Alberta Politics
University of Alberta political scientist Jared Wesley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Another poll shows Alberta’s NDP ahead of the faltering United Conservative Party

Posted on March 19, 2021, 2:24 am
6 mins

A new Viewpoint Alberta poll released yesterday shows the Alberta NDP leading the United Conservative Party strongly and, significantly, suggests the New Democrats are picking up support directly from disillusioned UCP voters. 

The joint project of the University of Alberta and University of Saskatchewan shows support for the Alberta NDP at 39.1 per cent province-wide, with the UCP trailing at 29.8 per cent. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“For the first time since the party’s founding, UCP support has swung significantly or directly to the NDP,” U of A political science professors Jared Wesley and Feodor Snagovsky wrote in their analysis of the results. 

Given what they described as “the polarized nature of Alberta politics and the historic gulf between the two parties,” the willingness of UCP voters to move their support directly to the NDP should really worry the governing party. Perhaps this explains Premier Jason Kenney’s shrill tone lately and the whiff of panic from some of his supporters.  

This is not the first poll in the past few days to show the NDP in the lead, but it is new to see evidence the UCP’s problem isn’t just being caused by its support bleeding off to fringe parties on the loony right – whence they can safely be expected to return come election time. 

Losing them to the NDP is a horse of a different colour. 

Polls reported by Léger and the Angus Reid Institute last Friday showed the NDP ahead – dramatically in the case of Léger’s results (40 per cent NDP, 20 per cent UCP), and much more closely in the case of Angus Reid (41 per cent NDP, 38 per cent UCP). All three surveys were conducted in roughly the same time frame and used similar methodology.

Now, it’s all very well to be cautious about the results of online polls, especially when they start to indicate a turn in voter attitudes. But if once is happenstance, and twice is coincidence, this is starting to sound like something real. 

The percentage of Albertans indicating they would vote for the NDP has increased 12 points in eight months, Dr. Wesley and Dr. Snagovsky wrote in their research brief. NDP retention of the party’s 2019 voters is very strong, at 92 per cent, they said. 

Opposition Leader and former premier Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Wherever the UCP support sits in the various polls, the NDP’s levels under Opposition Leader Rachel Notley’s leadership are fairly consistent, and this, the researchers said, is “a level of popularity not seen since the 2015 provincial election.” We all know what happened then. 

“This sudden shift suggests that the changes in public health restrictions and #AlohaGate scandal may have had a significant and lasting impact on support levels in the province,” they conclude, noting that suburban support for the UCP has been slipping while urban support fell 10 points during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, with a third COVID wave upon us, apparently driven by the government’s hurry to reopen, it will be interesting to see if that trend continues. 

Yesterday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw had other physicians publicly scratching their heads when she tried to explain the government’s rationale for loosening restrictions while more infectious COVID-19 variants appear to be taking off: “If we go forward with a slight easing of those rules, it may help those who previously were having large gatherings perhaps to reconsider and scale those back,” she mused. 

Taber area former UCP supporter Brian Hildebrand (Photo: Taber Times).

If you say so …

Meanwhile, the UCP continues to suffer from rebellious members in traditionally rock-solid conservative areas – although not necessarily for the same reasons as are troubling urban voters.

On St. Patrick’s Day, the Taber Times in the heart of Alberta’s deep-south Book-of-Mormon Belt, devoted considerable space to the decision by a member of the board of the UCP’s Taber-Warner constituency association to experience some “political homelessness” for a spell. 

In his letter of resignation to fellow board members, Brian Hildebrand excoriated the party for abandoning its principles. “Those principles are being ignored at best, and aggressively violated at worst,” he complained. “One does not need to look far to see examples.”

The former Wildrose supporter pointed to Premier Kenney’s past statements about how he holds the pen when it comes to determining party policy. “I feel I have no other alternative” but to quit the board, he said.

Now, it must be pointed out that Mr. Hildebrand’s complaint is that the government is enforcing COVID-19 restrictions too aggressively for the liking of the UCP’s rural base.

