Poll: Wildrose and PC gap tightens to 8

Campaign Research’s third weekly tracking poll shows that the Alberta election gap between Wildrose and the PC Party has tightened to 8 points.

Some key findings of the poll:
– Wildrose: 42.8%, PC: 34.4%
– PC party gain comes at expense of Liberals and NDP. Wildrose drop within margin of error.
– PCs lead Wildrose by 22 points in Edmonton
– Wildrose leads PCs by 18 points in rural Alberta and Calgary (49% of popular vote)
– Best Premier – Smith: 32.1%, Redford 27.1%

New Poll: Wildrose up by 17 points

Another poll shocker from Campaign Research today as their latest tracking poll shows the Wildrose Party in Alberta up by 17 points over the PC Party.

You’ll remember a week ago that Campaign Research first released their poll via this website and had Wildrose up by 9 points while other pollsters had the PCs tied with Wildrose. In the following days, other pollsters caught up to confirm the 9 point lead.

Now, this poll show’s Danielle Smith’s Wildrose up by 17 points.

Here are the other highlights:
– Wildrose would take 45.5% of the popular vote if an election were held today
– PCs at 28.4%
– gap closing in Edmonton, expanding in Calgary and rural areas
– Wildrose 50.0% in Calgary, 28.1% in Edmonton, and 51.9% in the rest of Alberta
– Best Premier poll: Smith has 30.5%, Redford has 28.9%

UPDATE: Here is the Campaign Research press release,

Dave Taylor and the realignment of Alberta politics

Unless you are paticularly ill with a case of alberta politicitis, you probably can’t place the name Rob Anderson, Heather Forsyth and Dave Taylor. But for those of use stricken with the ailment, these names are near the top of our minds.

Today Dave Taylor, a Liberal MLA from Calgary, held a press conference to declare that the provincial Liberal party doesn’t excite him or the province anymore and that he figures his constituents will be served better if he sits as an independent.

Earlier examples of party defection this year came from PC MLAs Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth who crossed the floor to join the Wildrose Alliance, a party enjoying great poll numbers since it elected its new leader Danielle Smith.

Three makes a trend and the current trend the is realignment of Alberta politics. For small-c conservatives, it has the first blush of a coming family feud, for Liberals it presents a stark reality of being pushed out the doors while the battle for the province’s top prize is done within the forum. Taylor is predicting the spotlight shift and seeking to appeal to his constituents on his own brand.

As for the family fued, about two months ago I asked Smith about the metric for success for the new Wildrose. She remarked that bringing the PCs further to the right would mean success for her party, but joked that it was a bit early to talk about a “united alternative”.

If the trend continues, it may yet echo a similar scene seen federally under the tenure of Stock Day when he was leader of the Canadian Alliance. Missteps in leadership at the top had MPs in flux between parties and pseudo-parties in the Canadian House of Commons. Dialogue that transpired between members of the (rebel) alliance and the PC in those days helped forge a path for merger.

These events also occurred within the context of a bitter decade-long divison between conservative traditions. I asked Monte Solberg about this and he explained, “after several election losses the logic of uniting the federal conservative parties became so overwhelming that it even overcame the petty resentments between our parties, and they really were petty.”

For conservatives in today’s Alberta, the PC Party of that province represents their vehicle for power while the Wildrose projects their ideological core. The question becomes, will the Wildrose become a viable vehicle while maintaining conservative values or will the PC Party shift right to maximally capture Alberta’s political realignment?

One factor which will significantly determine this outcome is organization. While PCers have long grumbled that their problems stem from the top in the Premier’s office, the Wildrose’s challenges stem from some of the senior grassroots of the organization. The party has taken big steps to address this in recent times, seeking to professionalize its executive tier with recent hires, however, some of the old guard of the previous incarnation of the party — those that sit on riding executives — still call many shots from the “this is how we’ve always done it” perspective. Smith and her new pros must balance their ambition of creating that viable vehicle with grassroots demands of the party while being mindful to embrace grassroots ideology while eschewing tired tactics and strategy presented under the guise of the same.

