An exclusive CBC poll suggests the Alberta NDP has a solid lead provincewide, but that doesn't mean Rachel Notley is on the verge of leading an NDP majority government in the May 5 election.
"I think Albertans should be prepared for a minority government," said Bruce Cameron, president of Return On Insight.
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"We'd have Wildrose getting most of the seats in the areas outside of the cities, PCs getting most of the seats in Calgary and the NDP getting most of the seats in Edmonton — and that is a recipe for a minority government."
His staff spoke to 750 Albertans for roughly five minutes on the phone — both cellphones and landlines — over four days starting April 25 for the company's new poll.
The data suggests the NDP is in a sizable lead right now across the province with 38 per cent of the decided vote.
"In 26 years of doing this work in Alberta, this is the highest I've ever seen the NDP," said Cameron.
"The interesting thing is how it splits out, because more than half of their vote is concentrated in Edmonton, so it will not translate into as many seats as a 38 per cent public opinion poll might usually translate."
The Progressive Conservatives are in second place with 24 per cent support among decided respondents, while the Wildrose has 21 per cent.
'PCs could stage a comeback'
Cameron believes leader Brian Jean hasn't broadened Wildrose's appeal beyond its base, but it is strong in many rural ridings.
"To a large extent, the Wildrose will battle it out against the PCs, but the NDP show surprising strength in some of those areas too," he said. "So I would watch for some very interesting races in the areas outside the two main cities where you wouldn't normally think the NDP could have a chance."
While leader Jim Prentice and the Tories don't have the strongest numbers right now, Cameron says they have seen "some signs that the PCs could stage a comeback."
He says that's because the Tories have well-known incumbents in a number of tight races, and there are still undecided voters.
"They also have the power of incumbency in terms of the get-out-the-vote machine, and a lot of well-known candidates who have been in those areas a long time. So those in close three- or four-way races might turn out to be PC."
The polling results suggests more than a quarter of Albertans have not figured out who they will support.
"It's healthy to be skeptical about polls, especially in the last five years," said Cameron. "My firm has used a combination of live telephone calling during elections as well as social media analysis, and that's allowed us to predict the PC comeback in 2012 here in Alberta and the Liberal win in B.C., when everyone thought the NDP was going to win."
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.