PHOTOS: No love lost for pipelines in B.C. – and all of a sudden that could have an impact on politics in Alberta ( photo). Below: Mainstreet research President Quito Maggi, B.C. Liberal Premier Christy Clark and Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley.

Two polls were published this week by Mainstreet Research – one on the state of Alberta politics, the other about British Columbia, where an election is scheduled to take place on May 9 – and both could have significant implications for Alberta’s New Democratic Party Government.

On the face of it, Mainstreet’s Alberta data looks bleak for the NDP and Premier Rachel Notley – insofar as it shows the Wildrose Party in the lead among decided and leaning voters province-wide with 38 per cent of the decided vote, trailed by the Progressive Conservative Party with 29 per cent and then the NDP with 23 per cent. The Alberta Liberals and Alberta Party registered, but barely, at 5 per cent each.

A superficial assessment of the numbers certainly goes strongly to the narrative of the unite-the-right crowd behind former federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney’s bid to lead the PCs, then roll them up and merge them with the Wildrose, that an election with a united party would be a slam dunk for the right. That’s certainly how mainstream media played the results, and will continue to play them.

But as Mainstream President Quito Maggi conceded, if you consider the province’s evolving electoral map, things may not be so simple. “It would be difficult to anticipate exactly what kind of government would form with these results without knowing the new riding configurations that are expected as a result of redistribution,” he observed in the commentary accompanying the poll’s results.

The demon-dialler telephone survey of 2,589 Albertans on Feb. 9 and 10 indicates support for Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP is very strong in Edmonton – 43 per cent – and that’s unlikely to change if Mr. Kenney keeps making noises on social media suggesting he supports massive cuts to the provincial budget. In Calgary, the PCs lead at 38 per cent with the NDP second. In rural areas, the Wildrose dominates. And we do have a first-past-the-post electoral system here in Alberta.

“The poll results support my argument that rural-based Wildrose has limited appeal big urban cities like Calgary, where the PCs still hold a considerable amount of support,” political blogger Dave Cournoyer remarked yesterday. “As provincial electoral districts are redrawn to reflect population growth in urban areas, the Wildrose might need the PC merger more than PCs need Wildrose.”

Cournoyer noted on his blog that if it’s true the NDP has managed to hang onto 26-per-cent support in Calgary, that “leaves room for very guarded optimism for the governing party.” Especially if the economy continues to pick up.

I agree, although I would suggest that for the NDP to succeed, the party’s strategists would need to run a “Christy Clark campaign” that goes into the corners with elbows up and fully exploits the manifest weaknesses of Alberta’s right-wing parties, even if that seems unrefined. The right will certainly be playing the same kind of game.

Speaking of B.C. Premier Christy Clark, Alberta’s New Democrats would be just as happy with a victory in B.C. by Ms. Clark’s cautiously pro-pipeline Liberals as with the much more skeptical B.C. NDP.

But Mainstreet’s B.C. poll, released the same day as its Alberta results, suggests the universe may not be unfolding as the Alberta NDP would prefer on the British Columbia front. Indeed, according to Mainstreet, the results the company got from its 2,188 respondents on Feb. 18 and 19 indicate “deadlock and uncertainty” in Canada’s westernmost province, which is now entering the pre-election hot zone.

OK, it too was a robo-call poll, and on a weekend to boot, but the results are still interesting, indicating that, province-wide, B.C.’s Liberals are in a dead heat with the B.C. NDP – 37 per cent to 37 per cent.

The shocker, though, was how well the B.C. Greens appeared to be doing – 17 per cent province-wide, but 22 per cent on Vancouver Island, traditionally NDP territory, and in rural areas.

So not only does this suggest “an incredibly close race,” as Mr. Maggi put it, but it would be a tight race with characteristics that are bound to push the already skeptical NDP toward a harder anti-pipeline position that is not likely to do much to help Alberta New Democrats.

At the least, if such support for the Greens holds in future polls, it is bound to encourage the B.C. NDP to move toward the green side of the political spectrum.

Moreover, I suppose you can’t rule out the possibility of a post-election NDP-Green coalition in the Legislature, which is probably the worst possible outcome from the Alberta NDP’s perspective, or even a Green government.

On the other hand, these results leave the door open to a split vote between New Democrats and Greens, which could translate into a reprieve for the long-ruling Liberals.

Count on it regardless that all parties in Alberta, for once, will be watching the results next door on May 9 with intense interest.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau yesterday called by-elections in five federal electoral districts – including former PM Stephen Harper’s Calgary Heritage riding and Mr. Kenney’s former Calgary Midnapore riding. The other three are in Ontario.

