Never before in Alberta has getting voters to the polls been more critical, as Monday’s provincial election is tighter than any electoral poll can possibly determine.

It’s expected, for example, that a number of close ridings could be won or lost by margins of around 100 ballots, not a few thousand.

This is why the United Conservative Party’s (UCP) Danielle Smith and NDP leader Rachel Notley are spending the final hours before the polls open Monday getting their ground game as impeccable as possible so that no voter in one of the battleground ridings falls between the cracks.

It’s that close.

Up for grabs are seats in Calgary, in constituencies surrounding Edmonton, and in ridings like Lethbridge-East and Banff-Kananaskis.

Mandi Johnson, senior campaign strategist at Crestview Strategies and a former UCP staffer, stressed again that some hotly contested seats could come down to just 100 or more ballots.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if both parties are throwing a ton of resources at the get-out-the-vote efforts in five to 10 ridings,” she told Postmedia,

Still, she argued the NDP has a difficult path to victory, since the party will need to pick up most seats in Calgary, whereas Smith likely only needs to retain four to eight seats in the city.

“It’s a lot easier climb for Smith than for Notley,” said Johnson.

Leah Ward, vice-president at Wellington Advocacy and former director of communications for Notley, said the NDP counted at least 8,000 volunteers at the midway point of the campaign.

Ward said over the last four years, the New Democrat leader has made it more socially acceptable for people to declare their support for the NDP, a major shift that’s attracted volunteers who want to knock on doors.

Notley is also relying on former Conservative voters to lend her their vote, making direct appeals ahead of election day.

“It is possible that low voter turnout indicates that Rachel’s invitation was not accepted, but those former Conservative voters are still too uncomfortable with Smith to turn out.

It could also be the case — as traditional thinking suggests — that high voter turnout indicates an election change,” Ward told Postmedia in its campaign wrap-up.

As of Saturday, at 3 p.m., hours before advance polls were set to close, Elections Alberta had counted 697,908 votes, which surpassed the 696,000 total of early ballots in 2019.

 It’s unclear whether that will translate into a total turnout as high as that of 2019, when 67.5% of those eligible — or 1.9 million Albertans — voted.

In the final stretch, Smith and Notley have been crisscrossing the province in a last-ditch effort to secure votes, especially in the battleground of Calgary.

The tight two-party race means on top of the final push of big, public rallies, both campaigns are focusing their resources on door knocking, targeted social media ads, messaging and calling supporters to remind them to vote, and even offering transportation to the polls if necessary.

In an interview Sunday with The West Block‘s host Mercedes Stephenson, Notley talked about her campaign platform, including how she would work with the federal government if elected.

The West Block asked for an interview with Smith, apparently repeatedly, but her campaign declined.

“The Albertans that I talk to, do not want to leave Canada. They want to lead Canada,” Notley said.

“And the way to do that is to go and negotiate with strengths and ability and thoughtfulness for the best outcomes for the province,” she said. “ And that’s work that hasn’t been happening for the last three and a half years and Albertans (with the UCP) have been losing opportunities, losing investment dollars as a result.”

The polls open at 9 a.m MT. It could be a nail-biter.


  • Mark Bonokoski

    Mark Bonokoski is a member of the Canadian News Hall of Fame and has been published by a number of outlets – including the Toronto Sun, Maclean’s and Readers’ Digest.