Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Alberta Tories in driver's seat

CTV released a new poll by ThinkHQ Public Affairs for the Alberta provincial election last week, and it echoes what some other polls have been showing. Also released last week were a few riding polls for Lethbridge, indicating that the Tories are on track to sweep the city after it was closely contested in 2008.
ThinkHQ found that the Progressive Conservatives lead with 42%, 13 points up on Wildrose who trail with 29%.

The New Democrats come in third with 13% while the Liberals are fourth with 12%.

This poll was added to the projection on February 25.

This seems to give further indication that the race in Alberta is much more competitive than some other polls have suggested. Nevertheless, the Progressive Conservatives are very comfortably ahead.

Their widest lead is in Edmonton, where the Tories have 40% support to 20% for Wildrose and the NDP. The Liberals trail with 17%.

The margin between the PCs and Wildrose is only six points in Calgary, with 41% to 35%. The Liberals are third with 14% while the NDP stands at 7% in the city.

I reverse-engineered the results in the rest of Alberta as ThinkHQ did not provide them in their report. By my estimate, this poll would have put the Tories at 45% outside of the two main cities. Wildrose would be at 31%, the NDP at 13%, and the Liberals at 6%. I emphasize that this is an estimate, but it should be correct to within a point or three.

Both Alison Redford and Danielle Smith have net positive approval ratings, with Redford scoring a +21 (53% approval to 32% disapproval) and Smith a +13 (43% approval to 30% disapproval). Brian Mason (-15) and Raj Sherman (-11) have net negative approval ratings.

We've heard from Lethbridge College before. Polls being produced by colleges and universities are wonderfully common in the United States, but unfortunately Lethbridge College seems to be the only Canadian school that regularly puts out polling data. They polled the two ridings in Lethbridge, of note due to Bridget Pastoor's floor-crossing from the Liberals to the Tories in 2011.
The chart compares the results of the Lethbridge polls to the current projections for these ridings. They line-up generally well, and aside from the NDP in Lethbridge East and the "Others" in Lethbridge West are all within the projected ranges. But since the results for the NDP and the Others in these two ridings are not within the ranges, I will be adding this riding poll to the projection. I have not done so yet, so this comparison between poll and projection does not include the riding poll data.

Riding polls are added to the projection to provide a benchmark for adjustments going forward. The projections for Lethbridge East and West will be weighted to partially include this poll, whose data will be adjusted as voting intentions shift at the regional level. In other words, riding polls are not added as a snapshot in time but rather a starting point for further shifts in support.

The poll itself shows that in Lethbridge West the Tories lead with 35.8%, well ahead of the Liberals (24.3%) and the NDP (20.6%). Compared to the 2008 election, however, the Tories are down eight points and the Liberals are down 11. Both Wildrose and the NDP have more than doubled their support, an indication of the changing landscape province-wide.

In Lethbridge East, Pastoor has taken a lot of her support with her to the Tories, as she stands at 45.6% to 23.4% for Wildrose and only 15.3% for the Liberals. The PCs have picked up six points since 2008 while the Liberals are down a whopping 31. But it appears likely that, as a result of Liberals moving over to the Tories, some Tories have moved over to Wildrose - they are up 17 points. The NDP is also up from 6% to 13.4%.

From a projection stand-point, I'm quite pleased that the mechanism I have for estimating the support of floor-crossers has worked so well in Lethbridge East.

Both the ThinkHQ and Lethbridge polls show that the Progressive Conservatives are still very much in control of the situation and that their brand is strong. But it also shows that Wildrose's increase in support is very real - from 7% and 6% in Lethbridge West/East they have gone to 15% and 23%, respectively. If this sort of increase occurs across the board, Wildrose will be able to do very well in ridings in which they have a solid base of support.

