UCP launches 'Alberta Strong and Free' campaign ads

The United Conservative Party launched its first television ads of the 2019 provincial election campaign Monday, with a strong emphasis on female candidates and a slogan borrowed from the provincial motto, Alberta Strong and Free. 

The two 30-second television ads were launched on social media and will start appearing on television Monday. The first ad features testimonials from female UCP candidates Eva Kiryakos, who’s running in Calgary-South East and Tanya Fir, who’s carrying the party banner in Calgary-Peigan.

“Jason Kenney inspired me to join the United Conservative team,” Fir says in the ad. “He has a clear sense of direction that our province needs right now.”

One scene shows Kenney and former interim federal Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose talking and laughing with a group of women, including UCP president Erika Barootes and candidates who ran for nominations. 

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“Together, let’s renew the Alberta advantage and build an Alberta that’s strong and free,” a smiling Kenney says in the ad’s closing seconds.

The second ad titled “Taking Alberta Forward” features more female candidates. In addition to Kiryakos, who makes another appearance, the spot includes Caylan Ford from Calgary-Mountain View, Sonya Savage from Calgary-North West, Rajan Sawhney from Calgary-North East and Lily Le from Edmonton-Centre.

Kacyee Madu, a lawyer originally from Nigeria and the UCP candidate in Edmonton-South West, also appears.

Travis Toews, the candidate in Grande Prairie-Wapiti, is the only white male in the ad besides Kenney.

The message delivered by the candidates is that the party reflects the diversity of the province and, Toews says in one ad, is “compassionate to those who need our help.”

Jared Wesley, an associate professor of political science at the University of Alberta, studies branding in politics.

He says no other Alberta political party has ever used “strong and free” as a campaign slogan, even though the themes feature strongly in the province’s political culture.

‘Fairly safe choice’

“My own research we found that most successful premiers in Alberta history have played on that notion of Alberta being free — free from, in particular,  external influences coming from central Canada and in particular, the Liberal Party when they were in power in Ottawa,” Wesley says.

Wesley acknowledges some people may think the slogan is hokey, but that can be an advantage.

“There has to be a certain level of familiarity there that makes it hokey, and I think at this point it seems like a fairly safe choice by the Conservatives,” he says.

The UCP says the slogan was one of 20 considered by the party. “Strong and free” emerged as the overwhelming favourite after it was tested on focus groups.

The party launched the ads Monday. A party spokesman declined to say how much the UCP is spending but says the ad buy was “significant” and will target certain demographics in the province.

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