PHOTOS: Cool, man, it’s the Summer of Love! Alberta’s conservatives, grooving to the beat of the Jason Kenney Experience, say: Tune in, turn on, and (if you’re a progressive voter) drop out! (Photo found on the Internet; source not indicated.) Below: Pollster Quito Maggi, United Conservative Party leadership hopeful Jason Kenney, and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, a New Democrat.

A new poll that shows the United Conservative Party dramatically leading the Alberta NDP is doubtless cause for serious concern for Premier Rachel Notley’s Government. It should be.

But is it the end of the world for the NDP? Hardly.

The survey of 2,100 voting-age Albertans on July 27 and 28 by Mainstreet Research shows the United Conservative Party with a decisive, apparently overwhelming province-wide lead among committed voters – 57 per cent.

As a result, Quito Maggi, president of the Toronto-based polling company, called this “the Summer of Love” for the UCP – which is a groovy line, even though the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties’ members had only voted to merge five days before the pollster started telephoning potential voters.

We’ll see if the love lingers as Albertans get to know the new party, or if familiarity breeds contempt.

But for now, the poll placed the NDP up five points at 29 per cent, and the Alberta Party – which these days is doing its best to imitate the now defunct Progressive Conservatives – at 9 per cent province-wide. The Alberta Liberals, an engaging new leader in Calgary lawyer David Khan notwithstanding, have dipped below the radar.

Significantly, undecided numbers are very high – 27 per cent province-wide.

So if these numbers hold for a couple more years, yes, the results of a general election would resemble an Alberta conservative election sweep of old, something that could very well happen. So if you’re a progressive voter, the UCP will do its best to persuade you that outcome is inevitable … and suggest you might as well just tune in, turn on and drop out.

However, at the risk of facing accusations of being a Pollyanna in orange-tinted granny glasses, it doesn’t have to be that way.

For one thing, the poll’s regional breakdown, if it holds, supports the conventional wisdom the battleground in the next election will be Calgary.

The traditionally conservative rural vote is almost certainly lost to the NDP, and Premier Notley’s New Democrats will be lucky if they salvage three or four rural seats. The obvious conclusion from this is that the NDP shouldn’t waste too much time or policy effort trying to shore it up.

But even mainstream media and its favoured analysts concede the Mainstreet poll suggests the Edmonton area remains committed NDP territory, with Ms. Notley’s party holding close to half the predicted vote in the region.

So just as we thought all along, the battleground will almost certainly be Calgary where, it could be argued, the NDP is doing surprisingly well given the narrative we’ve all been fed for months by the media and the pre-UCP conservative parties, not to mention the economic difficulties of the past year.

With the NDP sitting at 32 per cent in Calgary, it has improved its support significantly after being unable to move the dial for months. The reason may well be the improvement already seen in the region’s economy, which shows signs of perking up further.

What’s more, at 14 per cent in Calgary, the Alberta Party, which calls itself progressive but advocates economic policies nearly identical to the pre-merger UCP, presents a significant and potentially soft target for the NDP in Cowtown.

Does that make winning Calgary easy for the NDP? Obviously not. But if the planets align, as they have before – you know, if the moon is in the seventh house – it may make it possible. So this may not be the beginning of the Age of Aquarius, but it’s worth the effort anyway.

A headline in the Calgary Herald expressed wonderment that the UCP is attracting this kind of support when it doesn’t even have a leader yet. The real story is the opposite. The UCP will never be stronger than it is without a leader – especially if the leader turns out to be someone difficult to love like Jason Kenney, late of the PC Party and before that Stephen Harper’s Conservative cabinet in Ottawa.

In the unlikely event the rather more likeable Brian Jean, the former Wildrose leader, emerges as the winner, he will hardly look like a bright light compared to Premier Notley as the election expected in 2019 nears.

So is this the beginning of the end for the NDP or the high tide of movement conservatism in Alberta?

Too soon to tell.

One thing’s for sure, Wildrose 2.0 won’t threaten UCP hopes

Meanwhile, while the NDP should probably put some serious effort into discrediting the Alberta Party, which under Leader Greg Clark has drifted toward being just a conservative party with a human face, it needn’t bother wasting energy on the Wildrose 2.0 being touted by journalists in search of a new conservative horserace.

