Alberta premier calls spring election
Notley last day as leader
Her choice of politics aside, I like Rachel Notley a lot. She's had a tough row to hoe and time after time has stood up as best she could for her province. Jason Kenney knows full well that the employment numbers he is so concerned about would not be much of a factor had the Federal government got the pipeline built. Listening to him today, an uneducated dolt might actually believe that Rachel is solely responsible for none of the lines being built - total unadulterated BS.
When voters go to the polls on April 16, it will probably be with a sigh of relief over the end of one of the ugliest campaigns in Alberta history.
Every campaign seems to be dirtier than the last and this one has already begun with Premier Rachel Notley launching her campaign with accusations of bigotry, cheating, lying, extremism and intolerance.
Hard to imagine it could go down from here.
It was almost laughable when she got to her closing line that she truly believes “the politics of love and hope and optimism always trump the politics of anger, division and fear.” Look who’s talking.
No doubt Notley couldn’t resist poking at the UCP’s recent problems.
I’ve been following the “kamikaze candidate” allegations since January and I doubt this is going to be the determining factor in this campaign.
It may be unseemly to see such collaboration between candidates to defeat another, but when you have ranked ballots it happens all the time. In fact, Kenney recalled the same thing happened to him in the PC leadership race when all the non-merger candidates coordinated their campaigns to try to defeat him.
The only real scandal is the donations.
READ MORE: Kenney, Callaway campaigns worked together to undermine Brian Jean’s UCP leadership run, leaked emails show
But, as reported in Maclean’s, Jeff Callaway’s co-campaign manager explained that he received money from a corporate entity to his private bank account, he lined up face donors to use the money to make donations under their own names so Callaway could get the money he needed to pay the nomination fee to enter the race. That’s against the law.
Those who broke the law should be held accountable for it. But it appears Kenney had nothing to do with it.
Kenney also had a candidate, Caylan Ford, resign over racially charged comments. It’s hard to see how Kenney had anything to do with that either.
Kenney — a former federal Minister for Citizenship and Immigration — has a well-established reputation for outreach to cultural communities, and promoting immigration and ethnic diversity. Losing a star candidate isn’t the way any leader wants to start a campaign, but her comments are not a reflection on him.
Pollsters report that the number one issue voters care about is the economy.
It should not escape notice that when Notley spoke about her priorities she spoke about health care, education, minimum wage and climate change first, then pipelines, diversification and jobs.
Meanwhile, Kenney’s sole focus was on the economy, pipelines, jobs and debt.
I think Kenney has the stronger message. But Notley has more discipline — she clearly has control over her caucus and party, where Kenney does not.
This is going to be UCP’s biggest problem during the campaign. I still think they will win, but if they lose it will be almost solely the result of self-inflicted wounds.
As the Alberta provincial election campaign kicks off, Rachel Notley's New Democrats are in a tough spot. They trail the United Conservatives by a significant margin and the polls suggest the NDP would be booted from office if the election were held today.
But the election is still more than three weeks away and there is reason for Notley to believe her fortunes could improve. The trend line is inching in her direction and she's more popular than her party; UCP Leader Jason Kenney, her chief rival, is less popular than his.
Nevertheless, the New Democrats have a serious challenge ahead of them. That trend line has a long way to go before the election looks competitive, let alone one the NDP is in a position to win.
The CBC's Alberta Poll Tracker, an aggregation of all publicly available polling data, puts the United Conservatives ahead with 50 per cent support among decided voters, followed by the New Democrats at 35.3 per cent.
The Alberta Party trails at a distance with 7.4 per cent, while the Liberals are polling at 4.8 per cent of the vote.
This is not significantly different than where things stood on election night four years ago. The Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties, which merged to form the UCP in 2017, combined for 52 per cent of the vote in 2015, only two percentage points higher than where the UCP stands today. The NDP, which captured 40.6 per cent of the vote, is down only about five points — still putting it on track for the second best performance in the party's history.