If Dave Taylor had seen long term viability in the PCs for the big debate that is yet to come, he probably would have joined the PCs — the caretaker party that has governed the provice for the last three decades. Though, perhaps his reluctance is a sign that the party is indeed shifting right to meet the Wildrose’s challenge. For the Liberals, their longterm viability has never been apparent. Again, Solberg: “The problem in Alberta is that the Liberals are so weak that at this point a conservative vote split wouldn’t make a huge difference. I doubt very much that Taylor is leaving because Liberal fortunes are improving. Vote split or not the Liberals are in very sad shape.”

More thorns in Stelmach’s side

The Wildrose Alliance may be doing well in the polls in Alberta under its new leader Danielle Smith, but until recently, the organization of the party has been struggling hard to catch up to make the party a credible force for contending the next election.

Today, a key Morton organizer jumped over to the Alliance. I met Bill Bewick when he was senior staff on the Morton for PC Leader campaign. Bewick now joins Wildrose in the legislature as a senior member of its research staff.

The departure of the former senior supporter of the now finance minister comes on the heels of another important hire by the Wildrose. Vitor Marciano was an Alberta National Councillor for the Conservative Party and was even in contention for presidency of the party late last year. Marciano has been a staunch Harper supporter and his placement at the top of the Wildrose will enable the party to bring some professional organizing muscle to the mix and this will be important for bringing more conservative Albertans into fold of the provincial party.

All of this without mention that earlier this year we saw Wildrose begin its 2010 momentum with the poaching of two MLAs from Stelmach’s caucus.

Pollsters will tell you that the electoral trend favours Wildrose. Now we’re starting to see some of the real-world pieces come together.

Live stream of the Alberta’s future conference in Edmonton

Liveblogging the opening panel of the Manning Centre Alberta Future conference.

Panelists:
Danielle Smith, leader of the Wildrose Alliance Party
Kyle Fawcett, PC Party of Alberta MLA Calgary North-Hill

Q: technological factors in Alberta’s future

Smith: we need to figure out what our policy on CO2 is. We don’t have a coherant policy. Smith explains that science of climate change is still under debate. Smith says rest of Canada doesn’t undrstand the value of oil sands for economy and energy security. Oil sands reputation repair needs to be job #1 according to the WAP leader. Smith asks audience to consider jobs created by oilsands development. “We should be celebrating the success of the oilsands”. Smith suggests we should also be investigating green energy alternatives. New producers and energy types are jockeying for position in the new electricity grid. Smith says there is no conflict with being a hydrocarbon producer and a green energy leader.

Q: if you could write the next chapter of Alberta’s future. What would it be?

Smith: we will find maturity as a province. We assert rightful jurisdiction in confederation. Now we are refered to as part of the west or as prairie province. We must be recognized as a grown up province. Perhaps we should be looking for our own provincial pension plan. We should have our own police force. We should take control over our own immigration like Quebec. We need to lead health care reform. Quebec leads it now, Alberta leads it now. WAP is not another “west want in” movement. WAP is about restoring Alberta’s leadership in Canada.

Q: what are the most important things we need to do today for Alberta’s future

Smith: we need a natural gas strategy. Change consumer behaviour. Gas prices are low, this gives us opportunity to develop this sector vs. coal. Our job in government is to establish free market to encourage entrepreneurship. We need most competitive tax structure in Canada and even North America. On democratic reform, the current government intimidates people that meet with me. Premier’s office seems to be writing down names of people getting involved with WAP. This reflects an erosion of our democracy.

Q: Alberta’s role on the national stage. Re: fed govt’s deficit, how should we deal with the feds?

Fawcett: we’re not immune to global economic trends. When the PM meets with other heads of state he must fulfill our commitments. I know that our fed ministers are treating everyone fairly including Albertans.

Smith: 65% of Alberta’s self-identify as right of centre. Best way we can influence federal decisions is to be a good role model. Lately, our provincial government has not been one. Why are we issueing Alberta bonds and going back in debt. We must balance our budget and get our spending in control first before addressing the federal government.