But that’s a funny thing about politics, when the electorate is sharply polarized, sometimes a party has to pick a lane. It can’t just conclude that if everyone is complaining it must be doing something right. 

16 Comments to: Another poll shows Alberta’s NDP ahead of the faltering United Conservative Party

  1. Bob Raynard

    March 19th, 2021

    There appears to be a connection recently between Jason Kenney’s reopening strategy and where the political winds are blowing. When Mr. Kenney first announced the reopening plan, he said there would be a 3 week gap between steps, to watch for case number reactions, before proceeding to the next step. Kenney kept his word for Phase I.

    For Phase II it was decided not to implement all the things planned. Then we started hearing about Kenney’s Covid deniers losing confidence in the premier, and talking about a leadership review, and a week (not 3 as promised) later the rest of Phase II was implemented, which reopened fitness clubs to low intensity activities, but the fitness club would be in charge of deciding what was ‘low intensity’. It was announced a few days ago that no decision with regards to Phase III will be made until Mar 22 – in other words, Phase III could be announced only 2 weeks after the second part of Phase II.

    So, with his supporters leaving the room from both the left and right exits, our premier has to decide on Phase III by Monday. Will the latest polls showing the UCP losing support to the NDP make him slow down the reopening, or will he continue to pursue the supporters leaving from the right exit? He may, as an afterthought, also want to consider what is best for the province as well, but that does not seem to be a primary concern.

    Reply
  2. March 19th, 2021

    Would these poll results translate into another NDP government? I think most of the reason for 2015 was the even vote split between two closely-matched right wing and bitter rival political parties, so the overall-outnumbered NDP won the plurality in many ridings. Currently none of the far right wing factions is anywhere close to the organizational competency of the former Wildrose Party. Remember when the Conservatives were so scared they wanted to change our licence plates? Good times…

    I expect, come election time, most conservative voters will fear ‘socialism’ more than staggering incompetence and corruption, and vote UCP. Still, with these current poll results and the new MLA re-call legislation in place, weak as it is, it might be an exciting political adventure to try targeting and upending a UCP cabinet member before the next election.

    Small typo – “… how he holds the_ pen …”

    Thank you again – always worth the visit.
    DB

    Reply
  3. Abd

    March 19th, 2021

    The bizarre and contradictory statements from our CMOH continue. This morning CBC aired a warning from her that the new variants are spreading outdoors, so it is advisable to wear masks outdoors.

    Why then did AHS overbook AstraZeneca vaccination appointments at its offices in southwest Calgary by approximately three times capacity earlier this week, forcing those in attendance to wait more than two hours in a crowd outdoors? Aren’t large gatherings illegal now? The appointments came with a warning to arrive no more than five minutes early, but apparently AHS had no reciprocal respect. Each vaccinator was apparently expected to move through 12 people per hour, or one person every five minutes, including time to sanitize (96 people booked every hour, with eight vaccinators) compared to four people per hour at local pharmacies. Also, the facility was not equipped to handle the 15-minute wait time after vaccination of 96 people per hour. It couldn’t be done. Granted, every person in that crowd wore a mask. This was despite promises from AHS that it would plan better after an earlier vaccine melee at the same facility in February. Nope. These vaccines were not available at pharmacies in the big cities. Meanwhile in Ontario, AstraZeneca vaccines were done at pharmacies. This vaccine does not require special freezers.

    Things like this are adding up on the long list of reasons why not to vote UCP in the next election. We are buffalo to them. Herd us up and drive us over a cliff.

    The grass is not green on this side of the fence. The bitterness and dryness of the grass reminds us every day that a prairie wildfire is on the horizon. It’s nature’s way. The buffalo are restless.

    The prairie landscape might change, but the people of Alberta are like the bison in this story, “red-eyed and ash-fleshed”, temporarily taking shelter. The pandemic might be over just in time for the next election.

    https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/ab/waterton/nature/environment/feu-fire/feu-fire-kenow/blogue-blog/waterton

    Reply
    • jerrymacgp

      March 20th, 2021

      Hmmm … so will Head-Smashed-In-Voter-Jump be located somewhere in the UCP heartland? Will it be a World Democratic Heritage Site?

