PHOTOS: John G. Diefenbaker: What better way to illustrate a story about voter intentions? And we even managed to squeeze a reference to The Chief into the copy, even if it wasn’t about the same election. Below: Newly selected Wildrose 2.0 Leader Brian Jean with his old ’do, and his new one. You gotta give him this … great hair either way! Below him: Harold Wilson.
About the Mainstreet Technologies poll that was published today, the one that purports to show the Progressive Conservative Government led by Premier Jim Prentice and Wildrose 2.0 under just-chosen leader Brian Jean are tied neck and neck, and what’s more that Rachel Notley’s NDP have a crushing 35-per-cent lead in the Capital Region.
Should we take it seriously? Yes, but with a whole boatload of caveats.
Remember, Mainstreet is a relatively unknown polling company from Ontario, trying to make a name for itself out here in the West. It uses demon-dialler technology that is disparaged by many polling experts as unreliable, especially as a predictor of behaviour. The poll was done on a weekend, also not considered to be prime time for public opinion surveys.
Plus, of course, today’s numbers just don’t sound quite right, notwithstanding the enthusiastic echo chamber set off by results some Albertans would very much like to believe are true.
So, we should wait for additional polls to see if they say the same sort of thing before celebrating or jumping out a window, whichever our inclination happens to be. There are likely to be several more soon.
There will also be some polls that we don’t get to see too, done for well-financed political parties – and both the Prentice Tories and the Jean Wildrosies would fall into this category right now. But we’ll have a pretty good idea what the PCs’ opinion surveys are saying if Mr. Prentice calls an election on Tuesday, as expected, or if he doesn’t.
All this said, something is going on out there and it’s not necessarily good news for Mr. Prentice and Alberta’s purported “new management.”
No question a lot of Albertans are still disillusioned and upset by the cynical absorption of the Wildrose Legislative Caucus by the PCs back in December – as the bad political news received by former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith on Saturday, the same day Mr. Jean was chosen to lead the party, clearly showed.
Moreover, plenty of Albertans are upset at the government’s March 26 budget – though not necessarily all for the same reasons. Some are furious that there were any tax increases. Some that public employees didn’t take a big cut. Others are just as angry that the middle classes will have to bear the brunt of the burden while the ultra-rich and big business, especially the petroleum industry, get off scot free. Yet others are just sick and tired of the musty, moth-eaten Tories, now in their 44th year of power in Alberta.
These are real factors and, as imperfect as the Mainstreet Technologies poll may be, I expect it’s picking up on them.
Even if these results are only a rough approximation of Albertans’ real political preferences, we can expect the PCs to try for a repeat of the scare campaign that persuaded progressive voters to abandon their traditional parties and save then-leader Alison Redford’s bacon in April 2012.
Since we know almost nothing yet of what Mr. Jean thinks about a whole range of important issues, there my well be some as-yet-un-evolved social-conservative or neoliberal economic skeletons in his political closet the PCs can use to terrify the beejeepers out of us.
It already sounds as if he leans toward privatization of public health care. And as MP for Fort McMurray-Athabasca, for example, he voted in the House of Commons in 2012 for a failed motion supported by anti-abortion activists that would have encouraged legal rights for fetuses. He told a Fort Mac newspaper, though, that he only voted that way after a telephone poll of riding residents indicated the majority of constituents were unhappy with the current status of abortion in Canada.
So the same kind of thing that worked in 2012 could work for the PCs once again.
Progressive organizations also need to take care that they don’t end up doing things, as has happened in the past, that drive voters back into the arms of the PCs – especially if it’s true that the NDP actually have a chance to capture significant numbers of seats in the Edmonton region and run an opposition that actually opposes the government’s worst inclinations, something the Wildrose Party never did and never would.
The Tories, as unassailable as they seem, need to keep in mind that they can’t go on dodging the electoral bullet forever, even here in inattentive Alberta.
Remember, on this day in 1958, outsider Conservative John G. Diefenbaker won a massive 208-seat majority, leaving the Liberals under Louis St. Laurent, arguably Canada’s natural governing party, with only 49 seats in Parliament.
And also on this day in 1966, Labour’s Harold Wilson swept to victory in the House of Commons at Westminster, brushing aside the then naturally governing British Conservatives led by Edward Heath.
Significance for Alberta? Probably very little. Just saying.
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.
CORRECTION: The pollsters trade organization, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says margins of error should not be provided for surveys using self-selecting on line panels, and not, as was reported here in an earlier version of this story, for polls using demon-dialler technology. AlbertaPolitics.ca regrets the error.