Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Redford/McGuinty vs. Smith/Hudak

Ontario and Alberta are two important provinces in a period of political flux.

The governing Alberta Tories have a new leader at the helm in Alison Redford, who hails from the more progressive side of the Progressive Conservative Party. She has a feisty challenger in Danielle Smith, leader of the right-wing Wildrose Party.

In Ontario, the Liberals were re-elected but with only a minority government, and the province could be heading to the polls at any time. Premier Dalton McGuinty’s main opponent at Queen’s Park, Tim Hudak, comes from the more conservative wing of the Ontario’s PCs.

Two provinces with premiers from different parties, and yet they have a lot in common.

You can read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post Canada website here.

What Alison Redford and Dalton McGuinty don't have in common, however, is their standing in the polls. The most recent numbers out of Alberta, reported last week by the Calgary Herald, show that the Alberta Tories are outpacing their rivals by 32 points.
The Environics telephone poll shows that the Progressive Conservatives have dropped only three points since July, and lead with 51%. Redford wasn't the party leader at that point, so that is good news for her.

The Wildrose Party is up three points to 19%, while the NDP is unchanged at 14%. The Liberals have slipped one point to 13%.

Details in the Herald report are slim, but it appears that the NDP is running second in Edmonton with 21%. That falls nicely in line with the most recent data from Lethbridge College and Angus-Reid. Wildrose is running second to the Tories in Calgary, as would be expected.

The seat projection model for Alberta is still in a rudimentary stage, and needs to be revamped entirely. But as it stands, these results would give 81 seats to the Progressive Conservatives, four to the NDP, and two to Wildrose. I imagine, though, that the more sophisticated model, once it is complete, would show a slightly different result.

What we can say confidently is that with 51% and a very divided opposition the Progressive Conservatives have a good shot at a virtual sweep. The NDP is doing well enough to retain, and perhaps even grow, its toehold in Edmonton, while the Liberals are looking to be in trouble. If under Raj Sherman the Alberta Liberals see a drop in support next year, it would be the trifecta of the provincial Liberal decimation in the Prairies after the elections in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

It is still very, very early going for Alison Redford and this kind of bump is to be expected. Ironically, in the interview I mention in the Huffington Post article, Danielle Smith made the same argument, saying that this kind of honeymoon in the polls comes with the territory of being a new leader. What she could have added is that she knows this by experience, as her party had a bump after she took on the leadership. But Wildrose is now far removed from where it was a year ago.


  1. I think you could make the argument that the Alberta Liberals have been decimated since 1921.

    Eric, has this nascent Alberta Party gotten anywhere? It would seem that as the NDP is enjoying a relatively good phase right now across the country, that they could soak up the vast majority of the centre-left vote in Alberta. Which is larger than stereotypes would imply.

    I still predict the WRA to become the official opposition next year. I expect some lively debates between Redford and Smith to liven up what has often been a sleepy Assembly.

  2. Éric, this post makes it clear that the Alberta Party has a lot of work ahead before becoming a viable alternative. The demise of the Liberals in Alberta is certainly imminent, especially since Alberta Liberals are less likely to vote for a tory-led Liberal Party, and tories are less likely to vote for a conservative party called the Liberals.

    These polls indicate that New Democrats are increasingly the best alternative for the centre and centre-left vote. Although one could argue that the centre vote, with the Liberals out and the Wildrose in (and assuming away the Alberta Party), is really the PC vote.

  3. The vote distribution in Alberta, though, is such that no centre-left party is going to have any significant electoral success without a severe split on the right. Albertans like low taxes and the freedom to do business. Until something dramatic happens, that's not going to change.

    Preston Manning was always fond of pointing out that the Alberta Tories were living on borrowed time ever since Ralph Klein took office, as every one of their political dynasties died with its third premier. But the PCs broke the pattern.

    You're mostly right about the Liberals, Steve. There have been only three changes of government in Alberta's history, and no governing party, once defeated, has ever come back to amount to anything. The Liberals, though, did threaten in the 1993 election. Ralph Klein won that one by stealing their entire platform and then just being more likable than the oher guy.

  4. There's a new Nanos poll, showing the Federal Liberal retaking second place from the NDP. Will there be an analysis on that here?

  5. Interesting comparison of Danielle Smith and Tim Hudak. I doubt these two will ever become premier. In regards to Smith, I do not think Alberta is in the mood for a right-wing populist government, especially when the federal Conservatives are in power. As for Hudak, he is just plain incompetent. Right-wing rural activists have too much clout in the Ontario PC party and this would not help them win seats in urban areas.

    I think B.C Conservative leader John Cummins has similarities to these leaders too. A trio of "Tea Party" style leaders.

    - Maple

  6. I think Albertans are always in the mood for a right-wing government.

    I dispute, though, that the WRA is a populist party. Populist parties in Alberta are invariably religious right parties, and the WRA has an explicitly areligious agenda.

  7. I'm disappointed to see that the WRA is polling so low. Personally, I've voted for the PCs for years, but am planning on voting for the WRA next time. I was on the fence, but Redford has turned me off of the PCs with the way she forced recent legislation through without any debate. I’ve heard Smith speak often (unlike Redford) and think she would do fine (and let’s face it, 30-40 years is a long time to stay in power) Anecdotally, I can say that when I speak to people it seems that the WRA would be more popular than the PC (who, let's face it, are currently very left wing for Alberta). Obviously, though, your polls are more scientific than this subjective analysis (hence my disappointment).


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