Alberta NDP facing heat as province’s economic woes become growing political problem: poll

The political landscape has tightened in the six months since the provincial election, as the governing NDP faces increased grumbling over its economic measures, a new survey has found.

The Insights West poll, provided to the Edmonton Journal, shows ’s party on top with the support of 25 per cent of respondents, just ahead of the 22-per-cent support garnered by Brian Jean’s Wildrose party. The results are essentially a statistical dead heat since the NDP’s lead is within the survey’s margin of error.

The Progressive Conservatives garnered support from 16 per cent of respondents, while the Liberal party got 10 per cent and the Alberta Party recorded two per cent. A total of 22 per cent of respondents said they didn’t know which party to back or declined to answer.

Among decided voters across the province, the NDP lead is slightly larger, at 33 per cent, followed by the Wildrose at 28 per cent and the Tories at 21 per cent. During the election in May, the NDP garnered almost 41 per cent of the vote, while the PCs and Wildrose captured 28 and 24 per cent, respectively.

Mario Canseco, vice president of public affairs for Insights West, said the narrowing numbers likely reflect the “normal wear and tear” on a government in power during difficult economic times. The spring election resulted in a vote for change that coalesced around the NDP, but the poll suggests there are still many Albertans unsure of which party to back in the long term, he said.

“It’s true that 33 per cent for the NDP is not as good as it was, but they are still in first place,” Canseco said. “There has been no big drop. It’s not a question where everyone is disappointed six months later.”

Still, Canseco noted the province’s economic woes have become a growing political problem for the NDP. The poll found jobs and economy is the biggest issue by far on Albertans’ minds, and almost half of the survey’s respondents felt the NDP has been doing a bad job on the file. Just 27 per cent said the government has been doing a good job.

Canseco said this matches a pattern seen with other NDP governments in , which have struggled on financial matters. Sometimes this is due to circumstances beyond a government’s control, such as the weak price of oil and the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. But in Alberta’s case, the low scores could reflect concern over NDP decisions to raise corporate taxes, conduct a royalty review and increase minimum wage.

In addition to the economy, the NDP also received poor marks for its handling of pipelines and energy, and housing and poverty. It received generally positive marks on the issues of health care, education, accountability and the environment.

Asked about the NDP’s first provincial budget, which is projecting a massive $6.1-billion deficit this year, respondents gave it a lukewarm reception. Canseco said the moderate rating is far better than the reaction Jim Prentice got for his budget in the spring.

The online survey of 619 Albertans was conducted from Nov. 6-10. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

About Keith Gerein, Postmedia News