Brian Jean's Wildrose still tops among decided voters: Mainstreet survey
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Brian Jean's Wildrose still tops among decided voters: Mainstreet survey

An improving provincial economy and a new Progressive Conservative leader have caused barely a tremor on the Alberta political scene so far, with a new poll showing the Wildrose continuing to hold the lead and the NDP remaining in third place.

A Mainstreet Research survey conducted for Postmedia shows the Wildrose under Brian Jean on top among leaning and decided voters, at 37%.

The PCs, with former MP Jason Kenney at the helm since last month, are in second at 29% while Rachel Notley's NDP trails both parties at 24%.

The Liberals under David Swann and the Alberta Party led by Greg Clark each have the backing of 5% of voters.

The numbers are almost identical to the last Mainstreet political poll in February, though in that survey Wildrose was at 38%, the Tories — then under interim leader Ric McIver — were steady at 29% and the NDP stood at 23%. The Liberal and Alberta Party numbers are unchanged in the new poll.

"What's interesting to me is what's not there," said Mainstreet's David Valentin in an interview this week.

"There is no bump for the Jason Kenney-led PCs."

"If anyone expected an immediate shake-up with the introduction of Jason Kenney to provincial politics, it doesn't seem to have landed just yet."

Related: Bell: Mainstreet poll numbers give ammo to uniting Alberta conservatives in one new party

Kenney, a key cabinet minister in the former federal Conservative government, won the PC leadership in March on a platform of uniting the Tories with the Wildrose in a new party to take on the NDP government. The two parties have each named members to a discussion group around the idea, though the meetings are being kept under wraps.

Valentin noted that since Kenney won the leadership he has kept a low profile, especially after wading into controversy around student-run gay-straight alliances in schools.

"What I think is interesting is he's focused on something else entirely. He's not focused on Alberta politics ... he's focused on trying to make this merger happen and then winning a subsequent leadership race. Maybe he thinks that he doesn't need to talk to Albertans at this moment, that he will have a chance to do so at a certain point when he is the leader of this combined conservative party," he said.

There is some good news potentially for both Kenney and Jean — who have each declared their intention to lead a new party — in the April poll. After he took the Tory crown in March, a Mainstreet poll on who Albertans would prefer as leader of a hypothetical united conservative party had Jean at 26% and Kenney at 17%, with "someone else" the top choice at 28%.

In the current poll, the gap has narrowed between the two party leaders, with Kenney tied with "someone else" at 24% and Jean moving to 29%.

"Kenney's up a bit. It's not a lot but he's up," said Valentin.

Related: We'll take Door No. 3. Poll finds Albertans not sold on front runners for united right leader

On a regional basis, the PCs remain the top choice in Calgary at 33%, followed by the NDP at 27% and Wildrose at 24%. The NDP remain far ahead in their Edmonton stronghold with 46% support, followed by Wildrose at 26% and the PCs at 20%.

The Wildrose continue to hold a commanding lead outside of the two main cities, coming in at 47% compared to the PCs' 30% and the New Democrats' 16%.

Since taking office in 2015, Notley's government has faced a hard economic downturn caused by low oil prices, a situation its opponents say the NDP has made worse through its policies.

The province is predicting a return to economic growth this year, at a projected rate of 2.6%, and there have been some encouraging signs as of late, including an estimated 20,000 new jobs created in March.

But Valentin said it's no surprise the NDP is getting little bounce in the polls so far.

"It's going to take time before Albertans really begin to register any sort of economic recovery. Statistics are great ... but what people are really looking for is 'does my child have a job, is my husband reemployed, do I think I'm going to be in this career for the next few years?'"

Related: Albertans unhappy with NDP response to economic slowdown

Valentin notes there are events looming that could have a seismic effect on Alberta politics, including the British Columbia election results — which could decide the fate of a crucial pipeline project — and the outcome of conservative unity talks.

Mount Royal University political scientist Lori Williams said the poll numbers would likely be used by conservatives in favour of unifying as an argument that a new party would be a "sure thing."

"Looking at the combined numbers between the two of them, that's what the old PC (government) numbers used to look like in the days of the huge majority wins of days gone by," she said, noting that it's an open question whether all the vote would move over to the new party.

The automated phone survey of 2,421 Albertans on their landlines and cell phones was conducted on April 11 and 12. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.99 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

jwood@postmedia.com

source : Calgary SUN
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