Calgary Heritage and Calgary Midnapore are about the safest Conservative seats in Canada, and if that pattern holds true it will support the narrative just the same that Alberta is a conservative place bound to return to political equilibrium soon.

If something unexpected were to happen – say, a Liberal victory in one of those two places – it would certainly give the blogosphere and professional political spinners something to make a yarn out of!

It’s a lovely thought. But don’t hold your breath.

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  1. This Mainstreet Alberta poll also points out that 64% of Albertan’s still don’t like the Climate Leadership plan. This is after Albertan’s received their rebates in the mail. And after the NDP spent 9 million dollars advertising it. As for me I started watching all American TV channels just to avoid the adds.

    Calgary is no doubt the most important battle ground in the next election and if we have a jobless recovery as some are predicting the NDP will be in trouble.

  2. One of the more important observations about these polls is that this is a first past the post system. Therefore, in BC the third place Greens will likely not win many seats unless they can improve their percentage of the vote. Right now, where they are at, they can take votes away from both the NDP and the Liberals and possibly cause some shifts in the other two parties positions to respond. The party that wins in BC may be the one that loses the least votes to the Greens.

    In Alberta, each of the three parties seems to dominate in a different region, with a different second place and third place in each. This seems like a deadlock, unless the percentages change. The Wildrose current percentage lead is fairly meaningless because of wasted rural votes that do not translate into more seats. They still seem to have great trouble cracking urban Alberta which is the bastion of the NDP and the PC’s.

    I think how the Alberta economy performs will be the biggest factor to change the percentages over the next few years, with how well (or if) the unite the right plan progresses being another important factor. There is an urban/rural divide as well as a split on the right. The latter may be resolved, but the former may remain a challenge for all parties. Even a united right party may not be able to bridge that divide well.

  3. “Alberta’s New Democrats would be just as happy with a victory in B.C. by Ms. Clark’s cautiously pro-pipeline Liberals as with the much more skeptical B.C. NDP.”

    Geez, where to start with this?

    So, in a doomed attempt to repeat a once-in-a-millennium fluke, Alberta’s NDP might hope for a bad outcome for their comrades in a neighbouring province where the party has historically been much stronger? In the bigger national picture, the party’s future would be much better served if Alberta New Democrat supporters just accepted the inevitable, rather than damaging the party’s reputation any further by their de facto energy alliance with Trump, Trudeau and the Kochs. Sure, they got lucky when the stars aligned in 2015, but reversion to historical ideological norms in the province is well underway. They need to figure out, as I did when I left in 1980, that the social and political culture of Alberta makes it silly to devote much serious effort there – it’s way more sensible to move to a province where the long-term odds are better. If 50,000 additional New Democrats were strategically distributed around swing seats in Kamloops, Prince George, and parts of the Lower Mainland, that’s all that it would take.

    1. Yup. God Almighty declared that Alberta was forever to be governed by Conservative Party’s so would actually be some kind of sin for the NDP to campaign or strategise effectively for their reelection. Better to slit their own throats, and watch the BC NDP go down in flames again anyway. Because when exactly has the NDP in BC been “stronger”? Not in getting on for two generations. I can’t quite tell if you’re more a concern troll or a purity pony….either way, try winning a god damn election in BC rather campaigning for the WRP in Alberta.

  4. So I wonder if someone could once and for all explain to me the co-relationship between the oil price and a pipeline. If this does exist could we then not have an adult discussion about our addiction to oil sands – just wondering.

    1. An adult discussion about our addiction to oil sands? You do know you are talking about Alberta where the oil sands are seen as being mana from heaven or the most noxious substance on earth and there is no middle ground? I suspect any adult discussion will be a long time coming. But seriously, I do agree that we need to be more rational in our discussions and thinking about the oil sands and the NDP seem to be the closest to that middle ground.

      1. The term “adult” in hindsight is but an overused platitude. However the boom in Alberta existed because the oil prices were high regardless of pipelines.

        So if the pipelines do not address the price issue – what is the point. Carbon tax unless spent to support carbon reduction ( amounts to nothing. In this instance $36 million seems to be rather insignificant – as I am sure the government generates more than that in revenue.

        So once again the NDP government encountered a fork in the road and took it (and I voted for them and not against the PC).

        As for the middle ground – after the bust in 2008 two choices were available the middle ground or perhaps a more “radical” FDR approach. How did that work out for Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton?

        But oh well – lives go on :).

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