Just a little more than a week before the start of the governing party’s leadership review vote, a new poll suggests a majority of Albertans are dissatisfied with the United Conservative Party’s handling of key issues in the province.
The poll by the Angus Reid Institute, which conducted an online survey between March 10 and 15, found that those surveyed disapproved of the government’s performance on each of the 13 issues posed, which ranged from economic issues to the COVID-19 response.
“This has been a time for Jason Kenney where, almost from Day 1, he has contended with the challenge from being squeezed from two very intense, very equally passionate sides of the Alberta political spectrum,” said Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute.
Asked about the new poll while speaking Thursday at a press conference in Medicine Hat, Alta., Premier Jason Kenney highlighted provincial initiatives while speculating that the cost of living, inflation and frustrations around the pandemic had led to division in the province.
“It’s no secret that you had a lot of polarization in COVID. That frustrated a lot of people on both sides,” Kenney said.
Despite the low approval ratings on those key issues, the poll indicates the UCP is in a statistical tie with the Opposition NDP in vote intent.
That’s an improvement over the party’s performance in recent months, as it had trailed the NDP in the second half of 2021, according to polling.
Thirty-eight per cent of Albertans said they would vote for the UCP in an upcoming provincial election, according to the new survey, while 40 per cent said they would vote for the NDP.
The Wildrose Independence Party — the party that formed after the merger of Wexit Alberta and the Freedom Conservative Party — has seen its prospects fade by about half, with 11 per cent in support of the party now compared with 20 per cent in June 2021.
“The Wildrose is the ‘X’ factor. The Wildrose party is the wild card in Alberta politics,” Kurl said.
“A lot of UCP voters who have drifted over to Wildrose Independence will find themselves taking stock and asking themselves the question, ‘Is the UCP government that we’re angry with better at the end of the day, from our perspective, than an NDP government?'”
In the survey, 70 per cent of those who voted for the UCP in 2019 now say they will vote for them again in the next election, while 18 per cent say they have moved to the Wildrose Independence Party.
Ninety-six per cent of those who voted for the NDP say they’ll do so again, and the party has pulled around seven per cent from those who ticked the box for the UCP in the last election.
The latest Angus Reid Institute premier approval ratings, published March 18, indicated Kenney was seeing an approval rate of 30 per cent, the second-worst among provincial premiers, after Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson. Kenney’s number was up four percentage points from January 2022.
At 55 per cent, a majority of Albertans hold unfavourable views of Opposition leader Rachel Notley, with 40 per cent holding favourable views.
Duane Bratt, a political scientist with Mount Royal University, said that based on the poll results, the UCP brand appears to be more popular than the premier.
“So are people assuming that Kenney will no longer be leader of the UCP party? That’s one possibility,” Bratt said.
“The other is the assumption the UCP holds itself together. I think that’s a very dangerous assumption to make going into this leadership review when there are huge cleavages within the party.”
Elsewhere in Canada, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has seen his approval rating jump by 13 points in advance of a June 2 provincial election, while support for the Conservative Party in Quebec has surged, doubling since January.
The Angus Reid Institute said its online survey was conducted among a representative randomized sample of 5,105 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The total sample for Alberta is 584, which would carry a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points, 19 times out of 20.