What these polls also show is that the race for third is not going well for the Liberals. Provincially they are at risk of dropping behind the NDP in the popular vote, as well as the very real possibility they will be the fourth party in the legislature when the dust settles. Their support in Lethbridge, just one example, has plummeted from 35% and 46% in the two ridings to only 24% and 15%. Considering the margin of error, they also at risk of falling behind the NDP in Lethbridge, after outpacing them by between 25 and 40 points in 2008. The race at the bottom may mark a shift in Alberta politics just as much as the race for the top.


  1. These polls won't solidify until after the televised debates.
    Albertans aren't that political and just mindlessly support the PC's.

    Once an election begins and real choices are on display, things will change.

    With so many parties in play there could be a lot of weird vote splits.

    I predict a Tory minority.


  2. Alberta has never elected a minority government. Not once. They've had 26 general elections, and they've produced 26 consecutive majorities.

    I don't expect that to change.

  3. Sorry, no, that's 27 consecutive majorities.

  4. Liberal support hasn't collapsed its simply shifted to Redford.

    Peter's commment above can be included in that.

    Redford put out a big spending budget that is in the vein of McGuinty or Christy Clark.

    All of which just means more deficits and more debt. And more taxes and less jobs in the future.

    Say what you want about NDP government but they pay their bills. Like the government in Nova Scotia which achieved this by raising their HST.

    Of course that means more taxes and less jobs right away but at least you don't have compound interest working against you.

    Better to bite the bullet straight away. Plus its honest and you can always vote them out.

    What Redford and McGuinty are doing where they sell out future generations is just plain cruel.

  5. Maybe I'm a tad ignorant when it comes to Alberta politics, but why does Wild Rose run best in *Calgary,* of all places? I thought Wild Rose was more of a rural grassroots movement than a suburban "905/Common Sense Revolution" style one.....and isn't Redford from Calgary? Or is Danielle Smith a more well-liked figure locally?

  6. I expect Alison Redford's public mockery of Dalton McGuinty is winning her some fans across Alberta.

  7. And Ontario, no doubt. I'm told the talk radio people here in Ottawa were having a field day with his comments.

  8. Daniel,

    The Wildrose's popularity in Calgary stems from a couple of things. The first is their capitalisation on former premier Ed Stelmach's unpopularity in Calgary, as he was from northern Alberta, seemed out of touch with Calgary, and whose oil and gas royalty decisions made the energy sector (largely headquartered in Calgary) very angry. Even though Redford has mitigated some of this, and the WR are not as popular as they once were, this success still lingers.

    Redford is from Calgary, but wasn't terribly well-known until she was elected in 2008 and then ran for the PC leadership. She'll mean the PCS do well in Calgary but it's not like she's a slam-dunk everywhere. Calgary does have a reputation for being more conservative than Edmonton, and while this is false in many ways, it is true in enough ways to give the WR an edge in the city, if only because most people who are tired of the PCs see another conservative-sounding party as the only alternative, as the Liberals are looked-down on outside of the inner-city and the NDP have never made much headway.

    That's a rough summary, and probably patchy in places, but gives you some sense of why WR does well in Calgary as well as rural Alberta. (Though I think WR success in rural Alberta is wildly over-estimated; people should not discount PC brand loyalty. It is a tradition, almost part of the very culture, to vote PC, just like voting Social Credit was prior to '71.)

  9. But those Socred voters became PC voters virtually overnight.

    That's how power changes hands in Alberta. It's abrupt, it's immediate, and it's permanent.

  10. True, but I'm not sure the Wildrose are in the same position now as the PCs were before the '71 election. I guess we'll see.

  11. My predictions:

    PC: 63 seats (Majority Gov't)
    WR: 12 seats (Official Opposition)
    NDP: 5
    Liberal: 2

  12. Pretty easy to see the Liberals potentially shut out provincewide here. I think the NDP will do very well, probably doubling their vote in the end (to 16-17%) though ending up with only 5-6 seats in Edmonton unless the PCs drop below 40% in which case they may win some seats that are 3 or 4 way races. Wildrose is a wildcard and if they bring it to a tie in Calgary and rural Alberta and the NDP gain a bit in Edmonton, then a minority government is possible with the PCs and WRA party around 35-40 seats.

