By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman For the Lethbridge Herald on May 19, 2021.
Well known political commentator Duane Bratt attempted to answer a question many Albertans may be asking themselves. With the UCP Government running behind NDP in the polls halfway through its mandate, what can they do to re-earn the trust of Albertans?
Bratt, a political science professor in the Department of Economics, Justice, and Policy Studies at Mount Royal University spoke Tuesday as part of a special online session of the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs speaker series.
During his presentation, Bratt shared information from a poll regarding what the results would have been if a provincial election was held in April 2021. It shows that the UCP would have lost the election with only 33 percent support, while 40 percent would have voted for NDP, 11 percent was unsure, and 16 percent would have voted for another party.
When it comes to impressions of Jason Kenney himself, Bratt shared some data which shows that in March 2018, his approval rate was between medium and high at 58 percent. In May 2020 it dropped by two percent and by April 2021 his approval rate dropped to only 45 percent.
Bratt mentions that one big reason for his approval rates dropping is the fact that everything on his campaign slogan of 2019 ‘Jobs Economy Pipelines’ is worse now than when he first was elected.
“The jobs situation is worse now than when he was elected, the economic situation is worse than when he was elected, and no new pipelines have come forward. In fact, none are expected by 2023 with the exception of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which was bought and supported by the Trudeau government under great pressure of Rachel Notley,” said Bratt.
Even though one could make the argument that a lot of the problems with jobs and the economy as a whole had to do with the COVID-19 pandemic, Bratt disagrees with blaming the pandemic specifically.
He mentioned four non-COVID factors that contributed to our current situation. Fair deal panel, doctor salary negotiations, coal mining on eastern slopes and the school curriculum.
And regarding COVID-19 Bratt highlighted some of the reasons that have contributed to Jason Kenney’s approval rates to drop.
“I would make the case and in fact I’m stealing this from Jason Kenney in his TV address from two weeks ago that Alberta has a compliance problem but he never reflected on why Alberta has a compliance problem and so I would make the case that Alberta has a compliance problem for three major reasons: one is government mis-messaging, UCP caucus fighting restrictions and lack of enforcement,” said Bratt.
When it comes to the 2023 election, Bratt doesn’t think it is completely over for the UCP.
“I think there still is a path for victory for the UCP, but it’s getting narrower,” said Bratt.
To conclude his presentation, Bratt shared his views on how the UCP could still salvage the 2023 elections and what could potentially destroy them. He mentioned that polling seems to show that the NDP hit a ceiling of about 40 to 43 per cent while the UCP is down 22 points from the 2019 election, but only seven of those have gone to the NDP. Fifteen of them seem to be disenchanted Conservatives, people upset with Kenney and they don’t know where to go. The NDP can win an election with 40 to 43 per cent of the vote but it has to be a multiparty election. If it is a two-party election having 40 to 43 per cent is not good enough for the NDP.
In terms of COVID-19 and how the way that has been handled could affect the 2023 election Bratt mentioned that an increase in vaccinations will allow the government to gradually remove restrictions, which will have an immediate economic boost and therefore reflect well on the UCP. But on the other hand, everything that has transpired throughout the pandemic and how people have felt regarding the UCP way of handling it, will still affect their votes two years down the road.