Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tight race in Alberta in new polls as by-elections loom

With four provincial by-elections just around the corner in Alberta, two new polls suggest the race could be tight both province-wide and within the two cities at play.

We'll start with the poll from Lethbridge College, which reports on an annual basis. We last heard from the school in October 2013.

The poll pegs Progressive Conservative support to stand at 32.6%, down 3.5 points from where the party was a year ago. That marks the lowest that Lethbridge has registered PC support to be since 2009, when it started polling.

Wildrose was up 1.4 points to 30.8%, their highest score in Lethbridge polling. 

The New Democrats trailed with 16.8%, while the Liberals were at 12.8%. Support for other parties (which presumably includes the Alberta Party) was at 7%, up 1.4 points.

It is a close race, which is in step with the last two polls we have seen out of the province from Léger (31% to 26% in favour of Wildrose in June, 33% to 29% in August-September). While that is, relatively speaking, good news for Wildrose, this does still represent a level of support somewhat below where the party was in 2012. They have come into contention almost by default, as the PCs shed more than 10 points' worth of support.

At the regional level, the PCs enjoyed sizable leads in both Edmonton and Calgary, were tied with Wildrose in the northern part of the province, and well behind in the south.

But the results in Edmonton and Calgary are out of step with the recent Léger polls out of Alberta. The Tories have averaged just 27% support in those polls in Calgary, versus 42% according to Lethbridge. While both the NDP and Wildrose polled lower in the Lethbridge polls than in the Léger surveys, it is among Liberals that the difference is most important: an average of 23% instead of the 16% here.

In Edmonton, the PCs have averaged 22% against 28.5% for the NDP and 21% for the Liberals, instead of 33% here for the PCs, 24% for the NDP, and just 10% for the Liberals (Wildrose's support seems consistent).

Now, we could consider that perhaps the arrival of Jim Prentice has transformed things in both Calgary and Edmonton, as Liberals flock back to the PCs now that it is under a Red Tory. While that might be an intuitive conclusion, Lethbridge College showed higher results for the PCs than other polls did in October 2013, so we may be looking instead at a methodological quirk.

The other poll was conducted by ThinkHQ in its 'Eye on Alberta' regular report. Only the results of the poll in Calgary and Edmonton proper (not the metropolitan regions or CMAs, as Lethbridge College has it) were released to the public.

In Calgary, ThinkHQ puts Wildrose narrowly ahead at 38% to 36% for the Tories, with the Liberals well behind at 13% and the NDP at 8%. Since July, that represents a gain of eight points for the Tories, who have been picking up steam in the city for some time. The PCs were at just 20% in Calgary proper in March, while Wildrose has fallen 10 points since then.

The contest was a close three-way race in Edmonton, with Wildrose at 27%, the PCs at 26%, and the NDP at 25%. That marks a drop of five points since July for Wildrose, and a gain of four points for the Tories. Here again, the PCs have been rising, as they were at just 15% in Edmonton proper in March.

It seems that Prentice has had a positive effect on the Tories' numbers (though he only recently won, he has been the heir apparent for months). But he has still not put the party in a position to win a province-wide election - ThinkHQ mentioned in its report that Wildrose still held a provincial lead, and even with the numbers from Lethbridge's poll the PCs would only barely eke out a majority, if at all.

So the three by-elections in Calgary and the one in Edmonton should still prove a difficult test for the Progressive Conservatives. These were all relatively safe ridings, so they should still be favoured to win them all. But if Wildrose is as strong in Calgary as ThinkHQ suggests, the PCs will be hard-pressed to hold all four seats.


  1. Replies
    1. I'll take Wildrose over a tired corrupt Alberta PC Government that has been in power too long and has made a PC membership a requirement to get anything done.

  2. Definitely time for a change bede but whether the public wants to go further right with Wildrose or try a bit left with ??

    Be interesting to watch anyway from back here East.

    1. Peter,

      Jim Prentice is extraordinarily talented. He isn't your average Alberta Joe. That was recognized recently by CIBC. Many of us knew that way back when. Watch the new broom sweep -- like never before. Danielle Smith needs to take nothing for granted.

    2. No argument Ron but time may be against him as well. So what happens in the next month or two could be extremely important. as is the public mood !!

    3. It would be nice if Alberta could develop a genuine two party system with left and right but, Alberta doesn't work that way. 75% of the people are conservative, as the polls today show Wildrose is the only credible alternative to the PCs. The Liberals and NDP need to at least talk about a merger for publicity's sake if nothing else. Splitting 9 seats between them is almost the definition of futility.

      Prentice is extremely talented but, the problem runs so much deeper than the premier or cabinet or PC caucus. Alberta is imbued with 3 generations of PC cronyism and the mechanism of this quid pro quo are indelibly marked in the mindset of Albertans. If that was the only problem perhaps a new beneveolent government would be the solution but, Alberta has never had an effective two party system or opposition. The whole party system in Alberta needs reform. As the price of oil sinks the greater the chance of such reform occuring.

    4. I'm wondering how much affect this sudden crash in oil prices will have, Given Alberta's really poor financial situation it could be a disaster.