Fawcett: we are not running an operational deficit. We are spending money from when times were good. We don’t need to cut and slash but run on longterm wise fiscal management.

Smith: Alberta bring in 32 billion but spending 36 billion. The amount of official deficit is understated by governement.

Q: how do we increase voter turnout?

Smith: All parties, not just two right-of-centre parties will have input. Social media also allows us to connect directly with voters. This will help improve the overall dialogue and this will cause more people to turn out.

Fawcett: we haven’t even scratched the surface with techology. (Fawcett echoes Smith’s comments on social media). But not everyone will follow online. There’s still a role for traditional means: mail and townhalls. Had a senior’s forum two weeks ago and only 3 people came out. Social media cannot address all needs. We must still reach out using other means.

Manning: technology is part of getting voters to the polls but it’s not the only way. If yoy look at past visions it was core values that connected with people. You must ask, what are the core valuies that fill out your policy prescriptions. Not just a technological fix, but core values must inform policy to get more people out to the polls.

Smith: people come to Alberta because of leadership in policy. Alberta Advantage was about economic growth, best delivery of services.

Q: what kind of story do you find most resonates with Albertans

Smith: my grandfather came from the Ukraine. I was surprised to see that a story of my hard working immigrant grandfather resonated more in urban areas than rural. Alberta is a place where immigrants can realize their entrepreneurial dream. We need a governement that believes in individuals to govern themselves.

Fawcett: I hear stories of people born and raised in Alberta. I hear that they’re very proud to have achieved success in the province. To persue your own vision and dreams without govt standing in the way and then helpimg your own individuals. We must have equality of opportunity for Albertans to achieve their own vision, and for those that can’t we need to give them a hand up. Story is about achieving individual success and taking that to help your community.

Smith: I think it used to be that way. Now people are looking elsewhere. People aren’t looking to PC Party to respect property rights and democracy. This is why other parties are seeing new interest from Albertans.

Fawcett: we can’t govern off of public opinion polls. We’ve earned an outstanding mandate from the people. How can it be said that we’ve lost the support of Albertans?

Q: what would you say to someone that hasn’t wanted to get involved with either of your parties?

Fawcett: if you’re upset, get involved. Find your passion and get involved where you can make the best change.

Smith: in leadership race, I was surprised by new people who were never involved in politics, getting involved. We kept selling memberships after leadership race was over. This doesn’t usually happen. People are now seeing that we can do better. If not to replace government but to elect an effective opposition to ask uncomfortable questions to the government.

Q: oilsands. How do we improve alberta’s position ethically, economically, internationally with respect to the oilsands?

Smith: some Canadians feel that Canada’s reputation is damaged and that oilsands blight is not their fault. Ottawa wants to make oilsands reputation management a national priority. This is a mistake. Oilsands are a national jewel. Oilsands are not well understood by many Canadians. Immense amount of tech being developed to improve efficiency of oil extraction from oilsands. Why aren’t we talking about this? We should be talking about how we’re improve environmental sustainability of oilsands.

Fawcett: we hope Danielle and her caucus will support the premier when he sells the oilsands internationally. Buisiness also has a role in getting the story out. I hope Danielle is not advocating for cuts in the ministry of the environment. We can talk about natual gas all we want but we cannot put all of our eggs in one basket. Albertans should not be ashamed for taking the lead on economic development and environmental sustainability of oilsands. Technological innovation may well take us to bring our emissions on par with other extraction methods.

Smith: Carbon capture and storage will be a massive sinkhole for government spending. We don’t seem talk about reductions in CO2, we only talk about reducing rate of growth. Simple measures will bring us the furthest: consumer action on home reno, auto efficiency choices.

Q: what do we do about selling our “dirty oil” as some in the US put it?

Smith: one solution on talking about emissions with US may come from honest discussion about US decommissioning coal plants.

Q: what makes an Albertan? What makes us the same and what makes us different?

