Categories
Alberta Politics

alberta politics: stormy waters ahead.

A Sun News Network commissioned poll looks good for the Wildrose Party and bad for the Progressive Conservatives.
A Sun News Network commissioned poll looks good for the Wildrose Party and bad for the Progressive Conservatives.

Global leaders were shocked yesterday when a new poll commissioned by QMI-Sun News Media showed Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party has made significant headwaters against the governing Progressive Conservatives.

There are serious questions being raised about the results of this poll, which make me question the results. For example, the regional breakdown of party support includes only 81 respondents surveyed from southern Alberta, which results in an unreliably high 11% margin of error (via @calgarygrit). The optimistic results for the Wildrose Party, which already receives daily enthusiastic editorial support from right-wing Sun media, leads me to take with a grain of salt any political polling produced by this media network.

Most legitimate polls, including those conduced by Leger Marketing and Environics, have shown the Tories with 45%-55% support province-wide and the three main opposition parties – Wildrose, NDP, and Liberals – grouped together in the mid-teens. A number of recent polls, including one conducted by Return on Insight, have produced results suggesting that the Wildrose Party has begun to break from the pack of opposition parties, which is not unbelievable at this point.

Update: Dan Arnold and David Climenhaga have shared their views on these polls.

Nervous Tories

Recent heavy-handed actions by Premier Alison Redford suggest that the establishment of the 41-year governing party is beginning to worry about their electoral fortunes.

The release of negative radio ads (which were tame in my mind) suggests that the Tories are feeling pressure to hit back at harsh criticism by the Wildrose Party about new laws limiting blood alcohol levels to 0.05%.

Suspending all Legislative and Government committee pay for PC MLAs was a reaction to wide-spread criticism of an absent committee. The drastic move may also have been a shot across the bow of unhappy PC backbench MLAs and former cabinet ministers, who some insiders say have been sowing discontent towards their party’s new direction. The departure of former Finance Minister Lloyd Snelgrove, who now sits as an Independent MLA and will not be seeking re-election, is one example of the tensions between Premier Redford and loyalists of the former Premier.

It is not difficult to imagine some Tories expressing discomfort with Premier Redford’s move to discipline her former leadership competitor Gary Mar. The majority of the current PC MLAs supported Mr. Mar’s leadership bid in 2011.

The PCs are deliberately focusing their attacks on their largest perceived threat, the Wildrose Party, ignoring the current official opposition Liberals. Premier Redford’s appeal to political moderates has led to more than a few prominent Liberal supporters migrating to the PC Party, including two-term Lethbridge-East MLA Bridget Pastoor who crossed the floor to the PCs in November 2011. As Alberta’s dominant big tent political party, the Tories will naturally benefit from neutralizing any potential centrist opposition while trying to push the other opposition parties to the ideological fringes.

Promise kept? 

Email inboxes across the province yesterday were treated a to the “bing” signalling a new PC Party online newsletter touting Premier Redford’s fulfilled promise to hold a “Full judicial inquiry into queue jumping.” Of course, the decision to allow the Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA), led by a retired judge, to investigate allegations of queue jumping is a pretty loose interpretation of an actual “Full judicial inquiry”.

To quote Premier Redford’s leadership campaign email newsletter from June 14, 2011 (ASCENT: Alison Redford’s Campaign Newsletter Issue 7):

“Albertans want answers regarding the allegations of queue jumping by wealthy and well-connected people. Alison also wants answers. This week, she became the first candidate to call for a full judicial inquiry into queue-jumping.”

Created in 2002 as a result of the Report of the Premier’s Advisory Council on Health, the mandate of the HQCA is to “promote patient safety and health service quality.” Of course, resistance by politicians to holding a real judicial inquiry is not surprising. Real judicial inquiries are uncontrollable and politically dangerous, just ask former Prime Minister Paul Martin how his judicial inquiry worked out for him.

29 replies on “alberta politics: stormy waters ahead.”

Most legitimate polls, including those conduced by Leger Marketing and Environics, have shown the Tories with 45%-55%

Wrong.

Abacus: 34%
ThinkHQ: 42%
Forum: 37%
Abingdon: 38%
ROI: 46%
Forum: 38%
Leger: 53%

Only two out of seven polls conducted this year show the PCs within that range. And for the Environics one, you have to go all the way back to early November, in the middle of Redford’s new leadership honeymoon period.

and the three main opposition parties – Wildrose, NDP, and Liberals – grouped together in the mid-teens.

The Leger poll was the only one this year that didn’t have Wildrose over 20% and with a double-digit lead over the third-place party.

And your claim that the Abacus poll is questionable because of the high margin of error in the southern Alberta sub-sample is just goofy. Every poll will produce a high MoE if you subdivide the results far enough!

