alberta election day 2: health care, balanced budgets, and benitomania.

Campaigning in the same constituency yesterday, it is interesting to wonder what Premier Alison Redford and Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith would have said to each other if their paths had intersected. Close polls, push polls, and sharp criticisms have defined the first two days of Alberta's 2012 election campaign.

Premier Redford was in Highwood campaigning with Progressive Conservative candidate John Barlow, who faces the daunting task of keeping the high-profile Ms. Smith out of the Assembly.

Campaigning in southern Alberta yesterday, Ms. Smith released her party's pledge to table balance budgets. Under the Wildrose platform, future government spending would be limited to population growth plus inflation. Despite Wildrose Party assurances that they would not launch into a round of drastic service cuts if they are elected, I cannot help believe that a government led by Ms. Smtih would do anything but.

Health care was the focus of the second day of the election campaign for the NDP and Liberals, as both parties leaders unveiled parts of their platforms.

NDP leader Brian Mason and Edmonton-Calder candidate David Eggen (photo via @johnalanashton).

In the north end constituency of Edmonton-Calder, NDP leader Brian Mason joined candidate and former MLA David Eggen to announce that his party would create 1,500 long-term care beds, cover dental costs for Albertans under the age of 18, and bring down the cost of prescription drugs through a new provincial pharmaceutical plan. Mr. Eggen was the MLA for this constituency from 2004 until 2008, and since then has served as the executive director of the Friends of Medicare.

On the day the election was called, Mr. Eggen's campaign team flexed their organization muscle by placing more than 1,100 lawn signs on private property across the constituency, painting Edmonton-Calder orange.

Raj Sherman campaigns in Calgary (photo via @alanacbaker).

In Calgary yesterday, Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman reaffirmed his party's commitment to increase funding to build and operate more long-term care beds and facilities. Joined by a medical doctor and a retired health care worker, Dr. Sherman continued to call on Premier Redford to fulfil her promise to hold a judicial inquiry into doctor intimidation.

Today, the Dr. Sherman will travel to Red Deer to make another health care related announcement at the campaign office of Red Deer-North candidate Michael Dawe and Red Deer-South candidate Jeff Chilibeck.

Focusing on health care is a smart strategy for the Liberals, who are seen as strong on this issue, yet have slipped in the polls over the past four years. It gives the party an opportunity to contrast itself with the PC's, whose poor management has created many of the staffing problems faced in the health care system, and the Wildrose Party, which would introduce a "hybrid" or "European" model of health care. It is suspected that the Wildrose model would include the introduction of private medical insurance.

Meanwhile, in Lethbridge, interesting contests are shaping up in both of that city's constituencies.

As first predicted on this blog on February 24, former Edmonton-Mill Woods Tory MLA Carl Benito is entering this election as an Independent candidate. Campaign-like signs began to appear on fences near major intersections in the constituency in late February. The controversy-prone Mr. Benito was first elected in 2008 and lost his party's nomination to Sohail Qadri. Mr. Benito will face Mr. Qadri, former Liberal MLA Weslyn Mather, NDP candidate Sandra Azocar, Wildroser Joanne Autio, and Alberta Party candidate Robert Leddy., Wed Mar 28 2012

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