CHESTERMERE, Alta. - The race between the two conservative parties in the Alberta election campaign has been likened to a nasty right-wing divorce — the Wildrose splitting from its Progressive Conservative roots and both parties now fighting to claim custody of undecided voters.
And, if the polls are correct, there are a lot of voters to fight for.
Several surveys have the number of votes still up for grabs at 20 per cent — a number that hasn't budged much throughout the campaign.
Monday's election result could hinge on whether Danielle Smith's Wildrose party, made up largely of disgruntled Tories, can persuade the fence-sitters to give her the nod rather than Premier Alison Redford's Progressive Conservatives.
"It's a big decision we're asking people to make. Having voted for the same way for 41 years, we're now asking people to make a decision to move in a different direction with a new party," Smith said at an event Wednesday.
She said Albertans worried about a new approach only need to realize that her party espouses many of the same values as PC governments of the past.
"For most of our history we had good, clear, competent government and when we decide to change it's because we don't see those things reflected in government anymore and I think that's what people are asking," she said.
With the large pool of votes apparently still out there, the Conservatives put out a missive Wednesday that said the PCs were the first choice of undecided voters.
The issue of strategic voting has been raised in recent days — supporting one party to keep another from winning the election.
One venue is a new website titled "I Never Thought I'd Vote PC." The site depicts young people saying while they are no fans of the Tories, they will vote for them over concern about homophobic and racist comments made recently by two Wildrose candidates. One man on the site says he would rather have his face eaten by rodents than vote PC, but he's going to anyway.
But Redford said earlier in the week that she wasn't aware of any such movement by Liberal or NDP supporters to keep the Wildrose at bay.
"I think there's a lot of Albertans who are undecided and are starting to decide where to go. I know what I'm hearing from my candidates at the door is Albertans are very engaged," she said.
"I'm sure there are lots of people in this province who have different motivations for why they might do that."
Smith said strategic voting hasn't been a factor in the past.
"I don't know why it would be this time. Let's not forget what's happening here. We have a 41-year-old government that sees the end of its dynasty in sight. They are panicking and doing whatever they possibly can to scramble and get votes."
David Taras, a political science professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said the impact of having a high number of undecided voters is overblown.
"The number may be high but it's not as significant as you would expect," said Taras.
"Traditionally, voter turnout has been low in Alberta and when it comes to undecided voters only about one in five actually ends up voting.
"Most of them simply stay home."
But Taras notes that even a five per cent change in the polls could cause a shift in the outcome.