I am not the first political watcher to weigh in with my views on the Calgary Herald–Edmonton Journal poll conducted by Environics that I mentioned on my blog yesterday morning, but I am going to offer my thoughts nonetheless.
The poll of 900 Albertans showed that the Progressive Conservatives have once again risen to a dominant position over the opposition parties, including the ambitious Wildrose Party. This is just one poll, and as we learned from the May 2011 Federal Election, campaigns do matter. Keeping this in mind, here are my interpretations of what the poll could mean for Alberta’s political parties:
Progressive Conservatives: The death of the near-forty-year governing PC Party has been greatly exaggerated. The poll shows PC support is above 50% across the province and above 60% with voters over the age of 65 (who show up to vote).
It is difficult to say if support for the Tories will change when they choose their new leader in September or October, but it is clear that the departure of Premier Ed Stelmach is boosting their electoral fortunes. Unless the next PC Party leader (and Premier-Designate) manages to become more unpopular than Premier Stelmach in the next year, it would be easy to see this party return to its dominant status.
Liberals: These numbers should be very concerning for the Liberal Party, which could possibly be polling at its lowest level of support since before the party returned to the Assembly in the 1986 election. The party is in the midst of a leadership contest and despite opening voting to non-members, it has struggled to get media attention.
The one morsel of comfort that the Liberals can take from this poll is that none of the other opposition parties have been able to capture the imagination of Albertans. If they choose the right leader in their September 10 vote, they may be able to survive the coming electoral storm.
The poll shows the NDP are the second choice among voters between the ages of 18 and 24 (30.9%), and of voters outside of Calgary and Edmonton. In Edmonton, the NDP’s traditional seat of strength in Alberta, the party is polling near the same level of support it received in the last provincial election. The question is whether current NDP leader Brian Mason is the right person to capitalize on this bump.
Wildrose: This poll will put a sour face on the most strident Wildrose supporter. I speculated earlier this month that the Wildrose may have reached the peak of their support in 2010 and this poll certainly suggests that this may be the case.
The departure of Premier Stelmach this fall appears to have removed the lightening rod that turned the Wildrose into a political force in 2010. Forming government looks further away now than it did a year ago, but the Wildrose is still in a better financial and organization position than the other opposition parties. They may have to get used to the sound of the words “Official Opposition Leader Danielle Smith.”
Alberta Party: This is poll has no good news for the Alberta Party (and almost no news at all). This poll should be a signal to this party that they should focus their electoral efforts on supporting candidates in two or three constituencies across Alberta, the most obvious being their leader Glenn Taylor in West Yellowhead, MLA Dave Taylor in Calgary-Currie, and former acting-leader Sue Huff in Edmonton-Glenora.