Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said a provincial election will be held on April 16, kicking off a battle for control of one of the world’s top oil-producing jurisdictions.
Notley’s center-left New Democratic Party swept to power in 2015, ending more than four decades of conservative rule in Alberta. Since then, she has won mixed reviews from the province’s oil industry, facing criticism for implementing a carbon tax while winning applause for fighting to get new pipelines built.
United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney, whose organization is a combination of two parties that split the conservative vote in the last election, will challenge Notley. He is running on a platform of fighting harder for the energy industry, saying he’d kill the carbon tax, cut off oil shipments to provinces that balk at pipelines, boycott banks that shun fossil fuels and pressure the federal government to end billions in transfers to other regions if new pipelines don’t get built.
The energy industry is of utmost importance in Alberta and Canada. The province is currently producing about 3.6 million barrels of oil a day, more than any individual member of OPEC other than Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and the industry supports more than 500,000 jobs across the country. The energy industry accounts for about a tenth of Canada’s economy and a fifth of its exports.
Polls show Kenney’s party with a commanding lead, and it is widely expected to form the next Alberta government. However, Kenney’s approval ratings are lower than his party’s, while Notley is more popular than hers.
Since taking over in May 2015, Notley has grappled with a plunge in global oil prices that has hammered the province’s largest industry. Unemployment rose from 5.9 percent the month she took over to as high as 9.1 percent in November 2016. The rate was 7.3 percent in February