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Alberta’s Far-right planning voter intimidation

James Summerfeldt-Parker

May 28, 2023
Alberta's far-right plans to follow a long tradition of voter intimidation in the upcoming provincial election. This tactic has been used by for decades but has been growing in popularity since the United States’ 2020 presidential election.
While Danielle Smith, the Alberta conservative party leader, fights the NDPs Rachel Notley’s through debates, her supporters have taken a more direct approach. 
Smith's conservative supporters, including leaders of the group “Take Back Alberta”, recently hosted a series of zoom meetings instructing others on how to infiltrate the election’s polling locations, such as fulfilling the role of scrutineers.  
Scrutineers or thugs?
Scrutineers are responsible for attending polling stations as individuals or on behalf of a party, to monitor the counting and process to ensure no corruption or mistakes. However, the organizers of these zoom meetings have different ideas about what their scrutineers should do. 
Benita Pedersen, the Edmonton regional leader of Take back Alberta and one of the organizers of this event, recently posted a video to her facebook page that suggests that serving “serving as a scrutineer is a bit like serving as security at an event”, and the presence of this “security” will “prevent people from misbehaving”.
Large scale voter fraud is non-existent in Canada yet the organizers of the webinar have claimed possible acts of people “misbehaving” to be acts of voter fraud. The real intention is to intimidate votes. This tactic is a direct attack on the ability of workers to represent their interests, and once again shows how the far-right of Canada is growing. 
In addition to scrutineering, Benita Pedersen has supported other ways that conservative supporters can affect polling locations. Recently, she broadcasted to supporters that Elections Alberta is hiring, and gave information on where they could apply. It is curious why a political group would need their supporters to run an election unless to directly influence the outcome of that election, while still maintaining they are protecting the election from interference. Benita Pedersen has also gone further than just elections, claiming in a video posted to her social media on behalf of Take back Alberta that to bring “positive change” Alberta’s far-right needs to get more involved in institutions, including in school boards. 
Other far-right Albertans have considered violence depending on the outcome of the election. One wrote “[if], for some reason, they claim that Notley won the election, Alberta will be in a civil war.” The writer then went on to claim the far-right will hunt down NDP supporters, “and hold them accountable.” This type of dangerous language is growing in prominent conservative circles, fueled by politicians looking to mimic some American politicians rising war on “wokism”, that is a war on all marginalized communities rights. This a declaration of war on LGBTQIA+ community and we have seen the result with a rise in hate crimes against LGBTQIA+ people. 
Alberta Conservatives
Benita Pedersen gained attention during covid for organizing multiple anti-lockdown protests including the “enough is enough” rallies, and attending the “freedom convoy”. 
The group Take Back Alberta, which Pedersen is a member of, claims the webinar is not affiliated with them, however Take Back Alberta’s website states that the purpose of their group is preventing the NDP’s “destructive socialist agenda”, and according to Pedersen “changing the governing party of Alberta from within”. The group has hosted prominent far-right speakers, such as anti-trans and anti ”woke” celebrity Jordan Peterson.
All of these suggestions of violence and voter intimidation are not only dangerous in the present they are pulled right out of the fascist playbook. This tactic has been used by fascists for decades - from the Nazis in 1933 to Mussolini’s blackshirts. We are not in the same situation in Alberta today but there growing far-right are looking to these historical precedents for guidance and that alarming. 
Smith and the United Conservative Party(UCP), the current provincial government of Alberta, have frequently attacked both education and social services in Alberta, in addition to the environment during one of Alberta’s worst wildfire seasons to date. While superior to the UCP, the Alberta NDP itself has proven itself to be losing touch with Canadian workers, instead supporting the oil industry and corporations, choosing to model the conservatives’ policies. However, even with their policy that leaves much to be desired, mass voter turnout for the ANDP is still necessary for fighting the conservatives' attacks on public services and the environment, in addition to the far-right's attacks on workers. 
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