier, UCP candidate Shane Getson, Alberta Party candidate Don McCargar and independent Gordon McMillan.