Friday, December 11, 2009

Wild Roses thorn in Stelmach's side.

These are rather amazing numbers especially after Stelmach received a 77 per cent endorsement as leader not long ago. One just wonders if the usual kingmakers are doing an end run around the Conservative party especially since the Wild Roses seem to be gr0wing strongest in the two big cities not just in rural areas.
Of course polls did not look all that marvelous for Stelmach before he gained his big majority in the last election and Ralph Klein was even worse off before he stormed back and won an election a year later. Nevertheless it is hard to put any positive spin on these results as far as Stelmach is concerned.

Wildrose No. 1 in Alberta, poll finds
Tory support falls to lowest in 17 years
By Jason Fekete, Calgary HeraldDecember 11, 2009 6:36 AM

CALGARY - The surging Wildrose Alliance would form the next provincial government if an election were held in Alberta, according to a new poll that pegs the party with a double-digit lead and the dynastic Tories at their lowest popular support in 17 years.

An Angus Reid Public Opinion survey of 1,000 decided Alberta voters finds 39 per cent of the electorate would cast a ballot for party leader Danielle Smith and the right-of-centre Wildrose Alliance if they went to the polls today.

The fledgling party is pulling away from Premier Ed Stelmach's Progressive Conservatives, who are tied with David Swann's Liberals for second place, with the backing of 25 per cent of decided voters provincewide.

Brian Mason and the NDP are in fourth spot with the support of nine per cent of Alberta voters, while two per cent said they would vote for another party.

The Wildrose Alliance -- buoyed by their recent leadership race and byelection win in Calgary-Glenmore -- is solidly in first place in every region of the province, according to the poll.

The Tories have slipped to third place in both Calgary and Edmonton amid challenging economic times, and continued public criticism over the government's financial management and H1N1 vaccination rollout.

"It's no secret that the Wildrose Alliance have been gaining momentum," said Angus Reid pollster Hamish Marshall. "Right now, they're on track to form a government."

The current survey data, which reflect similar trending from other recent opinion polls, would put the Wildrose Alliance "right on the line" between a majority or minority government, he said.

But Marshall cautioned the numbers reflect a snapshot in time and that the next provincial election is likely at least two years away.

The latest poll numbers are believed to be the worst for the Tories since 1992, when Laurence Decore's Liberals were in the low 40s, before Ralph Klein's PCs stormed back to win the provincial election the following year.

They also come about a month after Stelmach's own party gave him a 77 per cent vote of confidence in the Conservative leadership review.

The Angus Reid results show support for the Wildrose party is growing in every corner of the province -- at the expense of the Tories, who've ruled Alberta since 1971.

In Calgary, the Wildrose Alliance is backed by 38 per cent of voters, followed by the Liberals with 30 per cent, Conservatives at 23 per cent and NDP at six per cent, according to the poll.

"Clearly people seem to have turned their backs on the PCs and the Stelmach government," Marshall added.

In Edmonton, the Wildrose party leads with 36 per cent support, the Liberals are at 26 per cent, PCs at 25 per cent and NDP at 12 per cent.

In rural Alberta -- historically the bedrock of Tory support -- Smith's party is way out in front with the backing of 44 per cent of voters outside the major cities, compared to 25 per cent for the PCs, 21 per cent for the Grits and seven per cent for the NDP.

"If these numbers are true, it's beyond worry (for the Tories). I think they should be terrified," said David Taras, political analyst at the University of Calgary.

"With these numbers, it's really a race to the bottom, a toboggan ride to nowhere."

One of the most worrisome points for the Conservatives, he said, is that the Wildrose Alliance is leading by large margins in all regions of the province.

While the latest poll results are open for debate, Taras noted one thing that's certain is the trend line for the ruling Conservatives continues to sink -- while the Wildrose Alliance continues to improve -- which indicates changing public opinion.

But the deeper question for the provincial political landscape goes beyond public opinion, to whether Albertans have made a judgment on Stelmach as premier, he said.

"Public opinion can change, but it's much more difficult to change a judgment," he added.

Several question marks remain, however, with the Wildrose Alliance and its leader, Taras said, noting the party still must clearly define some of its policies and carve out an identity prior to the next election, expected in 2012.

What's more, he said Alberta's decreasing voter turnout could also play a large role in whether survey numbers hold true on election day, noting the Tories' sliding poll results prior to the 2008 election before they stormed to a massive majority.

Three separate polls over the past few months have shown a steady decline in backing for the Conservatives and an increase in support for the Wildrose Alliance.

An early October poll conducted by the Citizen Society Research Lab at Lethbridge College found 38 per cent of decided voters would support the Tories, while subsequent polls later in the month from Return on Insight and Environics both had the Conservatives at 34 per cent.

Those same surveys pegged the Wildrose Alliance at 22, 25 and 28 per cent, respectively.

The new Angus Reid online poll of 1,000 randomly selected Albertans was conducted Nov. 23-29 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The regional breakdowns have a margin of error of 5.6 percentage points in Calgary, 5.7 in greater Edmonton and 4.9 in the rest of Alberta.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald
Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, left, and Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith.Photograph by: Archives, Calgary Herald

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