What federal parties are watching for in the Alberta election

The 2019 federal election campaign is already underway. The CBC News Canada Votes newsletter is your weekly tip-sheet as we count down to Oct. 21.

The Canada Votes newsletter is your weekly tip-sheet as we count down to Oct. 21.

United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney, left, and federal Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer attend a campaign rally in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 11, 2019. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The 2019 election campaign is already underway. The CBC News Canada Votes newsletter is your weekly tip-sheet as we count down to Oct. 21.

Reading this online? Sign-up for the newsletter and receive it every Sunday.

Would a Jason Kenney win in Alberta be better for Trudeau - or worse? 

Vassy Kapelos, host of Power & Politics 

Alberta is an enigma in more ways than one.

Snow in April? In most places, that's unusual. In Alberta, not so much (OK, it happens in Ottawa too - but that's another story).

With snowflakes falling all around, federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer joined UCP Leader Jason Kenney to rally the troops Thursday night in Calgary. Their message was clear.

"Rachel Notley and Justin Trudeau, they both have the same attitude toward our energy sector … " Scheer told the crowd.

Conservatives insist Trudeau and Notley are aligned, Jason Kenney even calls it an alliance.

It's not, though. In fact, people close to the prime minister tell me his working relationship with Premier Notley is among the most difficult Trudeau has with any provincial leader. I mean, she needed a pipeline and ... well, you know the rest of the story. There ain't one. (Yet.)

Trudeau's people like Notley, they tell me. She thinks the same way they do. But she and the PM don't get along.

In public, Liberals will tell you they're not afraid of a Premier Jason Kenney. They'll say they'd love to run against the Kenney-Ford-Scheer trifecta. (Bring on a climate change battle!) But on the inside, there's anxiety.

Albertans head to the polls April 16 and the outcome will have political and economic implications across Canada. 2:43

They know Kenney will lift the cap on emissions in the oilsands, a policy which gave the feds justification for buying the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. "We'll have to impose something," someone in natural resources told me last week. "That will seal the deal for us in Alberta." Translation: all three Liberal seats in the province would be gonzo as a result.

Conservatives also will tell you that there is power in numbers. Just take a look at who's lined up against the federal Liberals (and the carbon tax): Premiers Blaine Higgs, Scott Moe, Doug Ford, Brian Pallister and now, maybe (election's not over 'til it's over, folks) Jason Kenney.

But federal Conservatives - like their Liberal counterparts - also have some reasons to be nervous. Scheer's big challenge has been translating Liberal voter dissatisfaction into support for himself. Someone in Scheer's inner circle recently admitted to me that Ford and Kenney are such strong personalities they threaten to overpower Scheer on the national stage.

As for the federal NDP ... well, there's that Alberta anomaly again. There's no love lost between the federal party and its provincial counterpart; I'm pretty sure Notley and federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh have spoken just once in the year and a half since Singh was elected federal leader.

Singh's oft-repeated line that Ottawa "should not be spending public dollars on a 65-year-old leaky pipeline" hasn't gone over well with the Alberta NDP. Actually, that's an understatement: Notley has called Singh "naive" and said at one point that she'd hoped he would take "a more mature approach to his leadership."

Remember Notley's surprise sweep in 2015 and the bump in popular support for Tom Mulcair and federal New Democrats that followed? Don't expect it to happen again soon.

See you Tuesday Alberta, I'll be wearing my winter boots.

(Disclaimer: the weather is so crappy in Ottawa I was already wearing them).

Vassy Kapelos is host of Power & Politics, weekdays at 5 p.m. ET on CBC News Network.

Power Lines

The Power & Politics Power Panelists on where the big parties will be focused this week.

Supriya Dwivedi, host of Global News Radio 640 Toronto's Morning Show
With the carbon tax now in effect and the Ford government railing against it, the Liberals have a great opportunity here to highlight their rebate for middle class families and what their plan will do for the environment. More than anything, it will give them a great opportunity to talk about an issue - climate change -  that is important to millennials, a key voting bloc this election, and also help them turn the page on SNC-Lavalin.

