By Nia Williams
(Reuters) - Canada's main oil-producing province Alberta will hold its election on May 29, a vote expected to be a tight race between Premier Danielle Smith's ruling United Conservative Party (UCP) and Rachel Notley's left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP).
Alberta's chief electoral officer Glen Resler said writs were issued on Monday to administer elections across the province.
Smith launched the UCP's election campaign at a news conference in Calgary, the province's corporate oil capital that is expected to be a key election battleground, with a promise to cut taxes for all Albertans.
"The choice in this election couldn't be clearer," Smith said. "It's a choice between a UCP government that will cut your taxes and make life more affordable or an NDP government that will make you pay more across the board."
Alberta is forecasting a C$2.4 billion ($1.77 billion) surplus this year due to robust oil prices, giving the government fiscal firepower to woo voters.
Notley also launched the NDP's campaign in Calgary and emphasized improving access to healthcare and investing in schools.
"Public healthcare is one of the greatest gifts we have ever given to each other as Albertans. It is the foundation of our community and we will protect it," Notley said.
After lagging in polls in 2022, the UCP has narrowed the gap with the NDP this year.
The vote will have huge bearing on Canada's climate goals of cutting emissions 40% to 45% from 2005 levels by 2030. A win for the UCP may force the federal government to make concessions on decarbonization policies including an oil and gas emissions cap and clean electricity regulations that have sparked resistance from the Alberta government.
Smith became premier last October with a leadership campaign that slammed the federal and provincial COVID-19 response as too stringent, championed Alberta's energy sector, and tapped into the province's long-standing federal overreach grievances by promising to stand up to Ottawa.
She has succeeded in consolidating right-wing support in the traditionally conservative province, but has also faced a series of controversies that analysts said may deter moderate voters.
($1 = 1.3533 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Bill Berkrot)