Premier Rachel Notley speaks to a crowd of 700 at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in downtown Calgary earlier this week.

PCs don’t need the Wildrose to win, NDP should watch their Liberal flank

Uneventful weeks have become rare in Alberta politics and this week in particular has been uniquely interesting.

We started with the release of political party fundraising data from Elections Alberta showing the NDP raised more funds in the last quarter than any of the conservative parties combined, a first. This news was followed by a State of the Province address from Premier Rachel Notley and an oddly curious poll showing the Progressive Conservatives with a 13 point lead in support ahead of the NDP and the Wildrose Party.

The telephone poll conducted by the Citizen Society Research Lab at Lethbridge College, which was in the field from from October 1 to 8, 2016, showed the formerly governing PCs with 38.4 percent support. The survey showed the Wildrose Party in second place with 25.7 percent and the NDP in a distant third-place with 19.7 percent. It is important to look at polls with a grain of salt, especially ones which deviate dramatically from other polls, but it is important to recognize that polls can be indicative of trends.

Here are a few thoughts and observations:

1) NDP electoral coalition is fraying
We are still two or three years away from the next election so the NDP are smart to avoid focusing on any horse race polls but they should be concerned.

There are signs that moderate voters, who were a key part of the NDP’s winning coalition in 2015, are migrating to the PCs and Liberal parties. The NDP need to ask themselves why, only 17 months after their election, they appear to have lost nearly half their supporters.

Ms. Notley tried to bolster support for her government’s agenda through the State of the Province Address delivered to a crowd of 700 at downtown Calgary’s Jack Singer Concert Hall. She used the opportunity to reiterated her commitment not to make the sort of funding cuts to health care and education that Albertans could expect her Conservative opponents to make if they were in government.

The NDP need to take a hard look at why key elements of their government agenda, including some of their flagship policies, might not be resonating with the Albertans who voted them into office. This may require a more thoughtful and aggressive communications strategy and putting Ms. Notley front and centre is a good start to remind Albertans why they voted NDP. She is their greatest asset.

2) PCs don’t need to merge with the Wildrose Party to win the next election 

Having the NDP drop into third place in the polls weakens the argument promoted by Jason Kenney and groups like the Manning Centre that the PC and Wildrose parties need to merge in order to defeat the NDP in the next election.

It is probably more true that the Wildrose Party needs to merge with the PC Party in order to break the ceiling it has reached under Brian Jean’s leadership. But this poll would suggest that the PCs do not need to merge with the Wildrose Party in order to win the next election.

Despite both parties being conservative in philosophy, the PCs and Wildrose hold fundamentally different views on issues ranging from climate change to social issues to education and health care. The strength of the PC Party during its 44 years as government was its ability to attract a broad coalition of conservative, moderate and liberal voters. Everything the Wildrose Party has done over the past 17 months indicates the leadership of that party is not interested in building a broad coalition of Albertans.

We should expect support for the PCs and Wildrose Party to fluctuate over the next few months as the PCs choose their next leader. If the PCs anoint a more right-wing social conservative leader on March 18, 2017, they could drive moderate voters back into the NDP coalition.

3) Watch out for the Liberals

An unexpected result of a decline in NDP support could be a resurgence in support for the Alberta Liberal Party, which will be choosing a new leader in early 2017. According to the survey, Liberal support is at 9 percent up from an abysmal 4 percent in the May 2015 election. The popularity of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is likely part of the provincial Liberal Party’s small boost, which saw the party’s candidate place a close third in a by-election earlier this year.

A significant part of the NDP’s winning coalition from the 2015 election was made up of former Liberal voters who abandoned their party in favour of the PCs in the 2012 election (in order to stop a Wildrose victory). It appears that many of those moderate voters may have become disenchanted with the NDP and have migrated back to the Liberals, and the PCs, for the time being.

As AlbertaPolitics.ca blogger David Climenhaga wrote earlier this week, the loss of this vote may signal to the NDP that “[m]aybe it’s time to start talking about uniting the left again.


Speaking of Liberals, it was announced today that Edmonton lawyer Kevin Feehan has been appointed as a Judge on the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta. Mr. Feehan was serving as co-chair of the Alberta Liberal Party’s leadership selection process, a position he will likely have to vacate due to his judicial appointment. Mr. Feehan is the brother of Richard Feehan, the NDP MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford and Minister of Indigenous Relations.

