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Pollster's take on Alberta leaders' popularity sets stage for long Prairie slug-fest

Alison Redford

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Alison Redford remains Canada's second most popular premier behind Saskatchewan's Brad Wall, who after months at a steady 67-per-cent level of belovedness is the unquestioned Mr. Congeniality of Confederation, according to the Vancouver-based Angus Reid Public Opinion polling company.

Albertans who just can't stand Redford, who mostly seem to be supporters of the right-wing Wildrose Party nowadays, can take some comfort from the fact the premier's popularity has slipped eight percentage points since the last time the company did a similar poll in August.

Back then, ARPO says, Redford had the approval of 55 per cent of Alberta's voters; now only 47 per cent love her, just one percentage point above Manitoba's affable Greg Selinger.

Even better from the Wildrosers' perspective is the fact Redford's rating is a point lower than the popularity the poll claims for Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith, although her esteem too is down a couple of points since August.

Smith, of course, has been lobbing spitballs at the premier since election day back in April -- which was, as politicians never tire of reminding us, the only poll that really counts.

That one, as alert readers will recall, gave Redford's Progressive Conservative Party a nice 61-seat majority in the 87-seat provincial Legislature. Only 17 went to the Wildrosers. But that was after a couple of weeks when it looked very much as if the market-fundamentalist Wildrose Party, allied closely with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative federal government, might actually win, which had to be giving PC strategists the staggers and jakes no matter what they're saying now.

Now, this may be a silly poll, designed primarily to get ARPO free ink and electrons in the press and its on-line editions. Methodologically speaking, it's iffy -- based on interviews with 6,619 self-selected folks who voluntarily signed onto an on-line panel run by the company. (You can read the media coverage of ARPO's poll yourself to see how the rest of the provincial leaders are doing -- except for P.E.I.'s, or the territorial leaders, or the leaders of other opposition parties, none of whom make it onto the Angus Reid list for some reason.)

Regardless, it still drives the Alberta's loony right batty that Redford remains as popular as she does. After all, they've been toiling for months to smear her as the kind of politician who, any minute now, may invite black helicopters from the United Nations into Albertan air space to seize our guns, arrest anyone with a nice pair of cowboy boots and carry out cattle mutilations on a mammoth scale.

It is well known that the Wildrose Party's long-range strategy -- mimicking the strategic tack adopted by Harper's party in recent never-ending election campaigns -- is to keep calling Redford and her PC government corrupt until some of that nasty rhetoric sticks. This may account for Redford's slippage in the Reid poll, or it may just be the effect our lousy December weather has on Albertans.

Whatever, one thing that it extremely clear is that the rage and hatred for Redford from the foot soldiers of the far right is growing much faster Redford's overall popularity is slipping, whatever that means in electoral terms -- which is probably not all that much.

The anti-Redford rhetoric in media comments sections has taken on a palpable Tea Party quality, and it seems likely that sooner or later the Redford Tories will judge they have to adopt similar tactics to bring the Wildrose Part down a peg or two.

Indeed, the buzz in political circles remains that the Redford PCs will set up a "Wildrose War Room" for the next session of the Alberta Legislature that will give the Opposition a taste of its own gag-inducing medicine.

A senior Wildrose Party official who shall remain nameless because if the mainstream media can say that, so can I, recently told me his party views this as "a badge of honour."

"They've never been this scared this fast before," he opined. "It's less than eight months since the election and they're pushing the panic button!"

Well, maybe. Or maybe it's just going to be a really nasty three-year campaign from which everyone will emerge bloodied and bruised -- and much lower in ARPO's quarterly popularity contest.

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