  13. Ira,

    Your point is well taken, however, as Brandon points out, this isn't a transition time. WR will be virtually SHUT OUT of Edmonton, and are only polling high in Calgary suburbs. They are a party born in reaction to specific (economic and political) conditions. Those conditions (Ed Stelmach) are no longer plaguing the PC's and therefore, the prevailing wisdom is that PC's will win comfortably with a new mandate to fix healthcare and re-build the PC-conceived Heritage Fund.

  14. Tom, that only adds up to 82; there will be 87 seats after this election.

  15. Brandon: You're right, absolutely. I had meant to concede 17 seats (not 12) to the WR. I do think the WR will gain seats in YYC and suburbs, notably including Airdrie and Okotoks.

    I blame my typo on my iPad typing skills and my subconscious revulsion to acknowledging the WR could form Official Opposition. LOL!

    On a serious note: I think the media in Alberta has been hugely pro-WR, at the expense of objectivity. If they are looking for a realistic narrative--one that would sell papers while being legitimate--they should be posing this election as a battle of ideas, between the successors of Lougheed and Klein, represented by Redford and Smith, respectively.

    In my humble opinion, Redford will be the best premier since Lougheed. Throughout her leadership campaign she exuded "big picture" vision, reminiscent to Lougheed. I predict that she will do great things for the province, by re-investing in the Heritage Fund and education. She wants to leverage Alberta's economic power into political power and clout, federally and internationally.

  16. Go Wild Rose!
    Go Wild Rose!

    I'm praying for a WR government. As I said in another post, 40 years is long enough. It is absolutely mind-numbing that any party could stay in power this long. Anything, and I mean anything, is better than more PC rule. We need change for the sake of change.

    From these polls though, it looks like the best I can hope for is a minority government, and may not even get that.

    I agree with the earlier poster who indicated that Redford may pick up Liberal supporters. Indeed, I could see her being very popular with the left, and may pick up some pragmatic NDP supporters. If you generally support nanny-state intervention, she's likely your dream candidate

    I'm relatively right wing, so I'll be voting WR. I haven't joined the party yet, and haven't given them any money yet, but plan on doing so soon.

    Wild Rose Supporter.

  17. The PC party isn't what it used to be. Ralph Klein has been gone for about 7 years now.

    The PC has become a defacto Liberal party with tax increases on the horizon.

    Danielle Smith has the common sense solutions that conservatives appreciate.

  18. Frankly, I agree with the previous poster, WR Supporter, that seemed to indicate that a WR gov't would be a return to Klein days.

    My problem with that (as a conservative!) is that Klein was a moron. He essentially robbed from Alberta's future by cutting spending on NEEDED things, like education and healthcare. In effect, he deferred spending to create surpluses. The result was Alberta--among the fastest growing provinces--entered the 2000's with badly aging infrastructure, insufficient schools and hospitals and aging highways.

    Premier Redford is having to redress these things, quickly, by re-investing in Alberta. This will pay dividends in the future, by attracting private investments, skilled labor and capital.

    The WR (Tea Party North) plan is to slash investments. However, ironically, it wants to return to the boondoggle of NINE regional health authorities, both massively inefficient and expensive.

    Danielle Smith was unfit to govern the Calgary School Board and was subsequently FIRED. She is not remotely qualified to govern Canada's third largest provincial economy.

    1. @Tom,
      With respect, I think a better analogy would be to compare the Wild Rose Party to the old federal Reform Party. The PC's have (especially since Mz Redford took over) drifted far too much to the left. I suspect that this may be a calculated move to pick up votes from the left (who would otherwise vote Lib or NDP), on the assumption that the largely conservative segment of the population will automatically vote PC as we (including myself) have always done until now. This will be the first time I've voted WR, having always voted PC in the past.

      As for Klein, I think you are being unduly hard on him. I suspect that Ralph was simply a populist, with little ideology beyond that. For this province, Redford is hard left, and she's counting on conservatives not noticing.

