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Alberta NDP holds rally in Calgary, UCP talks about crime, mental health supports

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley attends a campaign rally with supporters in Calgary on Saturday, May 27, 2023. Albertans go to the polls on May 29. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY — Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley held a major rally in downtown Calgary Saturday morning, while her United Conservative rival had no public events planned this weekend after a final pitch to voters a day earlier. 

Election day is Monday. 

Notley told hundreds of cheering supporters, who lined up around the block to get into the event, that her party offers the best way to build a better future for Albertans. 

"The Alberta NDP shares your love for this great province — the towering ambition of our cities, the wild ruggedness of our landscapes and the warmth of our people," she said Saturday. 

"Albertans are compassionate and hardworking and honest and you deserve a government that lives up to those values." 

Notley said many residents don't trust the UCP or its leader Danielle Smith to do so. 

"She wants to go after my record. I'm proud of my record," she said to more cheers. "My record, our record is more jobs, better health care and cutting child poverty in half." 

The venue holds around 400 people, but the NDP said many more were in the lobby and lined up to get inside, which they said brought the total attendance to around 1,200.

Smith said Friday she would aim to lower the level of political polarization in Alberta if her party wins what has been a tight and often bitter race. 

She made the remarks during her last news conference before election day. 

Two Calgary UCP candidates, Nicholas Milliken and Mike Ellis, held a news conference later Saturday morning in front of a southwest Calgary playground to announce affordable mental health supports for children, youth and all Albertans. 

If re-elected the UCP is promising $60 million over the next three years to build four new youth mental wellness centres to provide inpatient mental health and addiction treatment for youth under the age of 18. 

It also plans to triple the number of mental health classrooms from the 20 currently under development to 60 across Alberta. 

The specialized classroom teams help students with complex needs and include a nurse, social worker, educational psychologist, speech and language therapist, and occupational therapist. 

"By identifying and addressing these concerns early individuals are more likely to develop healthy coping mechanisms, manage their symptoms effectively and lead fulfilling lives," said Ellis, who was the minister of public safety and emergency services when the writ was dropped.

"Early intervention can also reduce the risk of developing additional mental health and substance use disorders down the road that may lead to a life of crime or social disorder."

There was also a statement from Lethbridge UCP candidate Nathan Neudorf that his government would work to reduce crime and disorder, while supporting mental health and addiction. 

Saturday was also the final day of advance polls, which close around 8 p.m. 

More than 655,000 people had already voted this week as of noon local time Saturday. That's comparable to the 696,000 who voted early in the 2019 general election. 

Polls will be open Monday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2023. 

Colette Derworiz and Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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