Rachel Curran, senior associate at Harper & Associates Consulting
Since the House of Commons is not sitting this week, watch for many Conservative MPs to be back in their ridings highlighting the new Liberal carbon tax. Nationally, the Conservatives will continue to focus on the SNC-Lavalin scandal, daring Prime Minister Trudeau to proceed with his threatened libel suit against Andrew Scheer, and drawing a connection to the upcoming trial of Admiral Norman, who will be back in court on April 16. Conservatives will also be meeting with the canola industry and farmers to discuss potential solutions to the now-urgent trade impasse with China.

Kathleen Monk, principal at Earnscliffe Strategy Group
Jagmeet Singh will hop on a flight to Nanaimo, B.C. to campaign with NDP candidate Chief Bob Chamberlin this week, staying on the West Coast until the Easter long weekend. Talking about affordable housing and pharmacare, New Democrats are building a storyline about the failure of consecutive Liberal and Conservative governments in Ottawa to help Canadians.

Poll Tracker Takeaway

Éric Grenier's weekly look at key numbers in the political public opinion polls.

The political landscape is going to change on Tuesday when Albertans go to the polls. The latest numbers suggest Jason Kenney's United Conservatives are on track to boot Rachel Notley's New Democrats from office. That will have some big policy implications for Justin Trudeau's federal Liberal government.

The results also might offer some hints about this fall's federal election.

No federal party is stronger in any one part of the country than Andrew Scheer's Conservatives are in Alberta. The Poll Tracker gives them 60.9 per cent support in the province — enough that they could win all 34 of Alberta's seats.

The Liberals stand at 18.4 per cent in Alberta, down about six points since the 2015 federal election. Jagmeet Singh's NDP is in third place with 12.6 per cent.

But Notley's New Democrats are going to do much better than that on Tuesday.

Kenney's UCP is certainly leaving some conservative votes on the table. The polls suggest his party might finish 10 percentage points or more below where Scheer's Conservatives stand in Alberta.

If Notley's NDP is able to win a lot of seats in convincing fashion in Edmonton and Calgary, then Trudeau and Singh might have a reason to believe they won't be entirely swept out of the province in October. (The difference between the federal and provincial scenarios, of course, is that the two federal leaders will have to split that progressive Notley vote between them, and with Elizabeth May's Greens.)

The result will be more blue on the federal map than we're probably going to see on the provincial one after Tuesday night. But any sign that Albertans are getting out of the habit of voting Conservative is one that federal Liberals and New Democrats will happily grasp with both hands.

Click here for the latest Poll Tracker numbers.

More from CBC Politics

ANALYSIS | Doug Ford and Jason Kenney could be the enemies Justin Trudeau badly needs

In lieu of allies and like-minded leaders, Jason Kenney and Doug Ford could provide Justin Trudeau with something he has lacked since he dispatched Stephen Harper in 2015: the right kind of adversary.

ANALYSIS | In Alberta's election, everybody is 'standing up' to Justin Trudeau

More than most past campaigns, the current provincial election in Alberta has shaped itself around opposition to the federal election, writes Chris Hall. 

Trudeau road tests campaign attacks that lump Scheer and Doug Ford with the alt-right

In a speech to supporters Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cast Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Ontario Premier Doug Ford as right-of-centre politicians who deny climate change, vilify immigrants and tolerate white nationalists. 

Ask Us

We want to know what YOU want to know.

Have a question about the October election? About where the federal parties stand on a particular issue? Or about the facts of a key controversy on the federal scene? Email us your questions and we'll answer one in the next Canada Votes newsletter.

Thanks for reading. If you've got questions, criticisms or story tips, please email us at politics@cbc.ca.

Reading this online? Sign-up for the newsletter to have the Canada Votes Newsletter delivered to your inbox every Sunday.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.