Political homework is already piling up for Alberta voters still on summer vacation.
Two elections will be overlapping in the next few weeks, starting with the federal election on September 20, followed by the municipal race October 18.
Edmonton councillor Scott McKeen believes it could affect voter turnout if people don’t do their research.
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“People knocking on theirs doors (asking) which election is it? So I think that is a problem. That is something candidates are really going to have to focus on and be clear in their communications,” McKeen said. “The last thing people want to have is a confused electorate, because they’ll stay home.
Some believe the bigger challenge is the municipal race, which historically sees lower voter turnout compared to federal elections, and candidates at the local level aren’t tied to a specific party.
“People who don’t know, don’t vote,” McKeen said. “What might help this time though is a good mayor race with some good characters in it.”
Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt has already seen campaign signs on the municipal level exercising deliberate overlap.
“You’ve got some municipal candidates branding themselves to a party using the same colour scheme, some of the same words, even though we don’t have municipal parties in Alberta,” Bratt said.
Bratt also said the results of the federal election will impact the municipal race, which is a rare occasion.
“The results of the federal election will impact the municipal races in the sense of, what does this do around the equalization referendum and the senate election?” Bratt said.
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Political experts believe election campaigning will start to ramp up after the Labour Day weekend, making for an even tighter window for candidates to get their message to voters.
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“You’re going to have a lot of people knocking at your door,” Bratt said. “There’s a lot of issues at play, there’s a lot of personalities at play and that’s why parties try to narrow it to a ballot question.”
Campaign strategist Jarrett Campbell said it will be tough for a lot of the local campaigns that already struggle to get the attention they need. The federal election is adding one more thing to compete with.
“From a political strategy standpoint, I’d be worried if I was behind, especially in the mayors race because the mayors race is very unique. It’s a million person race, right? And that’s a very unique thing in Canada. Even the federal election, when you really break it down, it’s a series of small little races.”
Campbell is still confident that there’s enough time after the federal election to give municipal candidates lots of opportunity if they don’t take their foot off the gas.
“Get ready for Sept. 21, because you’ve got four weeks for when you’re the only show in town politically,” Campbell said.
Campbell said an advantage for candidates right now is that more people are home during the day and answering their doors, which has lead to more door knockers campaigning between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. instead of at night.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson doesn’t see the tight timeline as an issue for those running at the municipal level, if they’re organized.
“I really strongly believe in the independence and non-partisanship of local politics and so I think the folks working from that base who have broad, genuine, grassroots support, not some thinly veiled partisan astroturf, will be the ones who prevail,” Iveson said.
“The political class has been tuned in to the municipal election for the last year or more, but most Edmontonians don’t tune in until their kids are back in school and oftentimes, the first conversation for a lot of people is around the Thanksgiving table.”
For voters, councillor McKeen’s advice is to do your research on the candidate specifically.
“Try to get at the candidates values, what do they believe in?” McKeen said.
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