Alberta returning to the comfort zone

It appears that our neighbours to the east are over their the brief flirtation with the left.

With the Alberta election looming in just a couple of weeks, Rachel Notley’s NDP are down in the polls at 31 per cent of voters, with the United Conservative Party led by Jason Kenney at 56 per cent, according to Angus Reid polls.

The NDP are fairing best in Edmonton, where they find themselves in a tie with the UCP at 45 per cent each. The NDP actually leads with younger voters, with 46 per cent of 18 to 34 year olds saying they would vote NDP, versus 38 per cent for the UCP.

But that’s the only little ray of sunshine for the NDP — they are far behind the UCP in every other demographic.

Notley, despite what some might call her fine showing on the pipeline issue and the battle with British Columbia, is getting failing grades on managing the oil and gas industry.

This, I would say, is perhaps unfair.

It is not Rachel Notley’s fault that British Columbia remains adamantly opposed to the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. It is not her fault that Justin Trudeau’s federal government is making very slow progress on actually getting the pipeline built.

But the blame still falls on the ruling provincial government. It is the way of things.

Half of Albertans rank energy, oil and gas, and pipelines as a top issue in the province, according to Angus Reid, and 60 per cent are dissatisfied with Notley’s performance, although they acknowledge that she and the NDP have done better on health care and education.

Still, as the oil patch goes, so goes Alberta.

All these pipeline problems and the downturn in the oilfields, has played into Jason Kenney’s hands.

He’s got real issues to dig into and criticize, and he’s definitely making a meal of it.

When he does gain control of the premiership, and it is growing increasingly likely he will, Kenney is going to have to put his money where his mouth is. I don’t know that he has any better chance of getting the pipeline built than his predecessor, given that B.C. is opposed, as are many First Nations, but he can certainly talk the talk until the election is over. Problem is, while there are some regulations on the industry he could remove, much of the energy economy is not controlled by provincial policy, but by national and international markets.

One thing Kenney has been campaigning on is the evils of the carbon tax. He has promised to sue the federal government if Alberta is forced to comply with the federal tax. He also promises to repeal the current Alberta carbon tax. It’s an appealing message to many, if you think that we can just cruise merrily along pretending the climate isn’t changing. Bury your head in the oil sands, so to speak.

Still, evoking the spectre of the boogeyman feds forcing something unappealing on free Albertans is a tried and true tactic, and Kenney would be remiss if he didn’t try to benefit from it.

Kenney is a political veteran and he can sense when an issue is going to resonate.

Don’t forget resentment of Ottawa is high in Alberta right now, and the mutterings that the province would be better off on its own are bubbling to the surface, as they have sporadically though history.

Add to that Justin Trudeau’s considerable troubles with the SNC Lavalin affair, which is certainly not increasing his popularity, low at the best of times, among Albertans.

So for Kenney, he has ‘socialists’ (the new buzzword on the right) as direct competition and a wounded Prime Minister to pummel as well.

He’s certainly talking the talk. Question is, once elected, can he walk the walk?

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