After decades in power, could Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives be voted out in favour of another right-wing party?
New polls suggest Alberta Premier Alison Redford and her caucus are fighting for their political lives.
Political scientist Duane Bratt says, “If they didn’t think they were in a fight a week-and-a-half ago, they better think that right now.”
The party has maintained a majority government since its first election win in 1971, meaning Albertans under the age of 42 have grown up under a PC provincial government. The party has virtually been untouchable.
But a new series of polls suggests the political juggernaut’s stranglehold is not just weakening – it’s under threat of a total collapse – from a relatively new right-wing rival, the Wildrose Alliance Party.
Bratt says, “There’s a strong and growing opposition, and an opposition that may now form the government.”
The upstart Wildrose, led by former journalist Danielle Smith, holds a double-digit lead in a recent poll. Even public miscues, like an ill-placed but well-mocked campaign bus ad, have done little to slow down the party.
“Even missteps, like the bus fiasco, (the Wildrose was) able to turn around and turn into a positive,” Bratt points out.
“Meanwhile, the Tories have just blundered.”
While poll results have favoured the Wildrose, Smith isn’t celebrating yet. “The numbers we see today are not the numbers we see on election day. I think we all know that.”
“That’s why politicians say the only poll that counts is on election day.”
A look at Alberta’s political history also has some wondering how much longer the Progressive Conservatives can hang out to power. Bratt says Alberta has a record of “long dynasties defeated by a brand new party.”
“The Liberals were defeated by the United Farmers of Alberta. The United Farmers of Alberta were beaten by the Socreds (Social Credit party). The Socreds were beaten by the Tories.”
Bratt adds, “Wildrose fits that historical pattern of a party on the right, that was non-existent in the previous election, coming in and forming a majority government.”
Even staunch Tory supporters say the days of the huge Tory majority may be numbered.
Lloyd Carefoot says, “I don’t think there’s a doubt they’ll have a smaller majority. It’s a fact.”
With those sentiments in the air, and the aforementioned polls, that doesn’t mean Redford is ready to throw in the towel.
“What I’m hearing from our candidates across the province is very strong support at the doors,” Redford says.
Some political observers say it may be too late for the Progressive Conservatives – the damage may already be done.
There was the indecision over MLA pay for inactive committee duty. Then, this past Saturday, a Tory aide resigned after going on Twitter to question Smith didn’t have any children. Actions like these may be fuelling a growing dissent for a party some say is losing touch with Albertans.
“The magnitude of errors by the Tories have been higher than in years past… (Before), they could make those errors and it wouldn’t matter. Now, they can’t afford those errors because there’s a strong and growing opposition – an opposition that may now form the government,” Bratt says.
“If you don’t want the Progressive Conservatives, you need to choose someone else. Now the question becomes: do you want Wildrose?
That’s the question Albertans will answer when they head to the polls on April 23.
With files from Global National’s Francis Silvaggio