The Fragmentation of the Right in Alberta: 338 Canada
Phillippe J. Fournier: Alberta’s latest electoral projection puts the NDP in majority territory, with mounting evidence that the path to victory for the UCP in 2019 will not work out in 2023
When Mainstreet Research released its latest Alberta poll in May showing Wildrose’s Independence Party in third place with 17 percent of voting intentions across the province, some eyebrows were understandably raised. Could it be that Jason Kenney’s right flank was splintering from his United Conservative Party, a narrative eerily similar to the one that condemned Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party just six years ago? Or could it have just been a statistical outlier? Back in march Alberta Lookout Y Janet Brown Opinion Research he had measured Wildrose’s support at four and six percent, respectively. The Wildrose had not even been featured in LegerSurvey of the province.
Behold, the new round of provincial voting of the Angus Reid Institute (ARI) confirmed the recent Mainstreet uptrend for Wildrose. According to ARI numbers in Alberta, Rachel Notley’s NDP leads with 41 percent of voting intentions. Jason Kenney’s Conservatives United rank second at 30 percent, and Wildrose jumps to 20 percent in the province.
These numbers should give serious memories of 2015 to conservative voters in Alberta. After a difficult campaign by Jim Prentice’s PC, the NDP won the popular vote with 41 percent, the PC took 28 percent, and Brian Jean’s Wildrose finished in a close third with 24 percent (although Wildrose won 21 seats to 9 that afternoon). Without taking any credit for the NDP, the division of the center-right votes clearly paved the way for the NDP’s victory in 2015 in Alberta.
According to numerous polls from different firms, Jason Kenney’s handling of the pandemic has undoubtedly damaged his party’s fortunes in the last six months. Since December 2020, Léger’s biweekly tracker consistently has Kenney as one of the country’s most under-appreciated prime ministers (by his own voters). ARI has measured a similar trend: Jason Kenney’s approval rating went from 61 percent in June 2019 to a dismal 31 percent in June 2021 (last among Canadian Prime Ministers).
As for voting intentions, it’s worth noting that the PCU has been struggling in the polls prior to this recent surge in support for Wildrose. Below are shown all Alberta polls publicly released in 2021. Notice that the NDP is leading in all of them by variable margins:
In the Mainstreet poll in May, figures showed that Wildrose performed at its highest level outside of Alberta’s two metropolitan areas, where the PCU basically cleaned the floor with the NDP in 2019, winning every constituency except for Lethbridge-West. While the Angus Reid survey did not include a regional breakdown (and had a smaller sample size), we can safely assume that this trend has not been reversed (Wildrose also had its highest scores in rural Alberta in 2015 ). So if Wildrose’s poll were between 17 and 20 percent across the province, it would be a safe assumption to put the party on a competitive level with the UCP outside of Calgary and Edmonton.
We use these new numbers to update the 338 Canada Alberta projection. Naturally, given that Alberta’s public opinion appears to be changing in recent months, these figures contain a fair amount of uncertainty. However, while “hyperlocal” polls would be helpful in pinpointing Wildrose’s hot spots, these numbers below, using past trends and election results, should paint a reasonable picture of the current political landscape in the province.
Below is the updated seat projection:
[On the graph above, the numbers indicate the projection’s seat averages and the coloured bars, their 95 per cent confidence intervals.]
The NDP is leading the fray with an average of 48.6 seats, just above the threshold of 44 seats for a majority. The UCP has been reduced to just under 38 seats. (We normally round seat averages to the nearest unit, but doing so this time would add 88 seats instead of 87.)
The big question mark surrounds what would happen to Wildrose using the recent levels of support measured by Mainstreet and Angus Reid. This projection has the Wildrose at an average of 0.6 seats, which means it has, on average, a 60 percent chance of winning a seat. What riding would that be? We do not have enough data to identify a specific driving, but here we give a list of tours where Wildrose has the best chance of winning (although the UCP is still the favorite in many of those constituencies).
While it is too early to conclude that the “Unite the Right” movement in Alberta is unraveling, recent months have revealed major cracks at its base. Fortunately for Jason Kenney, the PCU still has just under two years to recover until the 2023 elections. However, while the “Orange Chinook” that swept Alberta in 2015 may have pushed the province toward a two-party system, the current discontent on Kenney’s right flank and the hypothetical growth of a new Wildrose Party indicate that the UCP’s recipe for victory 2019 may not work again in 2023.
The fact that the new Wildrose claims to be pro-independence adds further uncertainty to these figures. However, the growth of WIP should not be directly correlated with increased support for Alberta’s independence. In Quebec, for example, the decidedly left-wing Québec solidaire (QS) party has also claimed to be officially pro-independence, a policy that has undoubtedly helped the party erode support for the PQ over the years. However, poll after poll has shown that many (and sometimes the majority) of QS voters do not really support Quebec’s independence and tend to vote for the party on its social policies rather than on its official position on the sovereignty of QS. Quebec. The same could potentially happen with the new Wildrose Party.
In fact, Wildrose could very well win the support of dissatisfied UCP voters who are not necessarily pro-independence. Add these potential votes to those who truly support an independent Alberta, and you may have a party strong enough to play spoiler in the upcoming Alberta election.
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