A Postmedia reporter squeezed a good yarn out of a meeting last weekend in an Edmonton-area industrial park by 50 or so disgruntled Wildrosers, unhappy with their party’s recent UCP shotgun wedding to the Progressive Conservatives. They dream of cooking up a new version of the Wildrose Party.

Alas for those of us who enjoy a good scrap on the right, numbers like the ones in the Mainstreet poll suggest there won’t be much appetite in conservative circles for this kind of scheming, at least until after the next general election, which is expected in 2019.

Kenney sucks and blows at same time on GSA outings

Finally, speaking as we were of Mr. Kenney, he may be pitching woo to Alberta’s social conservatives, but he’s also trying to give the impression to the rest of us he’s moving away from his past calls to out students who join gay-straight alliances in their schools

Calgary journalist Lucas Meyer yesterday Tweeted a link to a transcript of remarks by Mr. Kenney, in which the aspiring UCP leader seemed to be trying to suck and blow at the same time on the issue.

Claiming to have “no intention” of repealing the GSA law – which, after all, was a PC bill, so there’s no need to turn off the Legislative air conditioning – Mr. Kenney went on: “But I can see circumstances where it’s totally inappropriate for parents to be informed and circumstances where it’s entirely appropriate for them to help their kids if they’re going through a challenging time.”

Well, gee, that sounds reasonable, never mind that in most cases there’s no way for the “highly trained teachers, school counsellors and principals” who will wear the blame if something goes horribly wrong to tell which parents will react well, and which not so well, to the challenge of an institutional outing.

“This is not an issue that should be hyper-politicized,” scolded Mr. Kenney, who has done his best for weeks to hyper-politicize it.

Which is why, as low in the polls the NDP may seem just now, relatively speaking, Mr. Kenney may turn out to be Rachel Notley’s most formidable advantage.

Join the Conversation


  1. The public opinion poll is just one of three pieces of bad news for the Notley government this week. Last Friday the NDP’s latest modification to the beer tax system in Alberta was found to violate inter-provincial trade rules and was given 6 months to change it. I am sure the NDP will ignore this or make a third attempt at change but the most important point is that Alberta is now the second most expensive jurisdiction in Canada to buy beer! Some friends just left for their usual 2 week holiday in BC. They used to buy all their refreshments in Alberta and take with them because they saved money, now it is cheaper to buy it all in BC. The other piece of bad news is I see Enmax has launched a new legal action against the Alberta government over political interference in the electricity balancing pool. The cost to Albertan’s of the NDP’s handling of the electricity file is just beginning. Dave, your hope that the NDP will maintain 3-4 seats outside Edmonton and Calgary is somewhat optimistic imo with the UCP polling at 68% in the rural areas if my memory is correct. One more thing, I think the Alberta Parties economic policies only mirror the UCP to the extent that they realize we can’t keep piling on debt every year at near record levels, something the NDP wants to keep on doing and just like Justin Trudeau seem to think the budget will just balance itself! Have a good day:-)

    1. Why do so many obvious Conservatives like “Farmer B” conveniently forget the $165 billion that The Harper Government™ added to our accumulated debt?

      Curious in Calgary

  2. Without questioning the validity of the poll itself (Postmedia/Mainstreet Research polls generally leave me a doubting Thomas), one has to wonder how many bozo-eruptions will befall the new party once liftoff is finally achieved with a new leader in place.

    If Kenney becomes the new leader he will likely employ a Harper-like approach to muzzling party MLAs known to misspeak, but with the likes of Derek Fildebrandt and Rich Strankman in tow, keeping them and other flamboyant MLAs in check would be like herding cats.

    Add to the equation the fact that party policy will have to be spelled out prior to an election; Albertans will likely be left with clear delineated lines on party platforms, allowing them to make informed choices. Taking away NDP-gifted entitlements and enacted prescient legislation would present a monumental problem for this nascent political Postmedia-anointed juggernaut.

    Say what you will, but two years is a hell of a long time in politics for the UCP and its supporters to now be juking on the 50 yard line with visions of political power dancing in their heads. Just don’t bet against Rachel Notley and crew showing up for the dance.

