Poll shows NDP jumping ahead in crucial Calgary battleground

Even so, it’s not clear the NDP — who now hold three of 26 ridings in the city — have enough support to capture the number of Calgary seats they need to win the election

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A few days ahead of a provincial vote, the NDP has a six-point edge over the UCP in electorally-decisive Calgary, according to a new poll.

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The ThinkHQ Public Affairs online survey conducted May 19-23 polled 1,054 Calgarians just after Alberta’s ethics commissioner released a report concluding UCP Leader Danielle Smith had violated the province’s Conflicts of Interest Act by pressuring Attorney General Tyler Shandro to drop a criminal case against Artur Pawlowski, who was ultimately convicted of inciting at a 2022 border blockade at Coutts.

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It suggests the NDP has 49 per cent of the decided vote versus 43 per cent for the UCP in a city where both main parties have devoted considerable time and resources to woo voters. Undecideds accounted for 10 per cent.

For a comparable probability-based random sample of this size, the margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points, 19 times out of 20, says ThinkHQ.

The poll also shows a city divided, with the NDP enjoying a commanding lead north of the Bow River while the UCP dominates slightly to its south. In outlying areas, it’s a close race, says the survey.

But in the inner-city ridings, Rachel Notley’s NDP holds a 25-point lead, states the survey.

And 38 per cent of Calgarians view Smith positively, a number that rises to 49 per cent for Notley.

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Even so, it’s not clear the NDP — who now hold three of 26 ridings in the city — have enough support to capture the number of Calgary seats they need to win the election, said ThinkHQ President Marc Henry.

“They could expect to capture up to nine additional seats, but it would still leave them short of forming government,” he said.

“The path to victory has always been easier for the UCP, given the number of safe rural seats they hold, whereas the NDP needs to thread a few needles to get there.”

He said the NDP probably needs to win in 15-16 ridings to clinch the provincial election.

Even so, the relatively high turnout in this week’s advance polls likely favours the NDP because many early voters tend to be younger and less traditional and thus less likely to support the UCP, said Henry.

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“If the turnout on election day is low, below 60 per cent, it’s bad news for Danielle Smith,” he said.

The poll also shows the most motivated voters tend to support the NDP by a 12-point margin, said Henry.

“The NDP should have an easier time getting their voters out,” he said, adding 15 per cent of those who voted UCP in 2019 have moved to the NDP.

The poll was also done shortly after the May 18 televised debate between Notley and Smith, one in which the latter leader did well, said Henry.

Combined with the ethics commissioner’s report, the debate made that day “kind of a wash for Danielle Smith,” he added.

“(The debate) might have helped firm up Conservative support but she still has a 60 per cent disapproval rating, which is not great,” said Henry.

ThinkHQ’s poll follows a number of other ones in recent weeks showing seesaw results in the city, with the UCP generally having a small edge and ones within margins of error.

Danielle Smith and Rachel Notley at the leaders debate
A composite image of UCP leader Danielle Smith and Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley following the leaders debate at CTV Edmonton on Thursday, May 18, 2023. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

The NDP likely needs to win 16 to 18 seats in Calgary to form the next government, says Mount Royal University political scientist Lori Williams.

What the continued tightness of the race in the city means is that the NDP “isn’t reaching some of the voters” despite a succession of controversies plaguing Smith and the UCP, she said.

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“There are so many controversies people are sort of numb to them now,” said Williams.

“The electoral map is more difficult for the NDP than the UCP.”

Some political pundits are looking closely at five city ridings as highly competitive — Calgary-North West, Calgary-Glenmore, Calgary-Klein, Calgary-Elbow and Calgary-Bow — all of which are currently held by the UCP.

The NDP is also making a concerted bid to flip UCP ridings that surround Edmonton and in some of the province’s mid-sized cities, and doing so would make winning the vast majority of Calgary ridings less crucial.

But on Friday, the parties’ leaders will continue their focus on Calgary with Smith making an announcement in the city while Notley is scheduled to make stops in eight of its ridings.


Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn


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