The Liberals replaced Calgary leadership co-chair Nirmala Naidoo last month when she resigned to join the campaign team trying to elect Sandra Jansen to the leadership of the PC Party.

18 thoughts on “PCs don’t need the Wildrose to win, NDP should watch their Liberal flank

  1. SC

    ALP and PCs should join hands to make a broad centrist coalition. They could repeat the successes of the BC Libs next door. THE rosies are just too extreme and fighting against social/demographic winds of change.

    Reply
  2. Gary Feltham

    One could argue that the only reason that the PCs are so high in the polls is that Jason Kenney is running for the leadership of the PCs.

    After all, this is the single biggest change in the PC party since their defeat last year. One could also argue that if someone like Sandra Jansen won the leadership that some PC supporters would switch to the Wildrose.

    Reply
    1. Dave Cournoyer Post author

      Hi Gary – Thanks for the comment. This is the spin that Postmedia columnists Rick Bell and Don Braid are putting on it, though I don’t buy it. It seems unintuitive to me that a candidate who is running to dissolve a party would make that party more popular. I suspect the 13 point lead in this poll is a result of the poll being conducted during the Oct 1-8 week, when the PC leadership race opened up and there was a lot of media attention focused on the PCs.

      In 2015, angry former PC voters migrated to the NDP, not the Wildrose, for a reason. I suspect those same voters would have a hard time supporting a Jason Kenney Wildrose-PC government, which would undoubtably be dominated by the Wildrose Party. As I wrote in this post, I believe the PCs can win the next election without having the merge with the more right-wing and social conservative Wildrose Party.

      – Dave

      Reply
    2. QAP

      Gary, the problem with that argument comes when you compare this poll to the last poll conducted by the same outfit using much the same demographics. If Kenney’s unite the right was responsible, one would expect to see movement in both the PC and WRP. But the only significant movement between October 2015 results and the October 2016 results is an 11 point drop in NDP support and an almost 10 point rise in PC support. All the other parties in 2016 are within about 0.5/0.6 % of their support in 2015

      This suggests a movement of centrists and moderates away from the NDP back to the PCs and I don’t see them doing this to support Jason Kenney. In as far as Kenney’s campaign may be playing any role at all in this movement, it may be that they’re coming back to STOP him – though I don’t really see that as too likely either.

      Instead the thing that I see them responding to is that they hoped for an NDP government that would be moderate and pragmatic and whether it’s $10+ billion annual deficits, or a Carbon Tax that wasn’t mentioned at all in the election or several other such policies and so they’re returning to the other centrist/moderate party that has a hope of forming gov’t (sorry AB Liberals and AB party!) and, like Dave, I doubt they’ll stay there if Kenney wins…

      Reply
  3. Jerry Macdonald

    I think the PCs are a classic Canadian, big-tent brokerage party, while Wildrose are a more hard-core ideological one. For this reason, I don’t see there being as much common ground between them as might appear on the surface.

    Meanwhile, the Alberta NDP is currently a left-leaning brokerage party grafted on top of a more ideological activist base, which is also active in the federal party. If the ANDP can hold on to power, the activist base will remain quiescent. If they end up a one-term government, look for the Alberta version of LEAP to come out.

    The Liberals are moribund, as their fundraising numbers suggest. It’s only the prominence of their federal cousins that continues to breathe any life into them at all. The same goes for the Alberra Party, IMHO.

    Reply
  4. Brian

    More people voted for a conservative party in 2015 than for a left wing party. People want conservative unity and a true conservative party that will reverse the $15 minimum wage, carbon tax, corporate tax increases, and personal tax increases. Our future prosperity as a province depends on it.

    Reply
    1. True Albertan

      No Brian. In 2015 centre-left party got 40%, the centrist party got 27% and the right wing Wildrosers got 25% of the vote. Albertans shifted to the ndp because they didn’t trust the Wildrose Party. A Kenney/Wildrose takevoger of the PC Party will just keep voters away, Albertans don’t want backward socons running the show.

      Reply
      1. Conrad

        True Albertan couldn’t be further from the truth. The NDP won because of a consolidation of the left wing vote (hint: collapse of the Liberal vote) and a split between the two right wing parties, the PC and Wildrose. A unified right wing party will easily win especially with Jason Kenney at the helm as there are far more right wing Albertans who are sick of the extremist left wing policies of the NDP. And this is just a year in! Good riddance in 2019!