    1. bury your head in the sand won’t help.
      Ms. Notley and (particularly!) her team can walk swinging but this couldn’t change anything.
      i do not expect from UCP anything beneficial to albertans other than few cosmetic touch up over old PC policy but NDP, winning in 2015 lottery, in fact screwed up this prize, did have frustrated voters and one, to blame itself for this.
      b.t.w. by the latest poll Ms. Notley popularity as premier is a second from the bottom of the list, after Ms. Wynne. two years not really enough to to correct all mistakes was done and to earns trust and respect.

      1. Val, ease back on your medication.

        WTF does, “…her team can walk swinging…” even mean? Maybe that makes sense to the voices in your head, but the rest of us literates types need more to go on to understand what you are attempting to convey.

        Next time, why don’t you have your mom check over your comments before you hit post reply?

  3. Now Kenney is saying he doesn’t want to talk about policy. So I guess we’re left with his one policy statement to date: He wants to see an end to “politically correct themes like oppression and colonialism and climate change.” Does that make him a climate change denier, or a dog whistler?

    1. No reason he can’t be both I suppose and perhaps a juggler too. His policy light or free campaign might have been considered innovative a few years ago, now its just copied from the Trump playbook. As a career politician, I think he will have more trouble portraying himself as an outsider though. What is it with those conservative candidates with no real world experience outside of politics that rail against government, when all they have really done in their life is work in government?

      1. Kenney is just another in a long line of hypocritical “do as I say, not as I do” type that’s so typical of the career politicians/academic preaching the gospel of free enterprise and tea-partyesque conservatism all the while pigging out at the public trough for decades.

        My short list begins with:
        ‘Parson’ Manning
        Tom Flanagan
        Ted Morton
        Rainer Knopff
        Stephen Harper
        John Baird
        Peter MacKay
        Stockwell Day
        Jim Flaherty
        Tony Clement
        Jason Kenney
        Pierre Poilievre
        Rob Anders
        and on and on and on …

        (You made me reach into my archives for this)

    2. There is lots that Jason Kenney doesn’t want to talk about or with. They man who wants to lead Alberta and has made various pronouncements about listening to Albertans has blocked me from commenting on his Facebook page. So I guess the purging of alternate viewpoints has already begun.

  4. At a future UCP leadership debate a duet will be sung. The Pillsbury Doughboy and Red Haired Sideshow Bob will exercise their vocal chords to the tune of the one note “I Can Play Dominoes Better Than You Can.”

    PD: I can out gay students to their parents faster than you can.
    SB: Really? I can fire teachers and nurses quicker than you can.
    PD: Think so? I can roll back civil servants wages easier than you can.
    SB: Oh yeah? I can make oil prices go higher than you can.
    PD: Up yours. I can be nastier to Rachel Notley than you can.
    And on and on.

    Mike Myers’ new Gong Show has nothing on this embarrassment to come. You Albertans are in for a ton o’ fun.

    1. It happened in the last provincial election in Ontario. The PCs were headed for victory and then Tim Hudak got the bright idea that his main policy talking point was that his government would fire 10 000 public servants. Naturally, this not only made public servants nervous, but the myriad businesses who depend on their patronage. We all know what happened after that. Point is that red meat policy to the conservative base will not endear an electorate used to, realistically, a generation of social democratic social and economic policy, varying in degree between Lougheed conservatives and the Notley NDP on the one hand, to most other PC premiers (save Ralph and Alison) on the other.

  5. If a week is a long time in politics, then two years until the next election is an eternity. In addition, both the 2015 provincial election, and the October 2015 federal election, were clear evidence that campaigns matter. The current NDP government may be behind in the polls now, but those polls have little predictive value to what might happen in 2019. For example, the new UCP might come out with a platform that is so extreme, it has little appeal outside of a rabid base; or, the economy might pick up even more and voters (with their famously short memories) might give the NDP another mandate; or those famous pipelines might actually get built, or at least construction might begin and show some progress, stealing the thunder from the conservative side of the debate. It’s far too soon to count Rachel Notley, Sarah Hoffman, et al out.

  6. I suppose the poll has a bit of good news for almost everyone, except perhaps the Alberta Liberals who don’t seem to have attracted much if any of the PC diaspora support so far. Of course, to their consolation (and also for everyone else) there is a very high undecided number right now, which is not surprising given things are still in flux.

