Will the Alberta NDP surge to official opposition? The party certainly thinks so

With their popularity seemingly growing, Alberta NDP officials say they are preparing for a spring election campaign that will take them extensively out of their base in Edmonton.

Two recent polls say the Wildrose and PCs are currently in a tight race among voters, but also said the NDP is the most popular in the capital city and approval continues to increase for leader Rachel Notley.

While the surveys’ timing could be scrutinized given they were conducted shortly after the controversial budget was announced, Alberta NDP Provincial Secretary Brian Stokes said they’re still encouraging, even if they’re not completely surprising.

He also said looking forward to the actual election, expect change.

“This election is going to be unlike anything that voters have seen from New Democrats in probably a generation, since we were provincial opposition,” he said. “Our tour planning is coming together and I can’t give out too many details but Rachel is going to be visiting all the major centres in the province, she’s going to be at all corners of the province.”

Stokes also said those stops include ones outside of Edmonton deeper in the campaign.

“We’re not taking anything for granted, we’re being focused, but we’re also looking far beyond the Edmonton city limits,” he said.

Some of those ridings in sight for the party include Joe Ceci in Calgary-Fort and Shannon Phillips in Lethbridge-West, but some experts say while success is on the horizon, less is more.

University of Alberta political scientist Dr. Ian Urquhart said while they have a shot at seats outside the capital city, specifically Phillips, that doesn’t mean they should stray too far too strong.

“If I was advising the party, I would say you focus on Edmonton, your message seems to be really resonating well with the people in Edmonton, you just hammer away on that,” he said, adding Calgary is a whole other beast, even with Liberals struggling and current Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr leaving for a federal run.

“I mean frankly in Calgary New Democrats run behind, they will run fourth in some constituencies in Calgary,” he said.

That being said, Urquhart said the NDP could certainly get more than the 16 seats they had in the late 1980s when they were the official opposition.

Independent pollster Janet Brown agrees the party is on the right track, but said they have legitimate chances in less ridings.

“I think that they could potentially be in the running in maybe 12 to 15 seats and I think if the NDP are smart, they’re going to zero in on those seats they can win,” she said, adding the party has a very ‘efficient vote.’ “They can take a small number of votes and turn them into a decent number of seats.”

She also warned about running their campaign too far.

“They would be foolish to try and campaign in all 87 seats, because they’re just not going to play everywhere,” she said. “All signs that see from the NDP is that they’re going to run a very disciplined campaign, they’re going to spend money carefully and they’re going to spend money in those ridings that they really do have a chance of winning.”

Brown said when it comes to taking over as the official opposition, at this point it’s still a toss up with the Wildrose, but a change would be significant.

“That will change the tone of the legislature and that will change politics,” she said.


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