      Of course, I don't really know how Danielle Smith would govern, but she can't possibly be worse than what we've got now. We already have a left-leaning premier, and if you give her a mandate, we'll have one for the next (4?) years.

      I've read about Danielle Smith on-line, and she seems quite reasonable (for a politician). I'm willing to give her a chance, and I intend to give her my vote.

      40 years is long enough. We need an actual conservative government, not just one in name only. Time for a change.

      Wild Rose Supporter.

  19. The Wildrose party in in its 10th Anniversary. It was born in the Klein era. This will be its third general election and second senate election.

    The looking at the facts before you make false assumptions about why it exists.

    1. Anonymous 05:09PM: Yes, the Wildrose (Tea Party) has been around for a decade. Remind me: how many seats did the Alberta Alliance, Wildrose Alliance, Tea Party...whatever they're calling themselves these days have pre-2008?

      In fact, please explain how the Wildrose Tea Party was in any way relevant from 2002-2008?

      The fact is, they became relevant solely by protesting Stelmach's gov't. They have argued, like the Tea Party, that gov't should not spend any money (GLOBAL RECESSION be damned), and we should de-centralize and sign stupid anti-tax documents.

      The WR are hopeless, Social Credit throwbacks, led by Danielle Smith and Rob Anderson, convincingly channeling Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum.

    2. Quite simply put, if the Wildrose wasn't relevant you wouldn't be sh***ng bricks about whether or not they're relevant.

    3. @Anonymous: Haha! Thanks for the laugh! I nearly spilled my coffee reading that.

      By late April, the WR (Tea Party) will be as relevant to Alberta politics as the Toronto Maple Leafs to the NHL Playoffs!

    4. @Redford,
      Again, with respect, this looks A LOT more like the Reform movement than the Tea Party. The federal Tories let us down, and so have the provincial PCs.
      40 Years is long enough. Time for a change.
      Wild Rose Supporter.

    5. @Anonymous,

      You make an interesting point. I would contend that the Reform party, like WR, had fundamental flaws, including an intellectual deficit.

      Reform was a reactionary party, and while making excellent arguments against the moribund (and corrupt) Liberals, Manning and Day were intellectual lightweights, with little vision and plans for governing. Both Reform leaders were social conservatives, which seems consistent with both WR and the Tea Party.

      Not until the Reform Party merged with the Alliance, did the CPC become electable. The shortcomings of Reform are precisely those of the Wildrose, which clearly made valid criticisms against Stelmach, but lacks credibility and electability. They will never supplant a PC party led by Redford, whose international background is exactly what Alberta needs most, as a massive energy supplier.

      I suspect that you and I are not terribly far apart, ideologically, as conservatives. My sincere hope for you (which you may, of course, disregard) is that you will take a hard look at the PC's. Note that Redford is NOT a lefty. Her results-based budgeting, is a perfect example of fiscal responsibility. The Premier has a viable plan to return Alberta to surpluses in the next fiscal year. Plus, the Premier has tremendous international experience and saavy and will finally unlock the untapped potential in this province by maximizing int'l partnerships with energy consumers, abroad. By comparison Danielle Smith has ZERO int'l experience and would be a disaster on the global stage.

      Lastly, the "40 years" argument is misleading. As someone else mentions, earlier in the thread, there are HUGE differences between PC gov't of Lougheed, Getty, Klein, Stelmach and Redford. Painting those premiers with the same brush is dishonest, as they are incredibly different.

      With due respect,
      Redford Supporter

  20. Dear Redford Supporter,

    1. With respect, I do not agree that Manning or Day were “intellectual lightweights,” although I would agree that the press tends to portray conservative intellectuals as such. Conversely, right of centre people have a related conceit, in that they consider left-leaning politicians like Mz. Redford to somehow be “less moral.” I don’t adopt either of these views myself, I just note that you seem to be adopting the former without justification. As to Reform’s actual influence on our country, you will recall that our current PM hails from this same intellectual wasteland, and seems to be doing just fine (he, like Mz. Smith, is also quite likely to get my vote).