      Reply
  4. Athabascan

    March 19th, 2021

    I hate to piss on everyone’s parade, but I’ll wait until Rachel Notley wins the next provincial election, before I celebrate.

    Unfortunately, it’ll be another 2 years of Kenney screwing us over, before that happens.

    Hey kids, don’t forget Kenney lies and cheats, so he might still win. How’s that UCP kamikaze leadership investigation going?

    Reply
    • Death and Gravity

      March 21st, 2021

      I’m with you, Athabascan. I’ve said many intemperate things about the Alberta electorate, here and elsewhere, and I stand by them. If the NDP should win the next election, I will stand here in front of you all and eat my hat. And it will be delicious. Their problem will be winning the one after that, though.

      Of course it is just possible that the shadowy powers behind Kenney’s hostile reverse takeover of the Reform Party may be out of options. There may be no plausible leader they can advance to replace Kenney, not one who can hold the unholy coalition of Calgary glibertarians, southern Alberta rural fundies and northern Alberta rural 3rd or 4th generation Ukrainians together. Maybe, maybe, things the ice jam is finally breaking.

      Reply
  5. Dave

    March 19th, 2021

    Even though I also believe the other recent polls and pollsters are reputable, I feel this new poll is probably the most accurate reflection of where voters are at right now. I think that the number of problems the UCP has had in the last year was bound to be reflected in the numbers eventually, but they still have some core of support.

    It is true these are difficult times to govern, but in many other provinces and Federally governments have been able to maintain much more solid support. However, its not hard to figure out there are things unique to Alberta, both economically and with the nature of the UCP itself that have diminished support more. It is also true that our political landscape here reflects more partisan or ideological division than many other places in Canada. However, I think beneath that, the ideological division is not as great as might seem. Voters mostly want the same things – a strong economy, good health care and education and so on. Of course, how they want to get there can differ somewhat depending on the party they support. So, I am not surprised that someone who voted for the UCP in 2019, in the hopes that would improve things, now could now support the NDP. Not all voters are as partisan as those more involved in politics and most really just want a government that works. On this count, Kenney and the UCP seems to be failing.

    I’m not surprised we have ended up here. I have been expecting it for a long time. Of course the pandemic part was a surprise, but there were other fundamental flaws with the UCP approach that were likely to eventually lead to problems. First, in 2019 election, they tried to portray themselves as moderate, when they really had no desire or intention of being that. Second, Kenney first embraced and then quickly dismissed the grassroots guarantee after he became leader. The first has led to problems with more moderate voters, who were not expecting things like the war on doctors and a reversal on coal policy and the later led to problems with Wildrose voters, who really do not like Kenney’s autocratic style.

    Yes, it is difficult to govern, especially these days, but the whole concept behind the UCP seems to have been that getting power was the goal in itself. While this might have suited a career politician like Kenney very well, voters actually expect politicians to have a vision, not waffle back and forth depending on what helps keep their base happy enough not to throw them out. While there probably is some volatility in support as shown by recent polls, I think the UCP’s friends in the mainstream media took too much solace in the closer numbers shown in the Angus Reid poll. With two other polls showing different results, it will now be harder to ignore reality, although I suspect they will still try.

    Reply
  6. Neil Lore

    March 19th, 2021

    I think the Feds should have used the Emergency Measures Act a long time ago. More than twenty thousand Canadian citizens are dead, and many of them could have been saved if we had had leaders with the courage to take unpopular measures. One of the reasons governments exist is so that in times of crisis they can take actions to stave off the worst results. I think politicians of all stripes care more for partisan advantage than they do for the well being of Canada as a whole.

    Reply
  7. Just Me

    March 19th, 2021

    Now that it appears that the NDP is stealing the UCP’s thunder, one wonders where the Crying & Angry Midget’s breakdown will take Alberta next.

