Albertans Have Rejected The NDP
On May 5, 2015, Albertans elected a majority NDP government. This was shocking for most people, including many of those who got elected. It wasn’t long before the government became overly cocky, saying that Albertans had rejected right-wing policies and that Albertans had fully embraced the NDP, giving them a mandate to implement a number of policies including corporate tax increases, oil royalty reviews, and a 50% minimum wage hike. It’s hard to tell if the NDP actually believes these claims, or if they were simply flaunting their accidental majority.
Let’s start with some simple facts about what happened on May 5. Firstly, the NDP received 40.57% of the vote. While this was more than any of the other parties, it was nowhere near the “clear mandate” that the NDP claims to have. 59.43% of Albertans voted against the NDP. A combined 52.03% voted for the two conservative parties (Wildrose and Progressive Conservative). Unlike the NDP’s claims, the numbers say that this was not a “rejection of right-wing policies”. While either the PC’s or the Wildrose Party came first or second in every single constituency in Alberta, the NDP came third in fifteen different constituencies. Despite the final seat counts, it’s very clear that from day one, the NDP has never had a mandate, and Albertans never rejected conservative policies.
A Mainstreet/Postmedia poll released in early July showed that the NDP’s honeymoon had ended quickly. Rachel Notley’s early 62% approval rating from May had already dropped to 50%. The NDP’s popularity overall had fallen from the rounded 41% that they received in the May 5 election to 31%, while the Wildrose Party’s popularity had increased to 40%, leading the province (the defeated Progressive Conservatives received 24%, only 7 points behind the NDP).
In a poll released at the end of August, it was revealed that 50% of Albertans trust Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper on provincial issues compared to only 33% for Rachel Notley. The same poll showed that Notley’s overall approval had fallen another 5% from the early July poll to 45%. This continues the running theme that was described earlier in this article: Albertans have not given the NDP a mandate and Albertans have not rejected conservative policies.
The September 3 byelection in Calgary-Foothills was the opportunity for Rachel Notley and the NDP to prove that Albertans actually do support their agenda. Notley and her cabinet ministers were out in force to support star candidate Bob Hawkesworth, who had previously been an MLA and a City of Calgary Alderman. Hawkesworth ran against relatively unknown Wildrose candidate Prasad Panda and local restaurant owner Blair Houston, the PC candidate. The results of this byelection closely echoed the results of the early July Mainstreet/Postmedia poll. Wildrose’s Prasad Panda won with 38.35% of the vote to Hawkesworth’s 25.71%. Notably, the PC’s finished only 4 points behind the NDP with 21.59% of the vote. It wasn’t long before Notley and her cabinet attempted to discount the importance of this poll. Notley said that the byelection was “not a litmus test” for her government’s performance, as this riding had always been a PC riding. While Notley is correct that Calgary-Foothills had always been a PC riding, it’s certainly notable that the NDP’s numbers in Calgary-Foothills actually fell from their numbers on May 5. In the general election, the NDP’s Anne Wilson received 32.36% of the vote while running against the incumbent premier, Jim Prentice. Despite the constant presence of the current premier and her cabinet, along with the effects of the May 5 election on the PC’s, and the relatively unknown Wildrose candidate the NDP’s numbers fell 6.65% from the May general election numbers.
Rachel Notley and the rest of her caucus need to start listening to Albertans. They do not have a mandate. Albertans have not rejected conservative policies. On the contrary, Albertans are already rejecting the NDP. If Rachel Notley’s party does not perk up and start listening to Albertans, they should stay in contact with former employers, because they’ll be looking for new jobs in 2019.