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Wildrose on track for majority with a week to go in Alberta

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith serves ice cream during a campaign stop in Strathmore, Alta., on April 14, 2012.

Jeff McIntosh/Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

The Wildrose Party has increased its lead over Alberta's Progressive Conservatives over the last two weeks, putting them squarely in majority territory with only one week to go before the Apr. 23 vote.'s vote-projection model, which aggregates, weighs, and adjusts all publicly released opinion polls, pegs support for Danielle Smith's upstart party at 41.9 per cent support, a gain of 4.6 points since Apr. 2. Alison Redford's Tories have slipped 0.5 points since then to only 33.2 per cent, placing them at serious risk of losing their 41-year grip on power.

With these levels of support, Wildrose is projected to win a comfortable majority of the Alberta Legislature's 87 seats. They have gained 12 seats since the Apr. 2 projection, and are now on track to win 56. The PCs are down nine seats to only 27, a serious decrease from the 66 seats the party held when the election was called.

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The Liberals, who took 26.4 per cent of the vote in the 2008 provincial election, have slipped another 3.1 points since Apr. 2 and projected to capture only 11 per cent support if an election were held today. This would shut them out of the Legislature. They had been projected to win three seats earlier in the campaign.

The New Democrats, meanwhile, are holding steady with 10.8 per cent support and four seats. While this had previously put them in a position to be kingmaker in a minority government, the likelihood that Ms. Smith will not be able to command a majority of seats is now very low.

However, as all of the surveys included in the aggregation were taken before Thursday's leadership debate there is the potential for some significant shifts over the coming days. But most commentators agree the performances of Ms. Redford and Ms. Smith are unlikely to have done anything but solidify current levels of support.

For the Progressive Conservatives, that means their representation could be reduced almost entirely to the city of Edmonton. Only there have their fortunes improved since the beginning of the campaign. The Tories are up 4.2 points in the provincial capital since Apr. 2, and lead with 38.7 per cent support. Wildrose stands in second with 27.3 per cent, followed by the New Democrats (16.4 per cent) and the Liberals (13.9 per cent, a drop of 4.3 points). The consequence of this PC gain is that the Tories are on track to win 20 seats in the city, up three since Apr. 2, all at the expense of the Liberals. Wildrose and the NDP are unchanged at five and four seats each, respectively.

Wildrose is dominating in the rest of the province, however. The party is up 4.8 points in Calgary and now lead with 47.8 per cent, while it has also jumped 7.5 points outside of the two main cities to a crushing 50.2 per cent. The Tories trail in second with 30.5 per cent in Calgary and 30.7 per cent in the rest of Alberta, a drop of 3.5 points over the last two weeks. The result is that the Tories are down five seats in Calgary and seven in the rest of the province since Apr. 2 – they are now projected to win only six seats outside of the two cities and only one in Calgary. The remaining 51 seats (enough alone to secure a majority government) fall to Wildrose.

The polls are generally in more agreement than they were shortly before and after the election call. Nevertheless, one survey has suggested a much closer race while most continue to show the wide gap between Wildrose and the Tories. There is also enough discrepancy in the regional results from one poll to another to inject a bit of uncertainty into the projection. Many ridings look to be very close PC-Wildrose contests, further increasing the plausible range of outcomes. Though it is very unlikely that either party would hit their respective extremes, Wildrose could potentially win as many 74 seats or as few as 30, while the PC range stands between eight and 55 seats. But compared to the likely ranges of Apr. 2, Ms. Redford's odds of pulling off a victory of any kind have slimmed while the likelihood of a Wildrose government has increased considerably.

There is still a lot to play out for all four leaders. At the bottom of the table, Brian Mason needs either Wildrose or the PCs to form a minority government for his NDP to have influence and Raj Sherman needs to ensure his Liberals will still exist in the Legislature after next Monday's vote. For Ms. Redford, the Tory legacy is at stake while Ms. Smith can start a new political era of her own in Alberta.

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It looks like she will do it, but nothing can be taken for granted. While it is difficult to imagine that a nine-point edge could whither away over the next seven days, a swing of this magnitude appears to have taken place in the two weeks that straddled the start of the campaign. But Wildrose captured the lead early and, despite the strenuous efforts of the Progressive Conservatives, has held on it, indicating that they have enough staying power to survive this last phase of the campaign and come out on top. 's projection model aggregates all publicly released polls, weighing them by sample size, date, and the polling firm's accuracy record and adjusting them according to past discrepancies. The seat projection model makes individual projections for all 87 ridings in the province, based on the provincial and regional shifts in support since the 2008 election and including the application of factors unique to each riding, such as the effects of incumbency. Projections are subject to the margins of error of the opinion polls included in the model, as well as the unpredictable nature of politics at the riding level.

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