Focus group voters disheartened with campaign tone so far

At the midway point in the election campaign, CBC's focus group is largely disappointed and disheartened with the divisive tone of debate that has marked the campaign so far.

Economy still a top issue for many voters on the panel

Members of the Alberta Votes 2019 CBC focus group, clockwise from top left: Tamara Keller, Stephen Carlton, Kathleen Cox, John Campbell, Darlene McLean, Patrick LeFort , Kurtis Arbeau and James Vy. (CBC)

Editor's Note: Throughout the upcoming election cycle, we will be exploring the issues and concerns that matter to Albertans through a number of focus groups conducted together with Janet Brown Opinion Research. A couple dozen Albertans, from across the political spectrum and around the province, are participating

One voter described it "like kids fighting on a playground."

At the midway point in the election campaign, CBC checked in with the members of its focus group and found them to be largely disappointed and disheartened with the divisive tone of debate that has marked the campaign so far.

CBC has assembled its own focus group to talk about what matters to Albertans during this election campaign. It is made up of 30 Albertans: 10 in Calgary, 10 in Edmonton and 10 outside the city centres. Focus group members are different ages, they come from different economic and cultural backgrounds and they support different parties.

Despite their differences, the theme of being disappointed with the current tone of the debate was a commonality.

"I strongly dislike the increase in personal attacks and negative ads," said Uwen Okome, a 45-year-old social worker who lives in Edmonton.

Patrick LeFort, a 26-year-old education assistant who lives in Fort McMurray, was so disheartened that he described the campaign so far as a "gong show" and took matters into his own hands to get more information about local candidates.

"I even called the UCP and NDP offices," he said. "I want direct democracy. Relying on these political figures is really starting to grind my gears."

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Another Calgary voter, Stephen Carlton, described the election campaign so far as a "soap opera." Carlton, who is a 56-year-old mining consultant in Calgary, said that the integrity of the two leaders, Rachel Notley and Jason Kenney, is becoming an important question for him.

"Notley has lost ground on integrity with her party's focus on smear and wedge issues," said Carlton. "Kenney has lost ground on integrity with me based on the cheating alleged in his leadership race."

Inviting the Liberal and Alberta parties to the party

Some voters are even turning away from the UCP and the NDP as the debate continues.

"I'm becoming more interested in what the Alberta and Liberal Party have to say," said Kathleen Cox, a 28-year-old office manager who lives in Calgary.

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Darlene McLean, a 61-year-old office assistant in Lethbridge, says that she would like to hear more from the Alberta Liberals and other parties.

"The domination of the UCP and the NDP in the conversation is disheartening for democracy," she said.

Economy remains important

Despite their general disappointment in the tone of debate, the economy remained a top issue for many of the voters on the panel.

"The priority is jobs and the economy," said John Campbell, a 67-year-old retired accountant in Edmonton.

James Vy, a 27-year-old entrepreneur in Calgary, Kurtis Arbeau, a 22-year-old plumber apprentice in Edmonton and Shawn Nelson, a 34-year-old farmer near Lethbridge, all identified the economy as an area where they would like to see more focus in the final half of the election campaign.

"I would like to see what people have planned for the future of Alberta's economy," Arbeau said. "We need to start putting Alberta first and stop giving so much money to the east."

Tamara Keller, a 44-year-old stay-at-home mom from Calgary, said she is looking to the parties to sell their platforms in the remainder of the campaign, not just focus on exhausting distractions.

"I'd like to see all parties focus on their platforms, why those platforms are good for Alberta, and what they will do for Alberta," said Keller.

  • Alberta Votes 2019: CBC News brings you all the news, analyses and columns you need for the election.


Emily Senger is director of CBC's Radio Active in Edmonton. You can reach her at emily.senger@cbc.ca