If you insist on something broader, though, here’s the results for rural Alberta as a whole: Wildrose 33%, PC 30%, NDP 16%, Liberal %15

In reality, most recent polls show a completely plausible and likely scenario: a return to the status quo from early 2010 through mid-2011, with the PCs averaging in the high thirties and Wildrose maybe 10 points back, albeit with the new wrinkle of the NDP catching up to the Liberals.

The polls/the pollsters these days are becoming about as suspect as the politicians themselves. Who exactly are the target audiences? Most people are working and have little interest in talking to/giving information to either unknown people or robo-calls during their off hours. Thankfully – the results of the polls are taken with many grains of salt and, hopefully, with even more disdain than they have been in the past. Pollsters totally missed the Orange Wave in QC in the last federal election. I don’t think they have any idea of how volatile the situation is in AB right now or what people will do at the polls.

Nothing is more suspect than the claims of the Wildrose. I do not like .05 at all but Heather Forsyth had a private members bill to do just that and now she is suddenly against it? Give me a break.

When the polls swing so much if you don’t prompt for party or leader (in a human made call) versus prompting for party, versus prompting for party and leading produces big swings (outside of the margin of error) I think shows a volatility of the electorate.

Unless companies are willing to publish their question wording AND order the polls can be suspect.

If they ask the top line question after leadership impressions or ‘will scandal x change your vote’ the top line can be very skewed.

Makes me wish someone would do real public tracking with something other than IVR during the election, but I doubt it will happen.

Thanks for the comment, Mr. The Invisible Man.

I take the results of most polls with a grain of salt, and especially some of those you listed (ie: Companies whose owners have strong partisan connections, like Abingdon Research, which is run by former Conservative Prime Ministerial staffer Hamish Marshall).

It is also my understanding that ThinkHQ relies primarily on a self-selecting online panel to conduct their surveys.

As for the Sun media, I believe that it has displayed enough editorial bias towards the Wildrose Party in the pages of their newspapers and through the cameras of their TV network for any Canadian to rightfully question the neutrality of any poll they purchase.

This said, as I wrote above, I believe that the Wildrose Party could be breaking from the pack of opposition parties.

A self-selecting online panel was the most accurate predictor of the last two federal elections.

Abacus, Forum et al are all respected mainstream pollsters. They make their money doing market research for businesses, and run political polls primarily to build their brand awareness. No polling company is going to risk destroying their reputation by cooking a voter preference poll.

A silver dollar slapped down on the saloon bar says the Tories still win a majority, and that all this fretting is a tempest in a whiskey bottle.

Even if WR makes bigger gains than polls say – who gives a cow patty? Same old ideas — or worse — sold by a perty new face.

Then again, here are some stubborn centre-lefties who are trying something different: ChangeAlberta.ca

The company that employs Ezra Levant and was home to Paul “I’ll endorse whoever the premier tells me to” Jackson is involved in dubious journalistic practices? Knock me over with a feather.

I hate to break it to Gordon but every major polling company was well aware of the “orange wave” that crossed Quebec in the last Federal election. That wave started to show up in most polling about 2 weeks before election day and all polling in the final week confirmed what was coming. Very few people that read polls were caught completely unawares. The extent of the wave may have exceeded expectations, but everyone knew the NDP were headed for a big breakthrough in that province.

Polling, taken in the aggregate, is generally fairly accurate. I think the truth in AB can be gleaned by averaging many different polls, like the first comment here did. Reality is that Redford is trending somewhat down, Wildrose is gaining a bit. Enough to change government? Probably not, but at least we’ll see a return to a sizeable opposition, if nothing else. That should save us from all these PC antics, such as giant cabinets and pretend committees to feed all their little piggies.

I remember a Saskatchewan election a few years back. The pollsters had the NDP comfortably ahead. The new Saskatchewan Party kept insisting that they were finding much stronger support than the pollsters, particularly outside Regina and Saskatoon.
The Saskatchewan Party was right. The NDP squeaked back with a minority.
Based on what I am hearing here in Central Alberta, I think a similar scenario is occuring. What should be bedrock Conservative support is suprisingly soft and many long term Tories are quietly indicating they won’t be voting P.C. this time.
The fiasco of the MLA committees pay seems to have hardened that negative opinion.

Everywhere I go people tell me one thing: “anything to stop the Wildrose party”. I can’t say as I blame them with such an extremist and ideological leader like Danielle Smith. No thanks!

Brian: “Anything to stop the Wildrose party,” including, more of the same old mouldy bunch? I hope not.

Brian’s right, Albertans are basically faced with a choice between crazy or corrupt. Not exactly an appealing choice and I expect voter turnout to be worse than ever, and it was already at record lows.

Hopefully people will ignore polling, evaluate ALL the parties & candidates and go out and vote for their personal choice, polls and expected results be damned.

Why assume the Wildrose Party wouldn’t be corrupt? By all accounts, they’re already in Big Oil’s pocket–though no-one knows for sure because they won’t release their donors’ list. You just have to look at their federal counterparts, the Harper reformatories, to guess what they’d be like in government.

