CALGARY, AB: Alberta’s political landscape may be shifting from the two-party system that saw only UCP and NDP MLAs elected to the legislature in the 2019 provincial election.
An exclusive Mainstreet Research Poll commissioned by the Western Standard found the NDP lead the pack with 35% among decided and leaning voters. The UCP are in second with 28%, and the Wildrose Independence Party has pushed itself into a competitive third place at 16%.
Another 7% of voters were undecided; with 5% for the Alberta Party, 3% for the Liberals, 2% for the Greens, and 3% for “other.”
The poll was conducted between May 19-20, 2021 with a scientifically weighted sample size of 1,010 adults living in Alberta. Respondents were interviewed on landlines and cell phones and the results have a margin of error of +/- 3% with a confidence level of 95%.
Mainstreet Research President Quito Maggi says that Alberta’s political environment is quickly becoming a three-party system as the unpopularity of Premier Jason Kenney weighs heavily on UCP support.
“My advice federally to Conservatives is to not be within a mile of Jason Kenney right now. His performance on the pandemic – on both ends of the spectrum – is putting a taint on all Conservatives. This is causing an uptick in Maverick Party support, and Wildrose support.
“Being a three-way race [outside the two big cities], you’re talking three seats for Wildrose Independence, minimum. I’m sure some of the modellers are going to look at these numbers and release seat projections. The more important number is those in Calgary and Edmonton, because they come one-for-one from UCP support.”
The UCP, NDP and Wildrose are locked in a tight three-way race outside of the two big cities, at 31.7%, 23.0%, and 23.1% respectively.
“The most surprising number provincially is the Wildrose Independence support in both Edmonton and Calgary being in the double digits”, said Maggi.
The NDP hold a slight edge in Calgary at 36.6%, followed closely by the UCP at 32.6%, and the Wildrose at 10%.
In Edmonton, the NDP have a commanding lead at 49.1%, far ahead of the UCP at 19.4%, and the Wildrose at 12.3%.
While the NDP leads province-wide, the numbers don’t necessarily point to an NDP majority government.
“The only path to a majority (NDP leader) Rachel Notley has is a sweep of Edmonton, a sweep of Calgary, and a handful of rural seats.”
Asked what’s driving the shift in party support, Maggi pointed primarily to Kenney’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s the performance of the UCP on the pandemic. When very few strongly approve of Kenney’s handling of the pandemic, and a huge number strongly disapprove. There’s your answer right there.”
The Western Standard will release more polling data on the COVID-19 pandemic in the coming days.
“It’s a near-impossible task for Jason Kenney in terms of how he handles the pandemic,” continued Maggi. “When we look at why people don’t approve of how he’s handling [COVID-19], you have a mix of people on the left who say he’s not strict enough, and people on the right who say the lockdown must end. That’s what’s driving that vote.”
Just 48% of those who voted UCP in 2019 say they intend to do so again. The NDP has held 86.9% of its 2019 support, and picked up 12.3% of those who voted UCP, and 31.3% of those who voted Alberta Party.
The Wildrose has consolidated much of the support from the smaller rightist/sovereigntist parties in 2019, and picked up 23.7% of those who voted UCP, and 23.1% of those who voted Alberta Party. The Alberta Party has retained just 35.2% of those who voted for them in 2019.
Maggi was not optimistic when asked if Kenney can reclaim most of the wayward Wildrose voters.
“It’s hard to say right now. I’d have to see what things look like in a year. But when you look at how many want Kenney to step down as premier, including those who voted UCP, it didn’t all go to the Wildrose, but some has gone to the NDP.
“Once a vote intention changes like that, it tends to be sticky. It’s hard to win it back. When a party is losing moderates to the NDP, and conservatives to the Wildrose, it’s hard to imagine coming out of that nosedive. It’s a pretty daunting task.”
Maggi says that the news could get worse for Kenney once Wildrose elected a permanent leader and develops a personal brand, “but it depends on who that leader is.”
The Wildrose Independence Party is currently holding a leadership race with the only declared candidate so far Paul Hinman, the founding leader of the original Wildrose Alliance Party. As the only candidate in the race, he will face an up-or-down vote by party members on August 28.
Growing tension in the UCP bubbled to the surface when 17 UCP MLAs signed an open letter condemning Kenney for putting Alberta back under a third lockdown. Kenney’s dismissal of the letter led to a series of leaks from the UCP caucus, with several MLAs telling the Western Standard the premier threatened them with an early election if they did not have confidence in his leadership.
Soon after the rogue rodeo in Bowden, Alta. to protest the third lockdown, UCP MLAs told the Western Standard Kenney said in reference to the attendees, ““If they are our base, I want a new base.”
Kenney denied the story as “fake news” and said that the comments were only referring to people making death threats against him, but UCP MLAs told the Western Standard Kenney was “lying.”
Last week Kenney moved to expel two rebel MLAs from the UCP Caucus after Todd Loewen published a letter calling for the premier’s resignation.
The move comes as the caucus and party has been wracked by internal infighting over issues of Kenney’s “Fair Deal Panel,” and most significantly the government’s reaction to COVID-19.
Western Standard Staff