rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Environics poll shows Tories in full flower, Wildrose withering on the vine

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca in its summer fundraiser today for as little as $1 per month!

Alison Redford

From the perspective of Alberta’s market-fundamentalist Wildrose Party Opposition, yesterday's Environics Research Group poll of voter support for the province's political parties did not contain particularly good news.

The survey -- the first major Alberta opinion poll to be published since the April 23 provincial election -- shows support for Premier Alison Redford's Progressive Conservative government remains at a commanding level almost identical to where it was on the day of the election.

As for the Wildrose Party, which saw its support peak a few days ahead of the spring election, the Environics numbers indicate the right-wing opposition party's support is slumping, possibly quite seriously give or take the margin of error. (Note that at least one other poll, which will be published very soon, has produced similar results.)

The two traditionally more moderate opposition parties, meanwhile, have seen their committed voter support grow back closer to the levels seen in the recent past, according to Environics' results, particularly in the case of the NDP. The Liberals have a little further to go to get to where they once were, but nevertheless their results are much better too.

This suggests -- to me, at any rate -- that traditional Conservative voters who flirted with the Wildrose Party during last spring's campaign, when Alberta's Natural Governing Party seemed to be on the ropes, are returning to their traditional electoral home. NDP and Liberal supporters, meanwhile, who deserted their parties in droves to vote strategically for Redford’'s PCs also appear to be going back to their parties.

It is probably a little early to forecast with much confidence that these results mean the Wildrose Party, led by former broadcaster Danielle Smith, reached its historical high tide of support on about April 19 or 20.

Buoyed by open media support in the weeks before the election, lingering dissatisfaction among voters with the PC government of former premier Ed Stelmach and a series of pre-election polls that turned out either to be highly misleading or to be tracking extreme volatility on the part of the electorate, the Wildrose Party appeared for a few days to be on the cusp of a majority.

But then a series of ill-timed bozo eruptions by candidates from the party's social conservative wing apparently alerted voters to what they were on the verge of electing. At any rate, that seemed to be the beginning of an influx to Tory ranks of progressive voters motivated by a desire to block at any cost victory by the Wildrose Party, which they viewed as dangerously extreme.

Wildrosers are within their rights to respond by claiming that the conclusions of Environics' pollsters, who were in the field between Aug. 10 and Aug. 22, were reached before a number of serious public relations embarrassments unfolded for the government. These include most significantly the first-quarter fiscal update in which Finance Minister Doug Horner told Albertans there would be a bigger deficit than was predicted before the election, but also the sudden and apparently politically motivated decision to drop plans for a police college in Fort Macleod, part of a riding that voted Wildrose on April 23.

Wildrose supporters are also entitled to expect that their mostly inexperienced 19-member caucus will grow more effective as it learns on the job over the next couple of years and watches veteran NDP and Liberal Opposition members in action.

Still, given the ferocity of the public response to the Alberta Health Services expense account scandal that broke well before the polling data was collected, the conclusion is hard to avoid that the public does not blame the Redford PCs for a situation that developed under Stelmach's leadership. Leastways, Premier Redford and her strategists have the political skills or good luck to be able to weather such storms. Whatever the reason, the effects of that particular controversy rolled off Redford's government like water off the proverbial duck's back.

In detail, the Environics poll of 1,000 respondents throughout Alberta results show support among committed voters for the PC party at 43 per cent, down a statistically insignificant point from 44 per cent on April 23.

Wildrose Party support, however, fell to 26 per cent from 34 per cent. NDP support grew to 13 per cent from 10 per cent and Liberal support grew to 14 per cent from 10 per cent. Support for other parties, whoever they may be (the Alberta Party? Social Credit?), edged upward to 3 per cent from 2 per cent, Environics said. Another 13 per cent of respondents indicated they were undecided or did not answer.

The PCs, moreover, enjoyed strong support in Edmonton, Calgary and Alberta's larger cities, with the Wildrose managing a much narrower lead only in rural areas. NDP support was significantly stronger in the Capital Region -- at 20 per cent, it was effectively tied in the region with the Wildrose at 21 per cent.

There can be few complaints about the methodology used by Environics to conduct this telephone survey of randomly selected Albertans, their numbers weighted by region.

The Redford Tories have taken steps to defuse some of their more serious recent problems, pledging, for example, to enact Canada's strongest public transparency laws for elected officials and recruiting new issues management and strategy talent to guide them down the long road to the next election.

All this suggests that if the satisfied mood of Alberta's voters does not change, Redford and her government have the ability not just to survive but to thrive. Given low expectations, the same can be said about both the Liberals and the NDP.

However, the future of the Wildrose Party is not so clear. It has been argued here that expectations for the party were so high just before the April election that anything but an election victory posed a threat to its survival.

Smith's undoubted political talents notwithstanding, Wildrose supporters will continue to drift back to the PCs if the party can't generate enthusiasm and support like it did in its salad days before April's election. Rural municipal politicians, used to having their way in Edmonton, will soon grow tired of being left out in the cold.

That would leave the Wildrose Party, thoroughly marginalized, in the hands of its most extreme far-right factions.

In other words, the Wildrose Party cannot expect to survive if it continues to post poll results like those reported by Environics yesterday.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.