    5. Alberta's royalty scheme is based on price, the higher the price of oil the larger the share of the royalty. For example if oil is at $100 a barrell the royalty may be 4% but at $80 the royalty may fall to 3%. If oil remains around $80 a barrell for a extended period it will become difficult for Alberta to balance its budget.

      A larger problem for Alberta is that Alberta bitumen is cost prohiobitive. Alberta oil needs to be pureified before it is salable consequently the cost per barrell is high. Costs range between $50-90 per well. At $80 some wells become unprofitable and will be shut down at least temporarily and that means lay-offs for all those who work at marginal oil production wells.

    6. Today WTI spiked below $80/barrel. Now as you know Alberta oil gets less than WTI. So this says hard times ahead for Alberta as the rest of the country does better because ob the low value of the loonie which means bigger exports !!

    7. Don't forget bede that Canadian crude sells for less on the world market than WTI.

      So if WTI is $80 Alberta crude will get about $70. So the impact of the current crash in oil prices is more severe here !

    8. Alberta's financial situation doesn't need to be poor. When Ralph balanced the budget in 1994, oil was at $12/bbl.

      Improving Alberta's finances doesn't require more revenue. It requires disciplined cuts to spending.

    9. Peter,

      I am well aware that Alberta oil (Western Canadian Select) sells for a discount. At the moment WCS sells for 85% of the WTI price. For Alberta producers the selling side is not the problem, some wells make money with oil at $30bbl the problem is the cost. Buying WCS at 85% of the WTI price is great but, often further refining is required and costs to produce are high (Synthetic crude sells for 98% of the WTI price). The differential between WTI and WCS has declined over the last year from $31.71 to $14.16 as has the differential between WTI and synthetic crude. It is not easy to explain how this has occurred in a environment of falling oil prices. As of today however, the decline has been felt less severely in a relative sense in Alberta than other oil producing regions.


      If Alberta cut spending a deficit could be avoided but, it is difficult to do in a province with a growing population. Alberta's tough environment also increase costs for maintenance and repair and frankly, wages need to be higher in Alberta to attract work. I'm not saying efficiencies can't be found but, there are few obvious places to start cutting. The other problem; Alberta is heavily reliant on oil royalties accounting for about 25% of revenues.

    10. Thanks for that bede, I knew there was a differential but the actual details I didn't know. This helps !

      And if Alberta, as most Govts, works on a percentage of price system for its revenue then Alberta is in real trouble with this price crash. Which Jim Prentice said the other night.

  3. Replies
    1. Seconding that! would love to see a projection if you have a chance, especially given the regional breakdown in these polls!

    2. I did run it through the model (I made a brief mention of the seat implications at the end) but didn't include the numbers in the post.

      The Lethbridge College poll gave me 46 PC, 25 WR, 8 NDP, 8 LIB. If I added the standard kind of ranges to that, a PC minority scenario would doubtlessly be very possible.

  4. The PCs may lose some seats in the by-election. However, I think Prentice can turn things around for the PCs and form government again after the next election.

    I believe PC support hit rock bottom after the Redford scandals. She is gone and Prentice is competent and skilled enough to move the narrative beyond past scandals.

    The Wildrose does not seem to have this the bag. If the Wildrose is seen to have momentum, Liberal and NDP voters may hold their nose and vote PC again to block Danielle Smith from being premier.

    The center-left in Alberta need to organize themselves better. Alberta is one jurisdiction where the Liberals and NDP are better off as a merged political entity. With the right leader, organization and policies this entity could form government. A strong party in the center-left, along with Wildrose on the right would mean the end of the PC dynasty for good.

    1. Pretty unlikely the PCs will lose a by-eelction with these poll numbers. Surely voters aren't going to reject a premier, Mandel for some strange reason is popular amongst Edmontonians. All the by-elections are in what should be safe PC seats and the polls do not indicate PC not opposition momentum.

      If NDP and Liberal voters are foolish enough to vote PC instead of holding the balance of power in a minority Legislature they deserve the government they get. It was absolutely shameful in 2012 when Liberals who waited several generations to have a say in government abandoned the party and vopted for their traditional PC opponents. What they got in return was a government far worse than any danielle Smith could have conjured and demonstrated the foolishness of "strategic voting".

    2. Bebe,

      There are four by-elections occurring in Alberta. The premier can only run in one of them. There is a chance the PCs may lose a seat or two.

    3. Thanks Big jay I am well aware of how many by-elections will take place on Oct. 27th. Cabinet ministers will run in three out of four. The oppositions' best hope is probably Calgary Elbow but, its history is hardly one of radicalism or even a gentle nudging of the boat. depending on the poll the Tories are either up by 10 points in Edmonton or Calgary or down by a point in either case the advantage probably rests with the incumbent party-the Progressive Conservatives.

      There is of course a very small chance the Tories will lose one by-election but, it would be very unlikely, momentum is with the PCs along with nearly three generations of history.

  5. A Red Tory is the last thing Alberta needs right now. I really hope WR manages to pull out a victory in at least one of these byelections.

  6. Would anybody here on this site be interested in the creation of a Canadian Politics forum on Delphi ??

    1. I participated in one, many years ago.

    2. I think there mat be a case for creating one again ?


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