Rachel Notley

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From the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, it seemed like a peculiar omission.

A poll of Alberta voters reported at the end of last week indicated that if an election were held now, the New Democratic Party could win. But the story generated no headlines.

Surely this was pretty big news — even though it was the result of questions asked of an online panel, to which all the usual caveats about this kind of opinion research must be applied.

Still, it seemed to me as I checked the news from home in my Munich hotel room that such a result was worthy of more comprehensive coverage than a single sentence in a single news story in a single giveaway newspaper — although, come to think of it, that last point pretty well describes them all in these parts nowadays.

There it was on the Calgary Metro newspapers site in black and white last Friday: “The results had the NDP still winning the election with 32 per cent of the vote, while Wildrose and PCs came second and third respectively with 22 and 21 per cent of the vote.”

In fact, the Wildrose and Tory results should have read 28 per cent and 27 per cent resoectively, bringing the horses in this race closer together.

Still, the results indicated Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP remains within striking distance of success in Calgary, where they were in a heat with the Progressive Conservatives according to this poll, and overwhelmingly dominate the field in the Capital Region, with close to 50 per cent support.

You’d think this kind of stuff was almost worthy of exclamation points given the narrative Albertans are being fed about the political state of affairs in this province, where reporting on the NDP by mainstream media is universally hostile and spins a tale of the party’s inevitable downfall in the next election, which can’t be held soon enough.

In defence of the story’s author, the pollster — ThinkHQ Public Affairs Inc. of Calgary — seems to have principally been looking for something else when it was in the field in late July. To wit, whether conservative voters like Opposition Wildrose Leader Brian Jean the best, or Jason Kenney, the federal Conservative candidate for the leadership of the provincial Progressive Conservative Party running on a “unite-the-right” ticket.

The answer to that question appears to be Jean, which apparently surprised the reporter, and possibly the pollster, but ought not to have shocked disinterested observers who consider the substantial liabilities and vulnerabilities Kenney brings to the contest, notwithstanding his deep pockets and the support of frustrated conservative backroom operatives in both parties.

Kenney’s liabilities with ordinary voters surely include his hypocritical double-dipping at the public trough, his history of extreme social conservatism and, now, the fact his campaign has been economical with the truth about the nature of the corporate entity set up to bankroll his bid to unite the two right-wing parties and move them even further to the right.

Metro newspapers, which sponsored the poll and was the only paper to report it, devoted 332 of the 416 words in its short story on the survey to the relative popularity of the two conservative leaders, 50 words on the poll’s methodology and 32 words to the level of popular support for the NDP.

And those 32 words? They seem to have been all that appeared in mainstream Canadian media. Everywhere else, crickets.

Well, perhaps this only seemed odd given the fact I was visiting a country where the print newspaper business — notwithstanding the Internet and all the other excuses for disappearing readers and declining revenues — appears to be holding its own better than in Canada, with plenty of papers representing a variety of points of view on sale everywhere, including local dailies being hawked on subway platforms.

Here in Edmonton, meanwhile, Postmedia Network Inc., publisher of the Alberta Frankenpaper, which has the same perspective as all the other media in the province and publishes identical stories in four versions in Calgary and Edmonton, announced the next day was immediately laying off 600 carriers in the capital city.

NOTE: This post has been updated to reflect and clarify an error in Metro’s copy. It also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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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...