Rachel Notley (L) and Jason Kenney (R).
The upcoming provincial election could be won or lost in Calgary this spring, as the NDP and UCP gear up for what promises to be a polarized campaign period.The election hasn’t yet been called, but both parties have already staked out key areas of support throughout the province, leaving Calgary up for grabs, according to a study by ThinkHQ Affairs.“The premier does very well in Edmonton, the capital region, and doesn’t do quite as well outside the two major cities,” said president Marc Henry.“They’re quite evenly matched in Calgary. Calgary’s going to be the battleground for the election. (Jason) Kenney’s going to take most of the seats outside of the two major centres. (Rachel) Notley’s going to take most of the seats in Edmonton and it’s going to come down to who wins Calgary, is going to be who the next government is.”The study also showed that despite efforts by the NDP to draw a stark contract in leadership between Kenney and Notley, the underlying premise that the premier’s popularity outweighs that of the opposition leader doesn’t hold up.When it comes to approval, Notley sits at 44 per cent, compared to Kenney at 43 per cent. But she also suffers from higher disapproval ratings than Kenney, at 51 and 45 per cent, respectively.“If (the NDP) were going to run on their record, they would have a much more difficult time than running on the leader,” said Henry, pointing to “controversial” policies of the NDP government, including the introduction of a carbon tax and raising the minimum wage.“I think that there’s some overestimation of how popular Premier Notley is. Her approval numbers are good, but they’re about the same as Jason Kenney,” he said. “The two of them are actually quite evenly matched going into the election.”Henry said that despite her higher disapproval rating, Notley polls better among undecided voters.The study surveyed a non-random sample of more than 1,100 people, including about 400 in Calgary, through an online research panel between Jan. 31 and Feb. 6.It was weighted to reflect gender, age and region of Alberta, according to population figures from Statistics Canada. A probability sample of this size would have a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points at a 95 per cent confidence interval.In Calgary, the NDP’s vote share is polling near what they achieved during the 2015 election, yet the governing party still trails the UCP by about 15 to 20 points, according to Henry.He said Notley’s approval ratings are more impressive, in general, than the NDP’s polling numbers.“So there are more people who think that they like Premier Notley than are planning on voting for them. That’s reversed for Jason Kenney. There are more people planning on voting UCP than there are people who approve of Jason Kenney,” Henry said.“She’s probably the best tool that they have during the election and they would be wise to focus attention on her. I just don’t think that it’s panacea. It’s not going to necessarily solve the problem that they have.”firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter.com/SammyHudes