Wildrose continues to stoke prairie wildfire

A new poll out in Alberta shows Wildrose taking a 43% lead to the Progressive Conservative’s 30%, with less than three weeks to go until the provincial assembly election — a stronger result even than polls earlier this week that showed Wildrose taking a narrow lead over the PCs, who have governed Alberta since 1971. 

The poll shows Wildrose nearly even with the PCs in the capital city of Edmonton, but with nearly a 20-point lead in Calgary and nearly a 20-point lead everywhere else.  The New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party continue to battle for third place in the low teens (NDP at 12%, Grits at 11%).

Don Baird at the Calgary Herald frames the campaign in stark dynamics, contrasting the tightly controlled Wildrose campaign to the more freewheeling PC campaign, but also in their ideological roots:

Ideologically, the two parties are now so widely separated they can’t possible reunite for many years.

[Premier] Alison Redford has whittled her PCs down to their origins as traditional Peter Lougheed progressives, firm believers in the state’s power to shape  economics and behaviour.

Danielle Smith’s Wildrosers are latter-day Preston Manning Reformers, suspicious even of the governments they run themselves, but trusting of individuals.

That characterization is definitely not a good sign for the long-governing PCs in what constitutes the most conservative province in Canada — the tea-party-like Wildrose has been able to claim a mantle of the “true” conservative party with its emphasis on budget-cutting and smaller government.

The PCs are starting to respond with vigour, emphasizing Wednesday that Wildrose would endanger ‘conscience rights’ by allowing officials to refuse health care or other governmental services on the basis of personal opposition to same-sex marriages, contraception or abortion.

Baird — if you are reading just one person on Albertan politics, by the way, it should be him — agrees that the PC campaign has no choice but to launch a “bogeywoman” attack on Wildrose and on the prospect of Smith as Alberta’s premier:

The stakes aren’t just power. They’re history, too. Redford is on the brink  of becoming the last Alberta PC premier, forever filed with Kim Campbell as a female leader who suffered for the sins of men before her.

Anybody who thinks the PCs will just accept this fate is deluded. Their real campaign begins now. It will bring 20 days of bogeywoman politics aimed at [Smith].

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