Albertans feel politics has shifted, poll finds

Nearly six in ten Albertans believe politics in the province has changed a lot in the past few years.

New ethnic and cultural makeup of the province affecting exercise of power

Pollster Bruce Cameron of Return on Insight says Albertans report feeling that big political changes are happening in the province. (CBC)

Nearly six in ten Albertans believe politics in the province has changed a lot in the past few years.

"Despite four decades of PC party rule, Albertans feel there are extensive political changes under way in the province, and they remain convinced of the importance of their vote in making changes happen," says pollster Bruce Cameron of Return on Insight (ROI).

Wildrose Party supporters, 74 per cent of them, are more likely to think Alberta politics has changed in recent years.

Seven out of 10 people also reject the idea that their vote doesn't count.

New Democratic Party and Liberal Party supporters, though, tend to feel more disenfranchised than Progressive Conservative and Wildrose supporters, Cameron says.

He speculates the election of Naheed Nenshi — Canada's first Muslim mayor — and Alison Redford — Alberta's first female premier — might be fuelling the sense of change among Alberta voters.

"There have been a lot of visible changes in Alberta, not necessarily to the party in power but who is holding power," says Cameron.

The makeup of the province — ethnically and culturally — might also be changing political attitudes.   Nearly half a million Canadians moved here to Alberta in the last six years. And every year 25,000 immigrants come to Alberta.

"We really have seen tremendous change over the last 20, 25, 30 years," says University of Calgary demographer Kevin McQuillan.

Increasingly urban and diverse, the make-up of the province may be changing the political nature of the province, speculate experts.

"People, of course, coming from outside will bring certain political traditions with them," says McQuillan.

Val Buiak, who came to Alberta from Romania in 1988, believes immigrants are changing the dynamic of the province economically and politically.

"I believe they bring a new way of looking at things and it stimulates the discourse in the community," says the owner of Val-U-Soft, a Medicine Hat-based information technology company.

Mcquillan cautions, though, that new Albertans might end up adopting the traditional politics of the province, noting the PC's have been able to hold on to power for more than 40 years.

"People integrate into the societies fairly quickly. So, I think they become aware of what the political debates are ... they are influenced by friends, neighbours, co-workers in terms of ideas about political issues," he says.

ROI's poll done for CBC News surveyed 803 Albertans from Jan. 25-31.

It's considered accurate within +/- 3.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20.