Coffee and doughnuts fuelling Alberta campaign trail

Edmonton — The Globe and Mail

Greg Podulsky, driver, cleans and checks Alberta premier Alison Redford's campaign bus in Edmonton, Alberta on March 25, 2012. (Ian Jackson for The Globe and Mail/Ian Jackson for The Globe and Mail)

Danielle Smith and Alison Redford are at the centre of Alberta’s election campaign – but Rocky isn’t too far behind.

Rocky’s Bakery in Strathmore has become a staple of the campaign trail in southern Alberta, hosting Ms. Smith once and Ms. Redford twice so far in a campaign that’s 11 days old.

“Making a quick stop in Strathmore at Rocky’s Bakery on the way to Drumheller!” Ms. Redford Tweeted Thursday. “Went there on Monday with Arno and had to go back!”

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Arno Doerksen is the local PC incumbent, and had joined Ms. Redford for a healthcare announcement at the bakery, which is next-door to the Wildrose campaign office in Strathmore, a burgeoning town of 12,000 just east of Calgary.

Ms. Smith had gone with Wildrose candidate Jason Hale on the campaign’s second day, with staff posting photos online of Ms. Smith greeting customers.

“It’s been fun, that’s for sure,” said Kristina Watson, whose parents opened the bakery 12 years ago. Both party leaders ordered coffee, and Ms. Redford’s campaign team picked up cinnamon buns and doughnuts on its most recent – unscheduled – trip Thursday.

“I was quite surprised – ‘Hey, Alison’s bus is out front. Oh hey, there’s Alison. Oh they’re all coming in. OK,’“ Ms. Watson said Thursday, saying both party leaders were “very pleasant.”

Rocky’s is known for its cinnamon buns, apple fritters and coffee, and is something of a local staple – campaigns typically stop at whatever iconic restaurant or cafe they can find. Its owner, Rocky Blokland, also sits on the town council in a hotly contested provincial race – but the politicos insist it’s just about the coffee.

The owners don’t recall so much fuss in the 2008 campaign, when Wildrose was fledgling and couldn’t pose much of a threat to Tory incumbents in rural and small-town areas like this.

It’s a different race this time – but the leaders didn’t take any low blows during their visit.

“One wasn’t bashing the other one or anything like that,” Ms. Watson says. “That’s what we want. Keep it civil, you know?”