UCP Leader Jason Kenney and his party’s Calgary-East candidate, Peter Singh (Photo: Facebook).

Alberta’s Internet was in a furious swivet last night. There seemed to be something to wind everyone up as we enter the final stretch of a provincial election both sides have characterized as an epochal event sure to seal the fate of the province if it goes the wrong way.

This may have been only the anger-magnifying tendency of social media, or the “friends” and “followers” I have accumulated over the years, but I can’t ever recall seeing so many people on both sides of a political division so wound up.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

There is a fringe of the Alberta right that has always been furious about pretty well everything, of course. They were enraged by the NDP’s surprise victory in May 2015 and they have been enraged about it ever since. Their fury was ratcheted up even more when Premier Rachel Notley didn’t just roll over and concede victory to the Opposition but fought back with an aggressive campaign of her own.

Still, most Albertans have been capable over the years of engaging in civil discourse when it comes to politics. This was not so evident last night, with only four more sleeps till voting day. The proximate cause, I think, was two things:

One is the sense among supporters of the NDP Government that weeks of bozo eruptions by United Conservative Party candidates and evidence of sketchy ethical practices and possibly outright illegalities by UCP activists associated with Leader Jason Kenney’s 2017 leadership campaign have had little impact on the Opposition party’s strong lead in public opinion.

The other was the news story yesterday that RCMP officers with a search warrant had swooped in late Thursday on the Calgary auto-repair business of Peter Singh, the UCP’s candidate in Calgary-East, and removed a computer hard drive, “other electronic devices,” and a suitcase.

Screenshot of CTV broadcast of police inside Mr. Singh’s business.

The Mounties were tight lipped about the nature of the investigation. Mr. Singh, apparently, was nowhere to be found, although he said in a written statement the police had returned his computer. When a reporter tried to question Mr. Kenney about it, an aide pushed the door shut in her face. The details are murky. Conspiracy theories abound, especially on the right.

Last year the Calgary Herald reported allegations Mr. Singh “used at least one local resident’s credit card to advance his nomination campaign.”

According to the CBC, the UCP had earlier investigated allegations of bribery and fraud related to Mr. Singh’s nomination, but found no proof and cleared him.

Meanwhile, advance polls have been setting records. With well over 400,000 votes cast, turnout has been significantly higher in the first three days of advance polling than in all advance polls in 2015, when 162,000 advance ballots were cast. About 2.6 million Albertans are registered to vote. Today is the last day for advance polling.

Political scientists say this may not mean much – it’s easier this time to cast an advance ballot, thanks to new voting rules. But it is one more factor winding politically engaged Albertans up.

I suspect this is a sign of things to come, and not just in Alberta. We have already seen like things happen in the United States, driven by the Trump Republicans but embraced by their Democratic Party rivals.

Since anger and an appeal to the worst instincts of the base worked for the Republicans, you can count on it that their Conservative brethren in Alberta and Canada are not just paying close attention, but dealing with the same consultants.

Political parties on the centre and left, such as there is a left in Canada any more, will have no choice but to respond in kind, and so they will.

Indeed, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, anxious to recover from his own self-inflicted political wounds, appeared to be testing an aggressive campaign strategy of his own on Thursday, lumping federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Ontario Premier Doug Ford in with alt-right conspiracy theorists, racists and religious bigots.

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  1. It is a sad day when when you can’t even talk politics without the threat of physical violence which unfortunately is where we are headed or already at. I would have liked to see the NDP concentrate more on the economy and let Kenney’s personal record and character speak for itself. From his humble beginnings as a Saskatchewan Liberal to his transition as a hero of the social conservatives it’s all been out there for quite a long time.

    Why didn’t they compare his talk on deficits with the facts of the numbers racked up by governments he was a part of? They took Canada from a $10 Billion surplus to a $60 billion deficit in 2 years. So tough economic times only require government to run deficits when it’s a conservative government? We know that the “surplus” in Harper’s final year was an accounting trick. Check how the $2 billion in GM stock was accounted for on that one.

    Personally I hope Albertans don’t hand any party a majority government, make them work together. It will be a terrible thing if we degrade into out right tribalism as they have south of the border.

  2. You have to fight the battles presented.

    You can plan whatever grand strategy your principles and tactics allow for but when the enemy comes at you, you must respond to their attack.

  3. With due respect Ranger that’s not true. It’s very seldom wise to engage with your opponent on his/her terms. You try to control the agenda, and when you’re the governing party you should have an advantage in controlling the messaging, but here the MSM can probably direct the messaging more than anyone.

  4. A sentence or two containing the words “RCMP raid … UCP candidate and fraudulent voting” has got to be one of the worst nightmares for the UCP just days before the election. Will this become the straw that breaks the camels back? It might.

    Allegations of questionable candidate statements and behavior have been piling up even before the election was called. In fact, the day before the election was called I believe there was a story about the illegal donations side of the kamikaze candidate story. Perhaps then it is fitting the campaign ends on a similar note. According to polls, if you believe them, the UCP has maintained a lead throughout, but that lead according to several polls has diminished considerably. I get the sense some UCP supporters already have had some reservations from all the previous bad headlines about UCP behavior. It wouldn’t be surprising if some of those with such reservations will either vote for another party or stay at home.

    I have the sense this election will be closer than is being predicted in most polls and I think turn out may be crucial to what the end outcome will be. It is very interesting there is a high turnout at advance polls this time. It may in part be due to the more flexible rules around where one can vote in advance polls, but perhaps there may be more to it than that.

  5. The high voter turnout at advanced polls is certainly interesting. Myself I voted yesterday because I had time. Tuesday , right now looks like a busy day for me, so it was purely convenience. As for Justin Trudeau attacking supporters of Scheer and calling them racists and religious bigots, does anybody really believe this improves your support? Look at his proposed changes to the asylum laws that were included in the Liberal’s new budget bill. The conservatives have been pressing the Liberal’s on this issue ever since Trudeau’s welcome to Canada tweet. He has been calling the conservatives racist all along on the border issue and then he quietly hides changes in the budget bill. Name calling just hides a lack of true intelligence and policy. Enjoy your day.

  6. Not sure if anger and an appeal to base instincts has “worked” for the Republicans. Their candidate didn’t win the popular vote—probably by cheating, too—a significant proportion of tRump voters were actually voting against Hillary, and some unknown (unconfessed) proportion expected Trump would switch from campaign to presidential mode if he won; tRump has destroyed his own Republican Party with demagoguery.

    No doubt the Canadian neo-right has adopted tRump-style demagoguery—but only because nothing else has been “working” for them. Soon we’ll see if it “works” just as well for the UCP as it has for the Republicans.

  7. This has been happening since so many years now that I think a lot of people expected this to happen. People have gotten away with it in the past so it would not bee a problem this time.

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