It sure looks as if Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s abysmal performance is not merely threatening the survival of his United Conservative Party government, but is dragging down the federal Conservatives in Alberta as well.
Alberta’s Conservatives are too strong and too entrenched even for Premier Kenney to destroy them completely.
Still, a poll published on the eve of Canada Day by the Canadian arm of the multinational Ipsos suggests he may be taking the Conservative Party of Canada and federal Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole to a place that could result in significant changes to the federal political scene in this supposedly deeply Tory blue province.
That is to say, something not unlike the conditions that led to the election of an NDP government in Alberta in 2015 could be happening again in wild rose country.
That would be quite a legacy for Kenney to leave Alberta when he’s about to be able to collect his generous federal pension.
The Ipsos poll could be a bit of a fluke, of course. Such things happen. But the results of other recent polls suggest not. And, these days, it truly doesn’t feel all that far out to suggest traditionally dominant Conservatives aren’t quite as dominant here in Alberta as they once were.
The string of disasters, bad bets, and divisive tactics perpetrated by Kenney and the UCP strategic brain trust certainly haven’t helped. To date, Kenney’s tarnished leadership has been a protracted flop on economic front.
As for the COVID-19 pandemic, the UCP largely fumbled its efforts to mitigate the virus from the get-go, suffering the embarrassment for a spell of having the highest infection rate in North America.
Alberta’s vaccination program has been a significant success, but it’s widely understood that’s due to the Trudeau government’s effective vaccine-acquisition policy — which, embarrassingly, Kenney and O’Toole both repeatedly attacked until its success was too obvious to be denied.
The results of the Ipsos poll, says at least one prominent polling analyst, could be big gains for federal Liberals and New Democrats in Alberta when the federal election is called — widely expected sooner than later.
The poll conducted by Ipsos for Global News shows the Liberals leading comfortably in most parts of Canada, and likely on track for a return to majority status in Parliament after a spell as a minority, as long as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is able to call an election before the tide starts to go out again.
“If an election were held tomorrow, 38 per cent of decided voters would vote for the Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau,” Ipsos public affairs VP Darrell Bricker said in his analysis of the results of the online and telephone survey of 1,501 Canadians conducted between June 17 and June 22.
These strong numbers for the Liberals were down a couple of points from April, Bricker noted, but still put the Grits comfortably in majority territory.
Nationwide support for the Conservatives led by the apparently hapless O’Toole languish at 26 per cent, Ipsos said. The poll put the NDP under Jagmeet Singh down one point from a month earlier at 20 per cent, the Bloc at eight, the Greens at seven and the remaining two per cent for “another party.” Maverick Party? People’s Party of Canada? Who cares?
While the Liberals are strong in most key demographics, Ipsos’ results indicated, Conservative strength is strong enough on the Prairies and the Bloc’s in Quebec that “people shouldn’t get carried away with these polls and start awarding the Liberals 200 seats,” advised polling analyst Eric Grenier on his personal website.
Still, everyone seems to agree this situation is very bad news for O’Toole, whose personal popularity at 23 per cent lags the prime minister’s by 18 points and is tied with Singh’s. So, 42 for Trudeau, 23 for O’Toole, and 23 for Singh.
In Alberta, Bricker said, the Conservatives remain “in the driver’s seat” at 38 per cent, but with the Liberals at 29 per cent, the NDP at 21 per cent, and the Greens at 9 per cent, change could happen.
“The challenges the Kenney government have faced in recent months have harmed the Tory brand,” Bricker said diplomatically.
“Those are absolutely disastrous numbers, and if replicated at election time would probably see both the Liberals (29 per cent) and the NDP (21 per cent) winning a ton of seats in Edmonton and Calgary,” Grenier said more forcefully. He noted that another recent poll for Abacus showed similar numbers for Alberta.
A ton? Maybe even a tonne? Well, you can’t watch Alberta politics for a long time without suspecting that’s just a pipedream. What’s more, it’s not exactly unheard of in recent North American elections for conservative parties to poll worse than they actually perform on election night.
Still, better minds than mine…
“You can’t blame the Maverick or People’s parties for the Conservative woes in their own backyard,” Grenier added. “Combined, Ipsos awarded these parties just three per cent support in Alberta.”
“You might want to point fingers at Premier Jason Kenney instead,” he concluded.
Well, it’s hard to dispute that proposition.
David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald.
Image: David J. Climenhaga/Used with permission.