A photo of The Alberta Legislative Building under a stormy summer sky.
The Alberta Legislative Building under a stormy summer sky. Credit: David J. Climenhaga Credit: David J. Climenhaga

Another day, another Alberta political poll, this time from Leger. This one, like last week’s Mainstreet Research poll, shows Rachel Notley’s New Democrats in the lead, although not by enough that NDP supporters should feel they can rest easy.

Leger’s poll, like Mainstreet’s, was intended as a look at the United Conservative Party (UCP) leadership race, but it included a component on which parties decided voters prefer – 45 per cent of decided voters province-wide for the NDP versus 41 per cent for the UCP.

As for the UCP leadership race, no surprises there – leastways, Leger’s findings suggest much the same thing as Mainstreet’s. To wit, that right now the candidates with name recognition are well ahead in support among identified UCP voters – former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith with 22 per cent; former Wildrose leader Brian Jean with 20 per cent; and former finance minister Travis Toews with 15 per cent.

With Smith controversially telling her pro-quackery supporters in the UCP base that whether or not you get cancer is up to you, never mind bad luck or genetics, this would seem to present a troubling choice to Jean and Toews. 

Smith’s cancer-victim-blaming remark set off a huge brouhaha that she tried to defuse in an embarrassing video accusing Notley, who had called the implication of blame cruel and wrong, of trying to use cancer prevention as a wedge issue. 

Naturopathy probably doesn’t really count as cancer prevention, except in Ms. Smith’s fevered imagination. But as the CBC’s Jason Markusoff pointed out, she is a determined crank when it comes to medical treatments and she’s unlikely to change her mind. 

So if she holds her support in the race, one of those other two frontrunners is going to have to throw his support to the other – or they’re both going to have to go over to Rebecca Schulz – to keep Alberta from ending up with a premier setting health policy who thinks all citizens need to avoid cancer is $300 a year to spend on snake oil, and who has some kind of separatist scheme up her sleeve to boot! 

And that, as Schulz suggested, would probably be enough right there to give Rachel Notley and the NDP the win in Calgary. 

Leger – whose survey published Sunday was based on responses from an online panel of 1,025 adult Albertans between July 15 and 17 – shows the NDP with a massive lead in Edmonton among committed voters, 61-per-cent to 30-per-cent, and the UCP with a similarly strong 51-31 lead outside the big cities. 

In Calgary, where the election expected in 2023 is likely to be decided, the NDP leads 44 per cent to 41 per cent, not enough for the Opposition to be able to count on sufficient seats to overcome the UCP’s rural advantage, which tilts Alberta’s electoral map in favour of Conservatives.

So when you break UCP support down by ridings with so much of the NDP vote concentrated in Edmonton, Conservatives could still win based on Leger’s numbers. 

However, there will be plenty more polls between now and October, when the winning UCP leader will be known, and their results will likely be all over the map for a while. 

It’s natural that the UCP would have polled better when its potential leader was only not-Jason-Kenney than it does now that it appears likely to be Smith, Jean or Toews – each one of them well known to Albertans. 

If, as predicted in this space Sunday, Schulz, the former minister of children’s services, emerges as a serious contender, that too will have an impact on how the party is perceived – and may also change as Albertans get to know her better. 

Speaking of Smith’s separatist leanings, and her contempt for the rule of law, Leger’s pollsters also asked a question about that, and 71 per cent of respondents said Alberta is better off within Canada. 

This number, it is said here, will probably grow assuming Smith and Jean continue to press sovereignist fantasies with the result that more Albertans start to think about what a blessing it is to be Canadian. 

Don’t imagine that will stop either candidate, though, when they have invested too much in their autonomy talk to back off now.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...