Steady as she goes in High River
By Christopher Walsh
Hordes of mainstream media have descended on this tiny, charming town in southern Alberta for what may very well be an historic night, as local candidate Danielle Smith looks to become the first elected female premier of Alberta and take down a 41-year Tory dynasty in the process.
The Town of High River does not appear to have caught any type of election fever, even as temperatures soared to 27 C. Many residents enjoyed the unusually warm temperatures in their place of employment, while groups of children assembled to jump off a local bridge into the cool river below.
At the Highwood Golf and Country Club, media production vans were rolling out cables as members of the press mingled inside, taking bets on the outcome and trying to get a sense of exactly how tonight will unfold.
Polls have suggested in recent days that Alberta is on the verge of changing government for the first time in 41 years, and here in Smith’s riding, you might start to believe nobody is really paying much attention to the election.
But in the centre of town, traffic at the High River Memorial Centre polling station has been brisk. People have been showing up in large numbers all day to cast their ballots for a variety of parties.
Local businessman Jim Vanier had just cast his ballot for Smith and the Wildrose party in the late afternoon and was confident his choice was in keeping with a lot of Albertans’.
“I think the writing’s pretty firmly on the wall,” he said, adding that he has followed a number of polls in the last few days that suggest the Progressive Conservative’s run in the province is over.
“Not only Redford, but the PCs broke too many promises, probably internally and externally. They broke the trust,” Vanier said.
With an election too close to call, no seats are safe, and that includes Smith’s riding.
“I was very conflicted when I came,” said High River voter, Susan, who refused to give her last name. “I ended up going with the Progressive Conservatives.
“Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t know.”
Susan said she did a lot of research into the candidates and the parties, but was still “wishy-washy” until today, when she cast her ballot for John Barlow.
“I was really torn,” she said. “It was almost what the Wildrose was promising was too good to be true. When you listen to [Smith], she never answered how she was going to do it, she just avoided … it. There seemed to be a lot of avoidance and that did it for me.”
Laurie Sturgeon, another voter at the Memorial Centre polling station, was proud to say she voted for Liberal candidate Keegan Gibson in the Alberta election.
“Anything to keep the Wildrose out,” she said. “They’re too much like how Ralph Klein was. That’s why we have problems with health care and education these days. And the privatization of services.”
Polls across the province close at 8 p.m.