Smith: “every fiscal issue has a social dimension.” Albertans more disposed to looking to community issues to solve public policy problem. Some think that paying taxes will solve problems. We’re seeing that paying taxes do not provide services. Education and health are suffering because more people are looking to government to solve their problems.

Fawcett: agree with Danielle that solutions come from communities but definition of community has changed. Consider urban condo dweller. Is there community there as we have traditionally defined it?

Smith: we must consider outputs vs outcomes. Government focuses on outputs. We need to focus on outcomes. Found agreement with NDP activist on community involvement. Community connections are vital. Community doesn’t break down in urban environment, it is actually more important. Social media allows us to connect but we must still meet each other eye to eye.

Q: what is the role of society? What is the role of government? What does the “good life” mean?

Fawcett: the society that we want is the one that strikes the right balance. Where would we be without government involvement in the oilsands? Not that we should encourage more government encroachment, but we need to be more strategic. We need to be having more conversations like we’re having here this weekend? Where do we want Alberta to be in 20 years? We need find the vision and implementation strategy moving forward. This comes from individuals and collective society.

Smith: we must acknowledge that we’re a young province. We have every right to look at our next century as optimistically as we saw the last. You can avoid making public policy missteps by looking to the governments to increase liberty and freedom. Libertarians and social conservatives believe that governement has gotten to big for its own good. Stong families and communities are foundation of society. We cannot look to government to solve each problem. Must invest in infrastructure to increase economic growth. Our first objectives as MLAs is to “do no harm”

Alberta bound

I’ll be heading to Edmonton tomorrow for the Manning Centre’s Conference on Alberta’s Future where registrants will discuss and evaluate Alberta’s performance in the Canadian and global contexts.

The conference comes on the heels of the Stelmach government’s Throne Speech today and when renewed calls for increased opposition time in Question Period have been vocalized by both the NDP and Wildrose Alliance Parties. Leader of the latter party, Danielle Smith has confirmed her attendance at the conference so it will be interesting to hear her take on Alberta’s future now, especially now that she’s leading in the polls and may well have been Alberta’s next premier if an election were held today.

There will also be representatives from the government there to discuss their vision as well as members of the other opposition parties. Preston Manning wrote an article published in the National Post today suggesting that Alberta’s PC dynasty is on shaky ground. Alberta observers will remember that Manning was courted by many Alberta conservatives to replace Premier Klein. Yet, in the end, Ed Stelmach was selected.

Alberta, partly due to the economic downturn, finds itself in different financial shape as the province’s treasury faces deficits instead of surpluses. Still the economic engine of Canada thanks in large part to its still booming energy sector, Alberta’s future and potential political turnover is the sleeper story in Canadian politics.

If you’ll be in Edmonton this weekend, I hope that I’ll see you at the conference. If not, I’ll be doing my best to file video and blog reports with those that have shaped Alberta’s past and those shaping its future.

Those Ignorant of History are Doomed to Repeat It

Yesterday, two members of Ed Stelmach’s Alberta PC caucus crossed the floor and joined Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Alliance. Two Calgary area MLAs, Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth, left the PC caucus citing failed leadership and bureaucratic glut in the Premier’s office.

Today, Stelmach send an email to supporters addressing the news (emphasis mine),

Now, a quick review of history from Wikipedia,

Alberta’s second dynasty was the United Farmers of Alberta who rose from a minor party known as the Alberta Non-Partisan League, formed in 1916. Henry Wise Wood would lead the party into the 1921 election and form a majority based on winning rural seats. The party did not run in the cities and allied with Labour candidates. Henry did not want the job as premier so the farmers were forced to shop around. John Brownlee was asked first but declined. Herbert Greenfield, the second choice, became the new premier.

Greenfield would resign four years later because he was often absent due to illness. John Brownlee, who had previously been offered the job, succeeded him. Brownlee’s reign as government leader was troubled by the onset of the great depression. He resigned in scandal after he was accused of sexual acts with a minor in the Attorney General’s office. This and another scandalous divorce by Oran McPherson, speaker of the legislative assembly, gave the United Farmers an image of moral decay. In 1934 Richard Reid would replace Brownlee and lead the United Farmers government into total defeat at the hands of the new Social Credit party.