    I have no doubt there will be no further lock downs and all restrictions will be gone by April 1st. The anger against Kenney from his base is close to a fever pitch. So, Kenney will risk the potential for a rising body count to save his political hide. He will gladly oversee a holocaust than be ousted from the premiership.

    Reply
  8. e.a.f.

    March 19th, 2021

    I recall reading 42% of Alberta doctors want to leave the province. Believe it was on this blog. If you don’t have doctors, your life isn’t worth much.

    COVID is something we haven’t seen before and in my opinion all premiers, except for Kenny have tried to do their best. Kenny seems to be in a league of his own of terrible.

    Attacking health care workers such as nurses is never a good idea just as you are heading into a pandemic but what did Kenny do?

    Living on lovely Vancouver Island, Nanaimo, is a treat. As to people having buyers remorse about voting for Kenny, my next door neighbour, just drove his parental unit from Calgary to start living here. He said he was sorry he voted for Kenny. The man is over 70. Two streets, each a block long, at least five houses have families from Alberta, new to B.C. living here.

    You go to parking lots and have a look at where the vehicles were purchased, places in Alberta. If you go out to drive some where, you can usually count on seeing at least two vehicles still with their Alberta plates and they aren’t visitors. Approx. half are work trucks, you know the type trades people drive. Some still have their Alberta tel. nos. on them.

    Some times I wonder if there is any one left in Alberta.

    My line has always been be careful who you vote for because you will have to learn to live with it or die because of it. Of course, the third option these days appears to be leave for Vancouver Island.

    The lesson some Albertans learn will be very expensive. Too bad they don’t have recall legislation.

    Reply
  9. Anonymous

    March 20th, 2021

    Basically, the UCP have made so many very pricey blunders, that they are finished.

    Reply
  10. Bob Raynard

    March 20th, 2021

    With regards to Brian Hildebrand’s resignation, the poor fellow’s timing seems to be way off. In the Taber Times article David provided the link to (thanks DJC) it appears his biggest complaint is the government’s Covid restrictions. As such he really should have timed his resignation so it didn’t come out the same time that Covid cases in nearby Lethbridge tripled and the mayor of the city begged citizens to comply with the health regulations in a press conference.

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/lethbridge-officials-spike-covid-19-cases-compliance-1.5957040

    Reply
  11. Scotty on Denman

    March 20th, 2021

    I find the UofA academics’ abstract that Alberta politics has an “polarized nature” and an “historic gulf between these two parties”—UCP and NDP—a bit of trite caricature. Especially the “historic” part: after eight decades so dominated by right-wing government as to be a virtual one-party jurisdiction, the past six years—four for the one-term government of the NDP which, prior to its 2015 upset win, hardly registered on the political spectrum, and only half that much experience for the current rookie UCP government—as too short to qualify as history quite yet.

    Furthermore, the quixotic behaviour of the Alberta electorate over the last two-and-a-half terms doesn’t seem like much of a ‘gulf’, let alone an historic one. As we see, UCP support comes from a loud but fringe-like faction of the far-right, but, as the devolution from about 60% popularity to half that in just two years, it’s only about two inches deep. We also note that the left left left policies for more central climes the moment it took office. Whatever the alleged “gulf” looks like on surface, it is also studded with Liberal shoals and all sorts of splinter-party atolls just below the waves. If we cover our ears to block distraction from bullhorn Christo-libertarian anti-vax-anti-mask protests, most observers would agree that what the UCP peanut gallery jeers as “communism” is really just long-standing, middle-of-the-road Canadian policy —‘democratic socialism’ or ‘social democracy’ are, for the most part, euphemisms for this mediocratic style of mixed economy and centrist politics.

    But, no doubt, certain factions do promote the caricature of ancient polar deadlock: the narrative parallels that of anti-government (and achieves useful anti-intellectualism as a bonus)—that is, it is usually the primal narrative of the neoliberal or “neo-right” ( globalizing neoliberals who have usurped nominal conservative parties in the interest of stateless corporatocracy). Thus, I’m not sure if UofA academics are purveyors of such a caricature or simply careless rhetoricians.