Michael Dawe:

“I remember a Saskatchewan election a few years back. The pollsters had the NDP comfortably ahead. The new Saskatchewan Party kept insisting that they were finding much stronger support than the pollsters, particularly outside Regina and Saskatoon.
The Saskatchewan Party was right. The NDP squeaked back with a minority.”

Ah, but four years after that, in 2003 the Sask. party lost an election that should have been theirs to win. It took a new leader and a removal of ideological blindfolds before they finally broke through in 2007. Wildrose needs to take its lumps in opposition before anyone can consider them the Next Big Thing in Alberta politics.

BrianNealJay: Why assume the Wildrose Party wouldn’t be corrupt? By all accounts, they’re already in Big Oil’s pocket–though no-one knows for sure because they won’t release their donors’ list.

False. And the latest disclosure shows 72% of Wildrose money came from individuals, not corporations.

So what if the Wildrose got 28% of its money from corporate donors? Does that make them corrupt? No. Corporate donations are legal in Alberta, as are union donations.

What makes them undesirable as a party are their negative politics and extremist leader.

Good presentation on CBC Radio this morning. Not sure I agree with all your analysis, but you were clear and well spoken.
However, other people who heard you this morning have the same question as I do:
Why absolutely no mention of the Alberta Party in your analysis of election readiness and identifiable party narratives ?

Thanks for the comment and thanks for tuning in this morning, Michael. I didn’t intentionally exclude mentioning the Alberta Party, it just didn’t come up and before I knew it, my time was done.

– Dave

“False. And the latest disclosure shows 72% of Wildrose money came from individuals, not corporations.”

My mistake, Invisible Hand. Is the same true of Danielle Smith’s donors for her leadership campaign? I may have missed that disclosure.

I am not sure why we have expressions like “crazy vs corrupt”. I do not think Smith is crazy – whe is well spoken and actually has sharpened her policies as head of the Property Rights Iniative and as head of the Cdn Federation of small Business attempting to get the feds to remove regulatory burden. Redford got her policies from the Liberals and is really busy taking away our personal rights (see new Ed bill, bill 36, 50 etc etc) Sorry I am chosing crazy. Oh and look at both parties donations – oil money and other money including personal flows into both parties!

“Brian’s right, Albertans are basically faced with a choice between crazy or corrupt.”

I don’t believe Albertans’ have only 2 choices – the mainstream media outlets only make it appear so. But as long as politically astute people who should know better keep repeating that lie as though it’s the the headline in one of our two main newspaper headlines, then, I guess it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and Alberta will be doomed to crazy and corrupt ad nauseum.

(Furthermore, I agree that Danielle Smith isn’t crazy at all, just willfully ignorant about what kind of Alberta her draconian right wing policies would actually wreak.)

If centre-left parties and voters would work together somehow — coalition, pre-electoral arrangements, join temporarily together, stay out of each other’s territories and off of each others’ toes, or as a last resort, encourage strategic voting — whatever, the strategy is less important than the result — we wouldn’t have to be doomed to either a crazy or corrupt future. As the 2008 election proved, for example, progressives could have won at the very least an extra 12 constituency seats. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but apparently is for most of the centre-left’s party elites who seem to love holding Albertans hostage to what they want.

Imo, as long as hyper-partisans leaders and their voters keep preaching the gospel of “my party only and forever” without understanding how they are being played like violins at a funeral by the Tories, and as long as progressive Albertans follow them like the Pied Piper, well then, yes, craziness and corruption in Alberta it is.

Can’t help appreciate this quote by Don Braid of the Herald, who pretty much sums it up:
“[The] Tories are chuckling… Vote-splitting on the centre-left has kept them in office for nearly 40 years.”

I know that “strategic voting” has a habit of backfiring…the two minute Tory support of Redford is a perfect example…however I’m hearing support for the WR if that’s what it takes to break the PC majority. This is coming from downtown Calgary voters (imagine).

Who knows where this will end, but the fact that so many heated voices are advocating so many different positions says that something is up and change (maybe small)is on the way. It’s going to be a fascinating race.

What I found in campaigning in Red Deer over this weekend are the early signs of significant erosion of bedrock Tory support. I got key members of the local Conservative party establishment giving me open support. Many others wished me well, but told me they are starting to back WR. What I didn’t find was people indicating to me that they were switching to the P.C.’s. Not a tidal wave away from the P.C.’s yet, but there are some significant cracks starting to appear.

I have found much the same in my riding. No one really out there waving WR signs yet but I suspect that there will be some surprised people noting where signs go up on lawns. Tells me that many of the traditional Tory support And including many of the people who volunteered and worked for the pcs in the pasts may be supporting a rosy future.

Leave a Reply to Concerned Albertan Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.