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Alberta NDP fields full slate for the provincial election that's expected to be called today

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Rachel Notley

UPDATE: Jim Prentice did indeed announce that he asked Alberta's Lieutenant-Governor to dissolve the provincial legislature. Alberta's 29th election will be held May 5, 2015.

In politics, timing may not be everything, but it sure helps. Alberta New Democratic Party Leader Rachel Notley demonstrated excellent timing yesterday when she picked a slow Easter Monday to announce her party now has a nearly full slate of 85 candidates for the year-early provincial election expected to be called by a cynical Progressive Conservative Government today.

At any rate, a huge throng of media, with cameras and other electronic paraphernalia in tow, turned up to record Notley making her not-very-startling announcement at Edmonton-Gold Bar NDP candidate Marlin Schmidt's campaign headquarters in the easternmost and least trendy block of Whyte Avenue.

I say not very startling because as long as I can remember, the Alberta New Democrats have fielded a full slate, even on such Biblically stony and determinedly Conservative fields as those surrounding constituencies like Cardston-Taber-Warner.

Still, with the NDP said to be polling above 30 per cent in the Capital Region, and the appalling PCs under Premier Jim Prentice celebrating their looming 44th anniversary in power with their recent put-people-last budget and plans for an early election nobody but them desires, there was an undeniable buzz to the event that, if only in my imagination, felt the tiniest bit like the last time Jack Layton came to town.

Notley insisted she's "running to give Albertans a genuine alternative that they can choose" -- in other words, to be the premier, which is pretty bold for a party with four MLAs in a province that has elected and re-elected the same crowd 21 times under a couple of different guises since the demise of the United Farmers Government nearly 80 years ago.

And, heaven knows, as blogger Susan Wright pointed out in her thoughtful analysis of the Prentice Tories' everything-for-big-business budget in which you don't count and neither do your children, Albertans need an alternative.

Notley noted with pride that half her party's candidates are women.

A campaign that emphasizes the NDP's potential as government, as opposed to the recently eviscerated Wildrose Party’s current strategy of asking please to be given another chance to form the Opposition even though its last leader and most of its caucus defected to the PCs, is a gamble, but longer odds have produced winners -- if not in living memory in Alberta.

In the case of both Notley's NDP and the Wildrose under new leader Brian Jean, about whom very little is known by Albertans, it may come down to the normally trite American dictum that it's not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.

And this will be a fight, have no doubt, in which the Tories under Prentice hold almost all the advantages, having had many years to write the rules in their own favour, tilt the proverbial playing field steeply in the same direction and fill a multi-million-dollar war chest with the generous help of their many friends in commerce so they can vastly outspend all their opponents.

Well, Notley said, NDP volunteers are energized and will make up in shoe leather what they lack in corporate cash. Still, it's a Goliath they're taking on, without so much as a slingshot.

I very much doubt the NDP will form the government, but they could just the same really achieve something remarkable in this election -- or not. It may well depend on factors that, unlike the timing of a news conference by their leader, are not entirely under their control.

It might bode well for New Democrats that the Alberta Liberals are in deep disarray, the Greens tiny and marginalized and the Alberta Party barely on the radar, but all these parties will be competing for the same progressive vote in many ridings.

Ironically, the biggest help to the NDP in the Edmonton area will likely have to come from the Wildrose Party, which needs to run strong candidates in ridings here to give disillusioned voters on the right appalled at the breathtaking cynicism of the Prentice Tories a place to put their votes if they can't bring themselves to vote NDP this time.

According to blogger Dave Cournoyer, who through his Daveberta.ca blog does the professional media’s nomination research for them, the Wildrose Party has so far only nominated 48 of 87 candidates. (That compares with 85 for both the NDP and the Tories as of yesterday. The final two NDP candidates are expected to be nominated tomorrow, the Tories' today.)

One of the ridings for which the Wildrosers haven't yet found a candidate is Edmonton-Gold Bar, where the media met Notley today and where the energetic and upbeat Schmidt's chances of knocking off PC MLA David Dorward would be considerably enhanced by the presence of a strong Wildroser on the ballot.

Prentice has scheduled a news conference to announce something at 10:30 this morning in Edmonton.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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