    2. Before you mentioned it, I wasn’t aware that Mz. Redford had ever previously left Alberta’s boarders, but I would agree that seeing the world is generally a desirable thing. However, it, like the ability to hold post-graduate degrees, is based at least in part on the holder wining what Mr. Buffett described as the “ovarian” lottery. Now, there is clearly nothing wrong with either of these traits (I have both myself), but I would suggest that they are not prerequisites to holding public office. Such an attitude, I would suggest, is a tad elitist. Was Pierre Trudeau a better Prime Minister? Would Jack Layton have been? Indeed, I would suggest that Mz. Redford, in addition to having both traits, also holds much in common philosophically with these men.

    3. I have no idea why you would think that Danielle Smith would be a “disaster” on the world stage. I’ve heard Mz. Smith speak often on the radio (I really have no idea how many times), and she presents as articulate, thoughtful, intelligent and well versed on the issues. Of course, if Mz. Redford ever did these things, I might well find her equally engaging, but that is to be expected of both of them. They are politicians, they talk for a living.

    4. I’m afraid that I can’t have an informed discussion about Mz. Redford’s fiscal prudence (or lack thereof), as I have not read the budget, and would be unlikely to understand it if I did. However, I can confirm that both of our national newspapers have indicated that her financial projections are based heavily on oil maintaining a relatively high price (and the related provincial revenue). If this is case, I would suggest that this is far too left of centre for my liking. When oil falls, then, where will the revenue come from? Should we have a sales tax? Should we, as one of the public unions is currently advertising for on the radio, bring in a progressive income tax? I have little confidence in Mz. Redford’s ability to cut spending at that time. Indeed, I have no faith in any government’s ability to manage money well, and I would much rather see capital left in the general economy as much as possible. Danielle Smith is, of course, a politician and therefore should be dealt with with caution, but she is a least paying lip service to these ideals.

  21. Continued from above: (too long for one post)

    5. I respectfully disagree both with Mz. Redford’s position on “05” legislation, and with the incredibly high-handed way that she brought it in. It is absolutely mind-numbing that she would rush through such clearly unpopular legislation without any public debate (see my moral hazard analysis, below). Her position in this regard, I would suggest, shows a serious disconnect with the values of rural Alberta, and, in my opinion, is second only to the gun registry in the “incredibly bad ideas” department. In rural Alberta, taxies and public transit are significantly less available than in major centres like Calgary and Edmonton, so I would suggest that this law will be disproportionately harsh on rural Albertans. You remember us, right? We’re that demographic that’s kept you in power for the last 40 years. Further, under Bill 26, both the new 05 and 08 provisions will take effect without the necessity of a trial. By being charged, a person’s license is automatically suspended, in the case of the 08 prosecutions perhaps for many, many months, and the citizen must then sue the government to get their license back. Now, while we can all agree that impaired driving should be dealt with harshly, a true conservative would only punish the guilty. This was the main problem with the long-gun registry: You start with the presumption that guns are bad and then go after all law abiding citizens who happen to own guns. Likewise, if your actual goal is to punish impaired drivers, then you could simply raise the suspensions after they have been convicted. For example, if one is convicted of drunk driving, one would lose their license for 10 years (actually, I think that’s a pretty good idea. If you see Mz. Redford, do mention it to her, will you?). And as for the 05, why not simply make it an offence? Why on earth would you deny the taxpaying citizen the right to a trial? You will note, for example, that if one is charged with speeding or some other offence, that this is exactly what happens. The answer is, of course, that Mz. Redford is not a conservative at all. Mz. Redford would be much more philosophically at home in the Liberal party. This is fine, it being a free country after all, but she should have the common courtesy to actually run for that party. While I do not agree with such nanny-state nonsense, intelligent people can agree to disagree.

