Alberta Votes Day Eighteen

May 18, 2023

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Overview: Leader’s Debate

Tonight saw the only leaders’ debate of the campaign, putting UCP leader Danielle Smith and NDP leader Rachel Notley against each other in a well-matched showdown. Unlike past debates in Alberta, this one saw only the two leaders squaring off with no third-party leaders participating, allowing for a clear contrast between the two parties. If you didn’t catch the debate live, you can watch it by clicking here.  

The debate was divided into four segments: affordability, economy, health care, and a “wild card” segment that saw the leaders answering viewer questions. 

UCP leader and Premier Danielle Smith began the debate by reminding voters of the United Conservative Party record on lower taxes, balanced the budget, and restoring Alberta’s status as Canada’s economic powerhouse, positioning this record or a return to economically consequential NDP policies. NDP leader and former Premier Rachel Notley began by positioning the election as a choice on trust and leadership, creating jobs, and diversifying. In her opening remarks, she sought to remind voters about the UCP leader’s past comments and pre-emptively committed to not raising personal taxes under an NDP government.  

Affordability: Premier Smith began the affordability segment with focus on affordability measures the UCP government has taken, particularly in the last year, but was quickly on the defensive about past statements. Rachel Notley highlighted NDP commitments on insurance premiums and a rate cap on electricity, leading to an exchange between the two leaders on actions taken with respect to electricity prices under both governments. The NDP is running on implementing a rate cap on the Regulated Rate Option. 

Healthcare: on health, the two leaders squared off about reforms. Premier Smith reiterated her commitment to implement changes based on recommendations from the front line and addressing systemic challenges, while criticizing the NDP’s track record during their government’s 2015-19 term. NDP leader Rachel Notley drew attention to ongoing wait times in emergency rooms and EMS wait times, challenging that health care issues are far from fixed. The NDP leader also focused on the UCP leader’s track record of advocating for more privatized health care, tying the issue back to one of affordability and emphasizing the importance of having a family doctor. 

Economy: The economic section of the debate saw the leaders square off about their differing approaches to economic growth. The UCP’s Danielle Smith raised the NDP’s economic track record, raising the corporate income tax and accusations that the increase was linked to job losses, while NDP leader Rachel Notley sought to draw attention to her approach to diversifying the economy while criticizing the signal the UCP government sent to investors with the Sovereignty Act.  

Wild card: Wild card questions included education, which saw the NDP leader press the UCP leader on class sizes and education funding while UCP leader Smith defended the government’s approach on funding and giving more flexibility to trustees. When asked to name a policy proposal of their opponent’s that they agreed with, NDP leader Rachel Notley named the expanded film and television tax credit, as well as the creation of the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation; UCP leader Smith said addressing challenges faced by physicians in smaller communities. 

The debate closed on a similar note to which it began, with the two leaders returning to their main message to voters. UCP leader and Premier Danielle Smith focused on affordability and economic growth. NDP leader and former Premier Rachel Notley focused on positioning the election as a question of trust and leadership in addition to reaffirming the party’s position on affordability and defending public pensions and public health. 


  • The UCP released a full costing of their campaign platform. The breakdown projects a surplus of $3.48 billion over a four-year term. The plan also promises to cut taxes by $1 billion, and includes a $1.5 billion contingency fund for one-time emergencies like wildfires.  
  • NDP Candidate Irfan Sabir (Calgary-Bhullar-McCall) held a press conference suggesting that the UCP would ruin the healthcare system and cause Albertans to pay for healthcare.  
  • Following an investigation, Alberta’s Ethics Commissioner released a report finding that Premier Smith had contravened the Conflict of Interest Act when she spoke to Alberta’s justice minister and attorney general and Artur Pawlowski. The report concluded that Smith attempted the interfere with the independence of the justice system in her role as premier. The Ethics Commissioner did not recommend any sanctions for Premier Smith. Premier Smith invited the Ethics Commissioner to offer guidance going forward, and stood by her earlier comments that the original CBC News story was “false and defamatory”. 
  • Comments from former UCP Candidate Jennifer Johnson (Lacombe-Ponoka) resurfaced yesterday. This morning, the UCP leader Danielle Smith annouced that if Johnson won her election, should would not sit in the legislature as a member of the UCP Caucus. 
  • The emergency wildfire situation continues. As of this afternoon, 93 wildfires remain active, with 27 burning out of control.  

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