If the next federal election slated for Oct. 19 was held today, the Conservative candidates here in Red Deer, a somewhat bellwether riding, would win. This is according to the latest poll. Any surprises?
The surprise is in the percentages each party would garner. The polls for Red Deer ridings show that the Liberals have doubled their vote, (3.8 to 8.8 per cent) without one candidate. The Greens, again without any candidates, have seen a 20 per cent increase (five to six per cent). The NDP, no candidates but fresh off a provincial victory have seen a 33 per cent increase in support (15 to 20 per cent). The Conservatives with incumbent candidates have seen a 20 per cent decrease in support (76 to 61 per cent).
Remember in the last federal election, all of Red Deer was almost completely in one urban riding. But the current government gerrymandered the city to be but small parts of two large rural ridings. Historically, the Conservative numbers are usually higher in rural ridings, while progressives fair better in urban ridings. So if rural percentages are higher for Conservatives than urban and we now have a mix of urban and rural votes, then the Conservatives have actually seen a larger decrease and the opposition parties are seeing larger increases (if you take into consideration the rural influence on the past numbers, if they were combined).
Provincewide, if the vote was held today, only 45 per cent of Albertans would vote for a Conservative candidate, 55 per cent would vote for someone who is not a Conservative candidate. This indicates a drop in support of around 25 per cent.
These numbers should be more worrisome for the Conservatives than the numbers were five months ago for the provincial Progressive Conservatives, and the May 5 election was the result. The Progressive Conservatives of Alberta polled at 42 per cent, five months before the May 5 election and the NDP were in the teens. May 5 election results: Progressive Conservatives 28 per cent and the NDP 41 per cent.
If the Anyone But Conservative movement is still active and the concept of strategic voting is still relevant, then the Conservatives better worry. Instead of a choice between the Wildrose Party and the New Democrats as in the provincial race, it will be between the Liberals and the New Democrats in the next federal race.
There will be other parties and candidates, but the attention will be on the Liberals and New Democratic candidates and leaders.
During the provincial election, the televised debate was a pivotal moment. New Democratic Leader Rachel Notley shone while Progressive Conservative Leader Jim Prentice, not so much.
That is not going to happen in the federal election, because the Conservatives are refusing to participate in the usual national debate, organized by the media consortium. Instead going for niche debates where they can target their market with differing views. Conservatives will adjust their message for the target audience, which does not play well in a national debate.
There will be more emphasis on polls, news reports and local candidates.
I urge the parties not to have paper, straw, or parachute candidates. Urgency is at play and the sooner the candidates are nominated, the better.
The barbecue circuit season is fast approaching and it would be nice to know sooner rather than later who the candidates are. The governing party will be spending $75 million of our money on poorly disguised partisan ads, they will be doling out funds and making announcements, and unwittingly fueling the Anyone But Conservative movement.
So the time is now for the parties to be as prepared on the ground, in the riding, as the Conservatives are. The Conservatives are ready, but the candidates’ hands are tied and voices muted by the Prime Minister’s Office, so it is a good time for the opposing candidates to impress the local voters.
On May 5, politics in Alberta changed, the political bear awoke from 44-year hibernation and devoured the Progressive Conservative dynasty, and left the big blue machine rattled.
Will it continue? Will the bear of voters’ discontent, devour the slate of Conservatives in Alberta?
The polls say, possibly. Will the trend continue or was it a one-time event?
We will know on Oct. 19, when the results are shown. Interesting times wait.