    6. The fact that the PC’s have been in power for 40 years is a perfectly valid point, and, I would suggest, cannot help but produce government malaise. There was a recent example where one of Mz. Redford’s cabinet ministers wrote a letter advising his constituents to not “upset the people in charge” or some other such phrase (this is currently in the news, and I do not feel like looking up the minister’s name and the actual wording). Anecdotally, I’ve had similar experiences with local school boards, and I suspect that I’m not alone. As it was explained to me, when one is seeking funding or support for one issue or another, it was very, very important to do nothing to “embarrass the minister” in question. You know, by saying that you don’t agree with how the elected officials are doing their jobs. I suspect that, if the government had not been in power for 4 decades, and if they thought that there was actual “moral hazard” in an election, such issues would be less frequent.

    7. You make the valid point that some of the PC’s past leaders have “huge differences” with each other. I agree completely. Indeed, unlike Mz. Redford, some the people you mentioned were conservatives.

    8. Indeed, my friend, you cannot convince to vote for the PCs again. I have stopped giving them my money, and will not be renewing my membership. I have not yet taken out a WR membership, but that is likely just a matter of time. This site states that the PCs are likely to win again. For both of our sakes, I hope it is wrong, because truly, 40 years is long enough.


    Wild Rose Supporter

    1. @WR Supporter,

      I must say, it is a pleasure to disagree with you. Your civility is appreciated and I wish Rob Anderson had a fraction of your tone. I will try to retort succinctely, but please do call me on anything missing or appearing absent.

      1. Day, more than Manning, is the definition of an intellectual lightweight. There is no clearer example than his statement that science proves the earth is 6,000 years old and man walked with dinosaurs. There is significant evidence, via his own words, that the man is fascile and probably didn't get a long well with Harper. His legal troubles (SUBSIDIZED by ALBERTA TAXPAYERS) also shows that he is/was dim.

      2. Redford's int'l experience is crucial to my reasoning that she is better prepared to govern. She was responsible (with others) for drafting constitutional legislation in one of the most fratricidal states in the world, and was remarkably successful. Her UN experience reflects her legal brilliance and her ability to negotiate.

      3. Ms. Smith is too gaffe-prone. Take for example her stance on the Edmonton airport, or her strange over-defense of land, which (ironically) could threaten the province's ability to build Keystone pipeline.

      4. PLEASE, before the election, consider reading the budget. The preamble and the main points re: methodology are key. I implore you because I legitimately think you will be impressed. Her plan to reduce spending is clearly laid out within the framework of "results based budgeting" which has proven (in other juristictions) to reduce spending, sometimes dramatically. In short, no bureaucrat is safe under this formula, which challenges everyone in gov't.

      5. You may dislike the ".05" legislation and many would agree. However, polls in January illustrated that many voters (especially women) were in favor of the legislation. The proponents cited British Columbia, which passed similar legislation in 2010. The public in BC, especially restaurant owners, hated it and it was seen as a contentious issue. Today, the provincial auto-insurer (ICBC) and the RCMP have demonstrated an important statistical decrease in drunk-driving deaths. In summary: lives were saved.

      Bill 26 aims to hit impaired drivers with fines, discouraging dangerous behavior, without clogging up the courts.

      Your idea re: longer sentences is interesting, and I will forward it to my local MLA for consideration.

      6. The minister you referenced (Goudreau) was actually disciplined by the Premier. She publicly condemed his actions and forced him to resign from his cabinet post, constituting a serious demontion (financially). I applauded this, because the Premier promised to change the culture of the party.

      7. I still don't follow your logic that Redford is not conservative. Her voting record, working history, and current budget indicate.

      8. I'm truly disapointed to read this and will simply ask you to consider reviewing the budget before you make your decision final. It demonstrates the Premier's conservative credentials. Plus, you will find a key difference between PC and WR: The latter wants to increase bureaucracy in healthcare, by re-creating 9 regional health boards, from the current one (AHS). The Premier, by comparison, wants oversight of AHS expanded, allowing for dramatically increased transparency, which will likely be a campaign point.

      Should the polls be correct, and the Premier win a majority, I sincerely hope you will lend your voice to the two-way dialogue promised by the current gov't. I am confident that your insights would be valued

      With respect,
      Redford 2012


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