Two polls released in the final weeks of 2014 could give an indication of the direction Alberta political might take in 2015.
The polls show Jim Prentice‘s Progressive Conservatives dominating in Calgary and rural Alberta. And with Wildrose Party support in decline across the province, Mr. Prentice could be tempted to call an election sometime in early 2015.
The polls also show a race for support in Edmonton between the PCs (with 30% in both polls) and Rachel Notley‘s NDP (with 32% and 34% in the two polls).
Edmonton has been a traditional region of support for the NDP and Liberals since the 1980s. All four NDP MLAs and two of five Liberal MLAs, including leader Raj Sherman, represent capital city constituencies.
While NDP candidate Bob Turner‘s strong showing in the September 2014 Edmonton-Whitemud by-election has contributed to the narrative of NDP growth in Edmonton, the Liberals remain a wild card in city. Liberal support is inconsistent in the two polls (one showing the party with 13% and the other with 28%) and that party’s traditional base of support in Edmonton should not be ignored.
Many New Democrats hope that the disorganization and apparent marginalization of the provincial Liberals will allow their party to make long sought after gains in Edmonton. But it may not be that easy.
A big challenge for both Ms. Notley and Dr. Sherman is to attract liberal and moderate Edmontonians who voted for Alison Redford‘s PC Party in order to block a Wildrose victory in 2012. Now that most Wildrose MLAs have joined the PC Party, those voters may be looking for a new home.
The potential for vote splitting and a PC Party rout in the next election, with a backdrop of a slowing economy and low oil prices, has reignited the discussion about uniting Alberta’s tiny centrist and progressive opposition parties.
Responding to the calls for unity and cooperation, a clearly frustrated Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman shot back, outlining some of the major challenges to uniting the parties:
I’ve tried for years and there is no budging. Each party has a core of supporters that believe their party is the best, the one and only. They will never leave or merge. Both still have infrastructure that is very hard to build, but neither can attract the volunteers and donators to be THE government. I think sometimes we spend more effort fighting each other than the PCs or WR.