A poll conducted in the past week for the CBC found a commanding lead for the governing Progressive Conservatives among decided voters.
"It seems that the Progressive Conservatives are regaining their traditional dominance in Alberta — and it's not at the expense of Wildrose," says pollster Bruce Cameron of Return on Insight (ROI).
A telephone survey of 803 Albertans between Jan. 25 and Jan. 31 shows the PCs leading in voter preference with 46 per cent of decided voters.
The upstart Wildrose Party placed second among Alberta voters with 24 per cent, with 14 per cent of voters preferring the NDP and the official opposition Liberals trailing at 12 per cent.
The fledgling Alberta Party captured four per cent among decided voters.
Albertans are expected to head to the polls this spring. Support for the traditional governing party of Alberta rebounded from a low of 34 per cent in October 2009.
Cameron says the Tories are closing in on that important threshold of 50 per cent that has led to its 41-year dynasty.
Liberal loss, Tory gain
Cameron attributes the "bump" for the Tories to a bleed of traditional Liberal voters to the PCs, noting support for the Wildrose remains static at about a quarter of decided voters.
"It's simply that the Liberal vote is collapsing and it's benefiting the PCs somewhat and the NDP secondarily," he says.
'This is going to be a critical campaign.'— University of Calgary political scientist Anthony Sayers
Regionally, the PCs hold a lead in all areas of the province, although the race between the PCs and the Wildrose is closest outside of the major cities (35 per cent for the PC Party versus 23 per cent for the Wildrose Party).
University of Calgary political scientist Anthony Sayers forsees a hard fought provincial election this spring.
"This is going to be a critical campaign," he says. "The splitting of the vote across the province will be complex. It will be very difficult to predict."
Nearly 20 per cent of Albertans remain undecided, which is in line with ROI polling over the past five years.
The poll is considered accurate within +/- 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out 20.