As COVID-19 cases soar, Jason Kenney's approval rating plummets
Alberta premier's ranking 2nd lowest in Canada, behind Manitoba's Brian Pallister
It's a trend line that Jason Kenney can't seem to reverse. Yet another public opinion survey that shows a growing number of Albertans disapprove of the job he's doing.
Kenney's approval rating has dropped from a high of 61 per cent in June 2019, a few months after he won the election, to 40 per cent this past week.
Pollsters and political observers say it's a reflection of how Kenney's UCP government has managed the COVID-19 pandemic, that he's been unable to placate those who would like to see more restrictions to rein in record cases of the coronavirus.
"You've got, politically, a premier that is really, you know, pleasing neither side and is being punished by both ends," said Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute, which conducted the survey during the last week of November.
The survey shows Kenney's disapproval rating at 58 per cent — second only to Manitoba's Brian Pallister, whose disapproval rating is 64 per cent.
B.C.'s John Horgan, who won a majority government in October, enjoys the country's highest approval rating at 64 per cent, tied with Quebec's François Legault.
In Alberta, 40 per cent those who were asked say they approve of Kenney's job performance, while two per cent were undecided.
Kurl says Kenney is walking a tightrope trying to appease his base of supporters in rural Alberta by avoiding a provincewide mandatory mask mandate, while at the same time facing criticism that new restrictions meant to bend the curve of new infections did not go far enough.
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In a Facebook chat with UCP supporters last week, Kenney said his government is resisting calls for mandatory mask use in public places because people in rural Alberta would defy the order.
"Why would we do something that becomes counterproductive?" he said.
Alberta continues to set new daily COVID-19 infection records and leads the country in the number of active cases per capita.
Political analysts say it's not a coincidence that case numbers are rising and Kenney's popularity is falling.
"I would say the majority of Albertans believe he hasn't gone far enough," said political science professor Duane Bratt, referring to COVID restrictions.
"And if you combine the limited action with rising case counts, rising hospital counts, rising death counts, people start to make those connections."
Bratt says the premier may be paying the price for a pandemic response that contains mixed messages and contradictions.
"How much of this came out of last week's sort of, semi-response?"
"Where, yes, he sent the kids home from school, but you can still go to a casino."
"Yes, you have to wear a mask if you're in Calgary, but you don't have to wear a mask if you're in Two Hills," said Bratt, who teaches at Mount Royal University.
Kurl says if those new restrictions announced last week manage to slow the virus's spread, Kenney could just as well see a reversal in his sagging job satisfaction numbers.
"Let's not overstate the fact that while he is the second least popular premier in the country at the moment, 40 per cent approval is not exactly something that is catastrophic for him politically," said Kurl.
'No easy answers'
The premier's office sent a statement in response to the Angus Reid survey.
"We are focused squarely on protecting both lives and livelihoods from the devastating impacts of COVID-19, not public opinion polling," said spokesperson Christine Myatt.
"These are difficult decisions and there are no easy answers to navigating this pandemic, but we will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect Albertans from this unprecedented dual crisis," she said.
Bryan Labby is an enterprise reporter with CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter at @CBCBryan.