Alberta premier dismisses north-south election split
Published Saturday, April 21, 2012 10:01PM EDT
Alberta Premier Alison Redford dismissed suggestions the province is heading for a north-south split in Monday's election as she and her rival, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith, made their last pitches to voters over the weekend.
Strong support for the Wildrose Party in southern Alberta and Calgary has led to speculation that the south will go to Smith while the north and Edmonton would remain Progressive Conservative strongholds.
But Redford said her candidates in Calgary are "optimistic."
"I think we're going to see a good representation for us as Progressive Conservatives across the province," she told reporters Saturday after a rally in Edmonton.
"I'm very excited at what we're hearing at the doors. I'm very excited at the response that we're getting from Albertans," she said. "I think we're going to be in fine shape on Monday night."
This could be a historic election for Alberta if the Wildrose Party topples the PCs, who have governed the province since 1971.
Advanced polling stations reported long lineups Saturday, and the province is expected to surpass the 41 per cent turnout in the 2008 election, which was a record low.
While recent polls have suggested that Smith is in the lead, her campaign took some big hits over the past couple of weeks after she refused to condemn two Wildrose candidates who made controversial remarks about homosexuality and race.
Allan Hunsperger, a church pastor who is running in Edmonton, wrote a blog post last year in which he warned gays and lesbians they would end up in an eternal "lake of fire." The post surfaced last week before it was taken down.
In response to the backlash, Hunsperger said he was expressing his religious beliefs and not being intolerant.
Last weekend, Ron Leech, who is running in Calgary, told a local radio station that he had an electoral advantage because he's white. He later apologized.
Smith stood by both men, saying they are entitled to their opinions while reiterating that the Wildrose Party will not tolerate any kind of discrimination.
"We've got real people who are running for us and sometimes real people say things that they regret," she said Saturday.
That wasn't enough for many outraged Albertans and opposition parties, who said Smith should have denounced Hunsperger and Leech.
For her part, Redford has been criticized for hefty salary payouts to Alberta politicians and receiving $1,000 per month to sit on a panel that hasn't met for years.
The tight race has led to speculation of a minority government and calls for strategic voting. Some Liberal and NDP supporters have suggested that voters should cast their ballots for the PCs to prevent a Wildrose victory.
But both Liberal Leader Raj Sherman and the NDP's Brian Mason dismissed the notion, saying a redirected vote is no vote at all.
With files from The Canadian Press and a report from CTV's Alberta Bureau Chief Janet Dirks