    How much of these recent polling numbers is sincere or enduring will be more discernible in the historical rear-view once these turbulent times have calmed. The alleged polar gulf is currently attributable to partisan bilge sloshing about in a tippy canoe which, once becalmed and bailed out, will likely appear to be much more moderate, much more like Canadians are in general.

    Looking at real history, Albertans have been content with virtual one-party—or “non-party”—government. Voters have been known to punish disappointment a few times in the province’s relatively short history by completely turning out long-ruling parties which otherwise fit the virtual one-party model. The Socred and ProgCon eras (39 and 43 years, respectively) easily exemplify. While hard to discern what’s happening now—say, from the hiving off of Wild Rose from ProgCon, through the upset NDP win and ProgCon extinction, and on to the present, two-year-old UCP government loyally opposed by the NDP, Alberta’s first substantial Opposition in generations—we might attribute some of the current polls to this habitual punishing tradition: right-wing voters reminding the UCP of their discontent by way of popular survey in the same way the far-right fringe perennially rattles its sabre, storms about in a nasty snit, only to return prodigally for the next contest.

    Yes, of course it smacks of polarity but, as we might also note, the fact that erstwhile ProgCon voters did not return to the UCP in 2019 but, rather, supported the NDP, coupled with the current polling trend, suggests that polarity isn’t nearly as strong (nor, as mentioned, as historic) as some pundits like to make out.

    Jason Kenney is a scion of the federal HarperCons and appears to be following his mentor’s strategy: to eliminate the middle ground and conduct politics on a completely polarized field. It’s curious that the K-Boy maintains this strategy when, during the HarperCon regime, it utterly failed—as much as Harper theology once would have us believe the Liberals had been effectively eliminated and all subsequent contests would be fought between an idealized far left and solidly right-of-centre CPC; Harper, once said to have superior political shrewdness, believed the right would thenceforth always win —only to have the NDP become disappointingly centralized (a “sin” for which Dipper ideologues punished their leader) and the Liberals resurrect to kick both their butts instead.

    Rachel Notley’s NDP has affected the same tactic: move toward the centre where most voters like their governments. Thus the febrile far-right’s sticks-and-stones rhetoric becomes tiresome after only a few years—and the polls begin to show it as they are now.

    K-Boy cannot be blamed for catastrophes not of his own making— like the Downturn in bitumen market prices and Covid—but he can and probably will be blamed for things he could have chosen not to do—like inviting bigoted creeps into his Frankenstein party, cheating to advance in his new monster, and thence having to feed it red-meat every ten minutes.

    Historians will look back at this era and qualify it as a period of transition that was only dressed up as historical polarization and unbridgeable partisan gulfs.

    The question is whether K-Boy can get his party back toward the middle In time for the next election two years hence. Since he’s so assiduously refused to even pay lip service (well, at least not without unvarnished grudge) to such a strategy, we might thus attribute his current unpopularity. What planetary partisan wanders will do in two years hence is not yet so clear.

    Promising, though.

    Reply
    • jerrymacgp

      March 22nd, 2021

      “ K-Boy cannot be blamed for catastrophes not of his own making— like the Downturn in bitumen market prices and Covid” … Agreed … but he can be rightly assailed for failing to take heed of the auguries that predicted the long-term decline in bitumen’s value as a marketable asset, and to plan for a future that sees the need for a more diversified economy.

      On the pandemic, the current tagline “lives & livelihoods” says it all: they’ve failed to recognize that this can’t be a concurrent approach, but a sequential one. Protect lives, first & foremost, and protection of livelihoods will follow as the pandemic fades into the rear-view mirror. Instead they’re trying to reopen the economy while the pandemic confuses to rage virtually unchecked, even while a fully-immunized population becomes an even closer near-future reality.

      Reply
  12. Valerie Jobson

    March 23rd, 2021

    Losing them to the NDP is a Norse of a different colour, like Erik the Red. Geddit?

    Reply

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