The UCP held a rally Thursday evening in Calgary as part of a last-ditch effort by leader Danielle Smith to excite the base before the final ballots are cast Monday.
Smith primarily focused her banter on addressing the UCP's plan to rectify the "social disorder" felt across the province, particularly the uptick in violent crime.
"Let me be clear, I will not stand by and allow our beautiful cities to turn into downtown Eastside Vancouver," Smith told nearly 2,000 energized supporters.
On April 5, Vancouver city staff and police cleared out the remnants of the East Hastings tent city after nine months of subpar progress using softer methods.
Fire crews and police concurred the "entrenched" camp contributed to more violent crime, fires, and dangerous situations the public could no longer tolerate. "We're not solving homelessness today. We're dealing with a serious public-safety issue," said city manager Paul Mochrie.
Smith told supporters the UCP has a "strong" and "stable" plan for public safety that Albertans can rely on to "make streets safer."
On May 9, the UCP announced their Safe Streets Action Plan while federal bail reform remained in the works. If re-elected, they would implement bracelet monitoring of dangerous offenders out on bail and deploy sheriffs to monitor them.
Criminal occurrences at LRT stations increased by 46% in Calgary between 2021 and 2022. From July 2022 to January 2023, Edmonton's LRT and transit centres reported 75% more violent incidents. According to a recent Leger poll, 68% of Albertans said crime is worse now than before the COVID pandemic.
"Albertans are no longer going to tolerate being harassed, frightened, or victimized," said UCP candidate Mile Ellis. "You have a right to live in your community, free of violence and social disorder. You have a right to take transit to school or work."
In Calgary, officer-generated calls for service to LRT stations increased to 4,305 in 2022, up 69% from 2021.
On March 28, Calgary police said two women were stabbed at the Lions Park LRT during an altercation with several people. They later charged a 31-year-old woman with aggravated assault and for failure to comply with a court order.
This prompted Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek to announce a doubling of security LRT stations to address localized safety concerns. "We cannot wait for the next tragedy to occur before something more is done," she said.
However, an April shooting in front of the downtown public library left one person in serious condition on a Calgary Transit bus. It spurred the first of many shootings in Calgary that month.
On the same day, one person died after being shot at the Kensington Safeway near the Sunnyside LRT station. Another person was injured in the altercation.
Though shootings fell 37% in Calgary compared to early 2022, the city observed several incidents involving firearms, some of which turned fatal.
When asked about her previous support to defund the police on April 4, Gondek disregarded the inquiry and walked away from the podium.
"Safety on public streets is never negotiable," said Smith at the same public safety press conference. Amid a growing crime in Calgary and Edmonton, the UCP pledged to hire 100 more police officers over the next 18 months to directly handle violent gun crime, drug overdoses and smuggling across the border.
The UCP partly attributes the growing uncertainty on public safety to drug addiction. "What does the NDP want to do?" Smith posed to the crowd. "They want something called safe supply."
"I don't know about you, but I have never heard of a safe supply of heroin, crystal meth, or fentanyl. There's no such thing, and that is not the path we United Conservatives will take," she said. "We need to help our addicts get off the street and into treatment."
Following a fatal shooting outside the Chinese consulate on April 12 and reports of another shooting at an N.W. suburb, anxieties intensified among residents. In Calgary, property crime occurrences nearly doubled from 238 in 2021 to 463 in 2022.
In downtown Edmonton, the average crime severity index rose from 90 to 116 from July to December 2022. Officials attribute this to increased severe criminal offences, including second-degree murder, assault causing bodily harm with a weapon, robbery and aggravated assault.
"This starts with the federal government reforming its broken catch-and-release bail system and includes us working with cities and police services to fight back against criminals," said Smith.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck in Edmonton after a mother and her 11-year-old daughter were fatally stabbed in May by a repeat violent offender out on bail, prompting a heightened sense of urgency to table bail reform.
On May 16, Ottawa tabled bail reform. It introduced reverse-onus bail conditions for people charged with serious violent offences involving a weapon and who previously received a conviction on similar violent crimes over the past five years.
Though prosecutors must still prove why offenders should stay behind bars, in some cases, repeat offenders must prove why they should receive bail.
Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro had been calling for Ottawa since March to pass promised amendments "immediately" to make it more challenging for repeat offenders to get bail. "Victims, law enforcement and all Albertans have been waiting far too long for this to happen," he said.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino commended the legislation for adding firearms offences to the reverse-onus bail conditions. He said it "zeroes in on offenders who use guns and other weapons."