PREMIER VISIT- Premier Alison Redford came to Red Deer on Monday as part of the start of her campaign. A provincial election will be held April 23rd.

Candidates gear up for spring election

Alberta’s political parties are on the campaign trail after the writ was dropped Monday calling a general election for April 23rd.

Premier Alison Redford made a stop in the Red Deer area on Monday shortly after the announcement of the spring election.

“I think one of the top issues in this election will be defining a future Alberta. It’s about economic development and diversification and talking about the issues that matter to families. It’s going to be about education and about health care,” she said. “I think Red Deer is such an important community in Alberta because one of the things we see in Central Alberta particularly around this City is a great commitment to agriculture but not just conventional agriculture – investment and diversification and value added.

“We think about the size of this City and how important it is to connect to other cities. Red Deer is unique in the size and population in terms of the education of the population and the kinds of industries that are developing here.”

Red Deer already has a number of declared candidates including incumbent Progressive Conservative Cal Dallas, who is currently the MLA for Red Deer South. Also running in the south riding is Serge Gringas for the Alberta Party, Jason Chilibeck for the Liberals, Lorna Watkinson-Zimmer for the NDP and Nathan Stephan for the Wildrose Party.

In Red Deer North, incumbent and MLA Mary Anne Jablonski for the Progressive Conservatives will seek re-election, Brent Chalmers is running for the Alberta Party, Michael Dawe will seek election for the Liberals, Derrek Seelinger for the New Democrat Party and Randy Weins will seek election for the Wildrose Party.

After the election was called, Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said the party is focusing on a number of key issues during the campaign.

“Our platform proposes common-sense solutions to doctor shortages, long ER wait times, to the lack of appropriate care and services for seniors, and to many of the challenges that families, students and immigrants face in Alberta today,” he said. “For too long, the PC’s have said ‘no’ to Albertans. The Alberta Liberals are committed to saying ‘yes’. It’s time for a government that actually listens to Albertans – instead of just talking about listening.”

Also on Monday, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith was surrounded by Wildrose candidates as she officially kicked-off the first day of the campaign. The Wildrose Team has developed a strong plan that puts Alberta first, she said.

“For the first time in 41 years Albertans have a clear choice on election day: They can re-elect an out of touch and over-spending PC government, or they can elect a responsible Wildrose government that operates within the bounds of integrity and genuinely understands the issues Alberta families face,” said Smith. “Alberta has long awaited a viable alternative to represent and defend its interests. I am happy to say they need wait no longer, because Wildrose is here with new ideas that put Albertans first.”

Over the next four weeks Wildrose will put forward a platform to balance the books, enhance economic prosperity, improve democracy, and address the needs of Alberta families, she added.

“Wildrose believes in putting Albertans first because Wildrose believes that government is in place to serve its citizens – not the other way around. We have waited a long time for a government with a positive vision for a stronger, better Alberta; a government that will bring back the Alberta Advantage,” said Smith. “I am excited about having the opportunity to share the Wildrose vision with Albertans in every corner of the province.”

The NDP party will focus on a number of key areas, Party Leader Brian Mason said earlier this week.

“Our platform has five key commitments. On power prices, healthcare, education, oilsands upgrading and environmental protection, poll after poll shows Albertans and New Democrats share the same values and priorities for making everyday life better. We can do it, because we are the owners of very valuable resources.”

The Alberta Party also launched its 2012 election campaign Monday.

“Our candidates and volunteers have been on the doorsteps for months. Now we shift the campaign into high gear,” said Glenn Taylor, leader of the Alberta Party.

Last week, the Alberta Party released its 2012 election platform. The platform focuses on making Alberta the best place to live and is built around five core ideas including Albertans can be the healthiest people in Canada, Albertans can be the best-educated people in the world, Alberta can have the most open and transparent government, Alberta can be the best place to earn a living and Alberta’s communities can be the best places to live and raise a family, said Taylor.

“On the doors, we keep hearing about how upset Albertans are about the bullying and intimidation of Alberta’s physicians and the lack of accountability of our MLAs,” said Taylor. “However, we have also heard that most Albertans believe that the province is underachieving in virtually everything. Our job is to show Albertans that we have the best plan to make Alberta better.”

efawcett@reddeerexpress.com

– with files from Kirsten Palardy