But the lack of a divided right changes the electoral math dramatically. With current levels of support, the Alberta Poll Tracker estimates the UCP would win between 61 and 76 seats — far more than the 44 needed to secure a majority government. The NDP would win between 11 and 25 seats, with the Alberta Party and Liberals in the running for no more than one apiece.
A polling error of the same magnitude as the one that occurred in the 2012 election — when Wildrose was given a wide lead in the last polls of the campaign, only for the PCs to hold onto to power — if repeated in Alberta next month, would still only put the UCP and NDP roughly tied. Even that scenario would be unlikely to re-elect the New Democrats due to their concentration of support in Edmonton.
NDP's strength in Edmonton, UCP everywhere else
That is where Notley's party still has its greatest strength. The Alberta Poll Tracker puts the NDP at 44.6 per cent in the city, with the UCP a few points back at 40 per cent. That level of support would likely divide Edmonton between the two parties in terms of seats.
But in the rest of the province, the UCP holds sway. In Calgary, Kenney's party is ahead by about 22 points in the Poll Tracker, with 54 per cent support compared to 32 per cent. That puts every seat in range of the UCP, while the New Democrats are in contention to hold just a handful of theirs.
Outside of the two cities, the United Conservatives are ahead by about 27 points. With between 28 and 31 seats, the rural areas of the province alone could put the UCP three-quarters of the way to a majority government.
Thin silver linings for the NDP
However, there are some silver linings for Notley in the numbers.
The most important one is that she is a plus for her party while Kenney is a minus. A Leger survey conducted between March 7 and 12 found the two party leaders virtually tied on the question of who Albertans think would make the best premier, with Notley at 33 per cent and Kenney at 32 per cent.
Taking into account the undecideds in the Leger poll on both the voting intentions and best premier questions, this suggests that Notley is about four percentage points more popular than the NDP. Kenney is two points less popular than the UCP.
The difference was even starker in an Ipsos/Global News poll conducted between Mar. 15 and 17. It found Kenney at 33 per cent on the best premier question and Notley not far behind at 30 per cent, but again this suggests that Notley scores two points higher than the NDP among all voters. Kenney scores nine points worse than the UCP.
The hope for the NDP is that Notley is able to pull her party's support up while Kenney drags the UCP's down. This is clearly the party's strategy in the campaign so far, as the NDP leader's name takes prominence in the party's branding and her political attacks target Kenney personally.
The trend lines are also heading in a positive direction for the NDP, if marginally so. Leger puts the party up two points since last year, while ThinkHQ shows it up eight points since the end of 2017.
The inevitability of the UCP?
But the margin the NDP has to overcome remains enormous. While Kenney's personal popularity doesn't help the United Conservatives, the unpopularity of the NDP government might prove too much of an anchor weighing Notley down. In the Ipsos survey, just 31 per cent of Albertans said the NDP deserved re-election — losing numbers in a two-horse race.
The impact of the latest controversies surrounding Kenney's successful bid for the UCP leadership have yet to be fully recorded in the polls. They could sap UCP support further. But the 2018 Ontario election campaign, which ended with Doug Ford's Progressive Conservatives defeating Kathleen Wynne's Liberals, showed that unpopular opposition leaders hobbled by controversy can still win big when voters want to see the incumbent government ousted.
The UCP has led in voting intentions since it was created and not once since coming to power have the New Democrats matched their 2015 election score in the polls. Even that probably wouldn't be enough to secure a victory when the right is no longer divided.
The potential for Notley to turn this into a competitive race exists. But she has a long way to go to cast doubt on the inevitability of a victory by Jason Kenney and the United Conservatives.
The first week of Alberta's election campaign focused on Calgary.
As of Friday, the New Democratic Party and the Liberals held four events in the city, followed by the Alberta Party with three, the United Conservative Party with two and the Freedom Conservative Party with one.
"I'm going to spend a lot of time in Calgary because Calgary matters," NDP Leader Rachel Notley said at an event overlooking Calgary's downtown core on Friday.
