The polls that made headlines this week were interesting to say the least. The United Conservative Party still shows a healthy lead over everyone else, no matter who wins the leadership, but Brian Jean leads Jason Kenney by a healthy majority according to a Mainstreet poll. When the PC dynasty fell, to the NDP no less, the shock was felt across the country but also stunned politicos outside of the country.
|Photo Credit: Terry Reith/CBC|
If you’ve spent time with the election data from 2015, you know there was an anomaly. Other than the fact that the NDP formed government, you would notice the Progressive Conservatives still managed to earn a lot of votes; over 50,000 more than the Wildrose’s 360,511. Yet the PC’s ended up with 11 seats less than the Wildrose’s 21. This simply showed that their votes were cast over a much wider area that did not amount to winning ridings whereas the Wildrose votes were more centralized and managed to gain seats.
NOTE: the following polls surveyed all Albertans as the organizations do not have access to membership lists.
Jason Kenney as UCP leader
ThinkHQ’s online poll showed that support for the NDP is stronger with Jason Kenney as leader. As the Metro’s Elizabeth Cameron noted, Jason Kenney looks to have equal support from both urban and rural areas while Brian Jean has much greater support from rural. This analysis is what makes things interesting. Could Jason Kenney as leader end up garnering support in 2019 in the same way Prentice did in 2015? We can see that support does not guarantee seats.
At Calgary Pride, I spoke with a Calgary resident in a UCP shirt. I asked him what he was hoping for in the leadership race. Unsurprisingly, due to the location of our conversation, he said he was voting for Brian Jean. This was, I admit, exactly what I was hoping to hear because the real question I had was this: “So what will you do if Kenney wins?” I asked. “Will you hold your nose and vote UCP anyway?” He didn’t seem to want to answer but I persisted. “No,” he finally told me, “I will be in political purgatory.”
Jason Kenney, I truly believe, will inspire similar responses from red tories across the province. His lack of consideration for Alberta’s LGBTQ2+ community members reeks of indifference if not outright disdain. Though the LGBTQ2+ community may be small in comparison to the Canadian population (and therefore provincial), the number of allies to the community is growing every year. Prentice felt that support when the PC’s proposed ridiculous alternatives to Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman’s Bill 202 with the “parental rights” foundation of Bill 10. Kenney, for all his purported political savvy, seems determined to further that stance.
Brian Jean as UCP leader
Brian Jean appears to be much more palatable to the general public than Jason Kenney but his detractors are loud. Former Wildrose president and current UCP leadership hopeful Jeff Callaway claimed Brian Jean was too selfish to become leader. Obsessive political observers know there is no love lost between Jean and Fildebrandt but not everyone is obsessive. At a Unite the Right town hall Fildebrandt held in his riding of Strathmore Brooks when he was still “considering” a run for UCP leader, one attendee stood up and asked “If you win the leadership, will Jason Kenney support you? Obviously Brian Jean will but can you count on Kenney?”
I fully expect Kenney would publicly throw support behind Brian Jean to ensure a UCP win if Jean became leader. I actually believe Jean would do the same for Kenney. There is a big difference between their supporters though. Kenney tends to woo the religious right and they religiously follow him. Jean has support from more moderate types because he himself is much more moderate than Kenney. Jean’s support of over 50% of Albertans were he to win the leadership to Kenney’s less than 40% is telling. If Fildebrandt is correct and Jean is “not a leader”, it stands to reason that people will not follow him if he asks them to support Kenney.
According to a Mainstreet survey released at the beginning of August, the UCP would win an election held at that time but would be shut out of Edmonton, mirroring the results from the above ThinkHQ poll. Mainstreet’s poll though, showed a decrease in support for a Kenney led UCP. Of those who polled as “undecided” and “voting NDP” the numbers are 21% and 21% respectively if Brian Jean is leader but 28% and 22% if Kenney leads.
While one cannot accurately predict the outcome of an election two years in advance based on today’s sentiments, there is a pattern to keep an eye on. Kenney is a social conservative in a province that has moved on. Jean is a moderate in comparison to Kenney but if he wins the leadership race, he will be compared to an actual moderate like the Alberta Party’s Greg Clark and the still likable, if currently unpopular, Premier Notley. Whoever becomes UCP leader has a lot of time to ruin their chance to form government; in 2012, it only took three days.