Alberta Party enjoys post-leadership bump, while Alberta Liberals continue to lag, CBC Poll finds
Political watchers say Premier Notley needs to 'minimize' parties that draw votes away from NDP
There's a long fight ahead for Alberta's other political parties but the fortunes for one appear to be on the rise, according to data from a CBC News poll.
The Alberta Party still seems to be enjoying a bit of a bump after members chose new leader Stephen Mandel in February. The Alberta Liberals remain in the electoral dumps.
The exclusive poll, which surveyed 1,200 people, found the Alberta Party has the backing of 11 per cent of Albertans. The Alberta Liberals have six per cent. But both remain far behind the leaders of the pack.
The UCP dominate with 53 per cent and the NDP come second with 29 per cent.
The double-digit support is good news for the Alberta Party, but it still has to contend with a relatively low public profile, a new leader, and a great deal of doubt over its potential to tackle some of the province's biggest issues.
Crunching the numbers
The centrist Alberta Party, which advocates for balanced budgets, "innovative" public health and education systems and compassion for those who need it, has never had a caucus bigger than three — and only one of them was actually elected under the party banner. The other two MLAs jumped ship, from the UCP and NDP.
While there may be growing support for the Alberta Party, the poll found there are few people who believe the party can bring the sizzle back to Alberta's notoriously hot and cold economy.
Only seven per cent of those asked say the Alberta Party is best able to strengthen the economy — the party picked up just four per cent when people were asked which party is best able to get pipelines built.
Things are even more challenging for the Alberta Liberal party. Only four per cent of those asked believe the Liberals would be able to strengthen the economy.
Along with the telephone survey, CBC News gathered together a number of voters for focus groups — sit-down chats — about the issues facing the province and which leaders they like.
"They could be great people, [but] I have no idea who they are," said Angela Burford.
Bulford, a 41 year-old mother of three from Aridrie, says it's bad for discourse and democracy to talk about Alberta only in terms of two parties — meaning the UCP and NDP. She welcomes other voices.
"We should have those voices of reason speak up, and have a better representation instead of it boiling down in an election to two parties," she said.
But still, wanting a voice and knowing who's voice it is are different things.
"To tell you the truth, if somebody asked me who is running the Liberal Party, I probably couldn't tell you," said Ken Rogers, 73, a retired refinery engineer.
"I don't think they're high profile enough. We need more awareness of these people, they have to project themselves a little more," said Rogers.
Public awareness is a problem for both the Alberta Party and the Alberta Liberals.
Twenty-six per cent of people, when asked how impressed they were with Liberal Leader David Khan, said they didn't know. When it came to Stephen Mandel, that was 21 per cent.
"It's not even that they are disliked, it's just that people have no idea who's in charge of the parties, what the leader is like, and what they stand for," said John Santos, who performed data analysis for the CBC News poll.
(Just for the record, only three per cent answered "don't know" when it came to Premier Rachel Notley, and eight per cent for UCP Leader Jason Kenney.)
Some of the focus group participants, who identified themselves as centrist, said that while they don't know enough about the Alberta Party and the Liberals, they are glad the parties exist and are willing to give them a listen.
The eldest participant was 84. She said she's open to listening — if anyone would actually bother to show up on her doorstep.
"They've got to get themselves known," said Estelle Matthews.
While those parties may be all but unknown to some voters, at least one political observer believes they are very much on Notley's radar.
NDP needs to 'minimize' Liberals and Alberta party
While the third and fourth places parties may not pack a big punch with the electorate, they could draw votes away from an NDP government hoping for a second term.
"I think what they need to do is completely minimize the Alberta Party and Alberta Liberals," said the University of Calgary's Melanee Thomas.
"That's vote splitting that will lose the NDP the election. They can be much, much, more competitive if those parties are just not there," she said.
But it's not just about votes, it's about getting seats in the legislature. And while the Alberta Party appears to be gaining a bit of support, 11 per cent popularity is still, well, 11 per cent.
"It's going to be tough for them to win a seat," said Mount Royal University's Duane Bratt.
Bratt points out that Mandel, under the PC banner, didn't even win a seat in Edmonton in 2015.
And he predicts Greg Clark, the former Alberta Party leader, will likely face a tough challenge from the United Conservative Party in Calgary-Elbow.
Pollster Janet Brown, who conducted the research, says another problem for the Alberta Liberals and the Alberta Party is what appears to be soft support.
The majority of those asked said they plan to vote for the UCP, and 69 per cent of the party's supporters say their vote is very firm. Only half of the NDP's supporters describe their vote as very firm.
The numbers drop to 29 per cent for the Liberals and 21 per cent for the Alberta Party.
Brown says those parties — and Notley's in particular — need to address that issue before wooing new voters.
"She's got to get centrist and left-leaning voters to realize that they're jeopardizing the NDP's chances of winning a second mandate if those forces don't solidify behind the premier," said Brown.
"More than half of the population is pretty solidly behind the UCP," said Brown.
The random survey of 1,200 Albertans was conducted using a hybrid method between March 13 to April 5, 2018, by Trend Research under the direction of Janet Brown Opinion Research. The sample is representative along regional, age, and gender factors. The margin of error is +/-2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. For subsets, the margin of error is larger.
The survey used a hybrid methodology that involved contacting survey respondents by telephone and giving them the option of completing the survey at that time, at another more convenient time, or receiving an email link and completing the survey online.
Trend Research contacted people using a random list of numbers, comprised of half landlines and half cell phone numbers. Telephone numbers were dialed up to five times at five different times of day before another telephone number was added to the sample. The response rate among valid numbers (i.e. residential and persona) was 20.8 per cent.
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More from the series:
- PODCAST | What will motivate you to vote in Alberta's next election?
- ANALYSIS | Albertans feel alienated from the rest of the country, new poll suggests
- OPINION | Why it's almost impossible to have a rational conversation about pipelines
Bryan Labby is an enterprise reporter with CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @CBCBryan.