        Reply
      2. Raj

        The data show that the second choice for Wildrosers and PCers in the last election was the NDP, not each other. The more centrist option won in 2012 as well. Also, from a taxation and spending perspective, the NDP is much closer to the governments that Albertans have elected over the last 16 years than the hard right Wildrose. Albertans do not like social conservatism, and they want healthcare and education to be maintained. I’m not sure how long that has to be true for hard right Albertans to wake up to this reality. They are allowed their beliefs and their positions, but they will have to persuade people to win.

        Reply
  5. David

    I am very suspicious of this poll because of the fairly large shift – the PC’s have suddenly gone from third place to first place in a very short time. Polls in the summer were fairly stable with Wildrose in first place, NDP in second and PC’s some ways behind in third. The earlier polls were taken when the PC leadership race was already getting some coverage and Kenney was already planning to run – so I don’t think he is the main cause of this sudden revival for the PC’s.

    I think there are two other possibilities to explain what may be happening. First, there could be something wrong with the polls themselves, perhaps relating to how the questions were asked or the data was compiled. Second, since summer several more candidates have entered the PC leadership race so there now is a range of candidates that could appeal to people across the political spectrum. For instance, there are candidates that might appeal to Wildrose voters, candidates that could appeal to centrist voters and even to center left voters. The increased popularity might reflect many people hoping or believing the candidate that is closest to their position may win. Of course, in the end only one candidate will win, so it could end up that some of that support is only temporarily parked with the PC’s

    Reply
  6. Not my Alberta

    Jason Kenney is the guy who thinks Communists are lurking in kids classrooms, right! whats next? A secret homosexual agenda?

    Reply
  7. George

    Surprisingly Rachel is also our best recruiter ! Everytime she introduces or defends another NDP program, my Albertans First Patriots gets a bunch of new members. We continue to push for a PC leadership winner willing to merge with the Wildrose. With a far more centrist and big tent conservative party emerging than any of those on the left expect. Over 3200 of us joined the NDP this past spring, over 2000 were illegally rejectec and 1200 remain to see if the NDP are going to come back to center even a little bit. Thus far the support for the LEAP Manifesto at the CA level suggests otherwise. 9 months ago when I predicted that the PC’S and Wildrose parties would merge in 2017 most mocked. Now all I see is the inevitable march of grassroots involvement driving reluctant insiders to get the merger done. And when that merged party starts putting forward solid alternative policies just watch the NDP support slip further as the AP and Liberals start talking merger and/or collaboration. With Sandra Jansen leading 1 of those parties. Greg Clark’s ego won’t allow him to give up his party leader status so in 2018 we will be seeing a three way left of centre split up against a united centre right conservative party. Exactly what 70+% of Albertans want.

    Reply
    1. Aaron

      How’s that Kudatah going for you, George Clark? Still have a secret petition to overthrow the government? Is your 15 minutes of internet fame over yet?

      Cookoo.. cookoo… cookoo…

      Reply
  8. Ron

    Long-time reader, first-time commenter. First thanks for keeping up this great blog Dave. I always enjoy reading it.

    I am a self-described Alberta Conservative who voted NDP in the last election after voting PC since the 1990s. Here are my reasons: a) The Progressive Conservative Government lost my trust. They squandered the huge opportunity of our oil wealth and were corrupt. Alison Redford and Jim Prentice couldn’t break from the entitlement. b) I liked what Rachel Notley said during the election. She was the best leader, hands down. c) I don’t trust the Wildrose Party and I never will. Their brand of angry rural conservatism turns me off in a big way.

    SO WHAT DO I DO NEXT? I will buy a PC Party membership and vote for the best candidate who can beat Jason Kenney. I want a centrist PC Party not a Wildrose Party dressed in PC clothing. I’m not a huge fan of the NDP government but they are a big improvement over the last PC government and are a safer choice than the angry Wildrose Party. PCs give me an option in the next election and you MIGHT have my vote back.

    Reply
    1. Dean

      >I will buy a PC Party membership and vote for the best candidate who can beat Jason Kenney.

      The PCs have changed the format. No more buying memberships and voting. They are going to a system that gives powers to each riding to choose the next leader.

      It may help or hurt the party, the open vote was introduced in the 1990s and quite popular, but also helped usher in some dud premiers. When the PC leadership vote happens, people may be shocked to learn that the system has changed, and could lower approval.

      Reply

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