    Of course, the poll numbers are probably not that meaningful given the next election is still a while away and as pointed out the UCP party (I still can’t believe they picked that name and seem to be sticking with it) doesn’t actually have a leader yet. Thus those people that like any of the leadership candidates can support it with some enthusiasm. After the leadership, there will be supporters of two or three candidates that will be disappointed. I can see some of those supporters either running off to other parties or perhaps starting their own.

    I agree it is probably fairly good news for the NDP – their numbers are up and they are within striking distance in Calgary. However, I wouldn’t write off any part of the province, even “rural” Alberta – given the high level of undecideds and the still to be resolved UCP leadership. In particular, cities other than the big two (Red Deer, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat …) could play a key role in the next election and be more competitive than it appears when they are lumped in with small towns and the more rural areas.

    It will be interesting to see the trend in future polls, in particular how the large undecided vote starts to move. I have a feeling there are a lot of former PC’s in that category if the UCP picks a more right wing social conservative leader it will be unlikely the undecideds will move towards them. A leadership contest where the candidates play to the base or the right wing, will not be helpful to get support from the undecideds.

  7. While it may be all peace, love and drugs for the UCP and its followers this summer, I can assure you the NDP is already hard at work on an action plan.

    Sources tell me the NDP have orgaized a series of secret training camps, preparing an army of young cadres to serve as the party’s ideological enforcers in the forthcoming “cultural revolution,” aimed at purging all traces of free market thought and other social impurities.

    Sources tell me it closely resembles China’s Cultural evolution

  8. As much as I would like to make fun of Jason Kenney or Brian Jean or even Derek Fillmycuprunnethover, I just can’t! They are all great Canadians dedicated to serving a great cause for great reasons in troubling times! So for them, I post this, a most great troubling testament to their great sacrifice!

  9. What Albertans want is a market fundamentalist approach that puts conservative ideology first and takes on the overpaid union workers. Derek Fildebrandt is the only one offering this and will become our next premier because of his unwavering principled approach.

    1. Because nothing says “principled” like outing gay high school students.

      The circle that the PCs squared for 40 years was the utter incompatibility of “market fundamentalism” and “social conservative ideology”.

      Maybe the You See Pee party can manage this trick again. It’s possible that 60% of Albertan’s really are just that stupid and vicious. We’ll find out soon enough if the special sauce of union bashing improves the flavour of the sandwiches of dung that Mom stuffed into your lunch pail.

      Because union bashing is the give-away. Look behind every market fundy, bible pounding sleaze bag and you’ll find a bunch of corrupt bosses who count every nickel of wages as a personal insult.

    2. Horace, what a lot of the Albertans you describe don’t realize is that they also benefit from the existence of ‘overpaid’ union workers. Yes, they don’t want to pay their own workers union wages, but they sure appreciate a well off middle class population that can buy the products they sell. Many people who condemn unions also don’t realize that to some extent their own salary level is influenced by what a similar unionized worker is paid.

      As I understand pure conservative ideology, it encourages the big Walmarts to eat the little guys. This in turn leads to a huge, impoverished population (since their is no minimum wage) and a small very well off population. We already had that; it was called the middle ages.

      When I was growing up my tradesman father had to work on Saturday mornings, while my civil servant uncle had Saturdays off. Later Dad went to work for a union shop and also got Saturdays off. Today Saturdays off is the norm.

      Enjoy your weekend, Horace. It was brought to you by a union.

      1. Bob, interesting how where you grow up changes your outlook. On the farm things were a little different. My Dad only took Sunday afternoons off. This when we had family outings. No doubt during the summer I could see him during the day while he was working, tried to help out a bit without getting in the way. As for myself, still work 7 days a week on the farm. Realistically only have between 14-21 days off per year, but I am not complaining I enjoy it. I have a neighbour who works at a large petrochemical operation, works 4 days a week plus holidays. Each person is different. But having never been in a union I can really offer no opinion except to say they wouldn’t work for me in my operation, the weather dictates my work schedule not the day of the week.

    3. Derek Fildebrandt would make an awesome Premier! Why he might lower prices for filterless cigarettes and make gun ownership mandatory! My sister says he’s in favour of coal rolling diesel pick-ups and everything! Let’s get loaded and watch Bubbs! Yay! Liberterarians forevs!

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