Although Alberta's political leaders have been spending a lot of time in Calgary early in the race, one pollster believes Edmonton will be the true battleground in the spring election campaign.
Janet Brown, who is conducting polling and riding projections for the election, is expecting to see more UCP events in Edmonton as the race continues.
"I think the UCP are well positioned to win every seat in (Calgary), but I think the NDP are here because I think they know this is where they need to make inroads," Brown said. “(The NDP) could flip a few of those seats in their favour if they can cast enough doubt about Jason Kenney and make people feel better about Rachel Notley.”
UCP Leader Jason Kenney was the only leader not in Calgary on Friday. Instead, he was campaigning in Edmonton, making an announcement about foreign influence on Alberta's energy industry.
"We are very confident about Calgary," Kenney said. "But we're not going to take anything for granted."
According to Brown, the UCP is well ahead in Calgary.
But, things have changed since the last provincial election in 2015, causing some challenges for those conducting seat projections.
Brown points to the two parties on Alberta's political right merging to form the UCP as well as a large-scale redrawing of riding boundaries.
“A lot of MLAs will be knocking on doors of constituents they didn’t represent in the past so that makes it a little harder for the incumbent MLAs to get their message out,” Brown said.
Those changes to the riding boundaries are creating some battleground ridings around Calgary.
According to Brown, Calgary-Elbow, Calgary-Mountain View, and Calgary-Buffalo are all expected to be close races in the April 16 vote. The seats are held by Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark, NDP Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley and NDP Finance Minister Joe Ceci, respectively.
“It’s those downtown ridings I really think are in play at the moment,” Brown said.
In this election in particular, Brown said politics in Alberta are polarizing, and there are two clear front-runners in the NDP and the UCP, while the remaining political parties fight to improve their position within the legislature.
“There are lots of other parties, but they’re really struggling to get attention right now," she said. "Because as long as voters are concerned, it really is a two-way race, and voters are reluctant to consider fringe candidates.”
Albertans head to the polls on April 16.
United Conservative Party candidate Eva Kiryakos has pulled out of the 2019 Alberta election race. Kiryakos was running in Calgary-South East.
On Sunday night, Kiryakos posted a video on Facebook that said she was stepping down and claimed someone outside her party had been threatening to "smear" her and release things she has said and commented on in the past.
"I do not want this to take away from the election or my fellow United Conservative Party candidates, so I have decided to resign," she stated in her Facebook post.
"I have had long discussions about this with the party and though I care deeply about my riding and I want to represent Calgary-South East in the Legislature, this is what is best for the party and ultimately, for Alberta. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to my team and to Calgary-South East for all your support."
In a video accompanying her written statement on Facebook, Kiryakos explained the reasons behind her resignation and shared examples of the alleged threats made against her.
Kiryakos said she retweeted an article about "Germany's (Migrant) Rape Crisis spirals Out of Control," with a disturbing image on the front but she said it was taken out of context.
"I admit the image on the article wasn't positive but the article was on women getting raped and the crisis there. When women are being assaulted, I care, no matter the faiths or the backgrounds of the people."
The image with the article said "RAPEFUGEES NOT WELCOME."
Kiryakos also admitted to getting into a discussion on Twitter and sharing her concerns with the new Alberta Teacher's Association's (ATA) washroom guidelines, also referring to people with "alternative lifestyles."
Kiryakos said she is "tired of being bullied for her beliefs and felt it was best for her party to just pull out of the race."
Last week, three other UCP candidates came under fire on social media for remarks they’ve said or written, or memes they have shared in the past.
Just days after Calyan Ford — the United Conservative Party candidate for Calgary-Mountain View — resigned over comments she made about race and the treatment of white supremacist terrorists, party leader Jason Kenney was forced to answer a question about a tape that reportedly captured comments her replacement made about women.
Let all energy be accounted for in the equalization formula including Hydro-electric power that would stem a lot of money being paid to Ont. and Quebec.