This, of course, happened during the Great Depression.

In recent history, Stelmach replaced Klein.

Back then, the decay was cited as moral, today it is financial decay and bureaucratic ascendance.

Albertan political history is marked by political dynasties. Is this the end of the Progressive Conservatives and the rise of the Wildrose Alliance?

Danielle Smith interview

The video above is the first 46 seconds of my ten minute interview with the new leader of the Alberta Wildrose Alliance Party, Danielle Smith. You may also want to watch my previous interview with Smith.

After the introductory banter, I grabbed my sheet of questions ready to ask and placed it down on my laptop keyboard. My hypersensitive trackpad then decided to hit pause on the recording!

But fret not, I’ll be posting a written summary of our interview soon (see the update below). Smith answered a number of questions pertaining to her new role as leader of a rising party in Alberta politics, the growing pains the party is bound to go through, her expectations for “success” over the next little while and for the next election, her thoughts on Stelmach’s next few weeks and where and how “Conservative” became a misnomer for Alberta PCs.

I’ll post a summary of her answers soon. Keep watching this space.

UPDATE: Here is a summary of the questions I asked Danielle and the answers that she gave.

I recognized that she’s been asked the libertarian/social conservative question many times over the week by reporters so I asked her how as a libertarian-rooted leader that she would look to socially conservative policy and whether leadership would be top-down, bottom-up, or a mix of both.

Danielle reiterated that the WA is a grassroots party and that she needs to better inform some about what she views as the “libertarian” ideology. She said that at the root of libertarianism is liberty, and that this means property rights, freedom of speech and freedom of religion among others.

I asked about any lessons that Danielle might take from the Reform tradition. As that party grew, it became not just a movement but a party vying for power. As the WA grows, what will she be doing to prevent what we call “bozo eruptions” from those speaking not for an organization (the party), but rather the movement.

Danielle responded by explaining that she hopes that Preston doesn’t think that she’s just robbing from the Reform playbook. In fact, she says that the party is relatively new and they are still growing and that the media and Albertans will view them through this lens and understand that that yes, they aren’t yet a well-oiled comms machine.

Regarding the PC AGM in early November and a possible Stelmach leadership review, I asked Danielle if one of the successes of the WA would be to make the PC Party more right, or more “conservative”. I also asked Danielle about the possibility that Ted Morton may become the new leader and asked if she’d find this heartening.

Danielle responded by saying that Morton is certainly one of six or seven out of about 70 PC MLAs who is still a conservative and that Morton would actually find himself at home within the WA.

I asked Danielle if she’d spoken to any of these six or seven PC MLAs and she responded that no, she has not spoken to any of them since she became leader however, she has many friends in that caucus and she talks these friends regularly.

About the “Conservative” label, I suggested that Danielle may believe that the Alberta PC Party does not own that label anymore. Without addressing any particular policy, I asked her why she may think that.

Danielle responded that the Alberta PC Party has largely become a vehicle for opportunism and career advancement and that the PC’s are largely out of touch. Danielle went on to discuss specific policy initiatives of the WA and directed people to check out the WA website for the party’s policies.

On the strategy front, I mentioned that some of us that follow politics too closely are wondering if the WA is take a one election strategy to attain power like the 1935 social credit party or a two election strategy like Lougheed’s 1967 and 1971 Tories.

Danielle responded that the WA party will be going for the one election strategy for power and said that she’s not going for 3 or 4 seats after the next election, but 42, or 43. She explained that Albertans do not elect oppositions but rather they elect governments.

Danielle Smith Wildrose Alliance leadership bid is very likely

Danielle Smith is the former Alberta director of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and is a regular commentator on Canadian politics. She resigned her position at the CFIB because it suddenly presented a “conflict” for other opportunities, namely seeking the leadership of the Wildrose Alliance now that Paul Hinman has stepped down. I asked her about Alberta politics, refreshing conservatism and her very likely bid.