An NDP victory next Monday, which has at least been considered a possibility throughout this provincial election campaign, would most definitely be one for the ages, although for it to happen, the New Democrats would have to buck a century of electoral results.
It wouldn’t be unprecedented given the results of 2015, but that success was accomplished with just 40 per cent support from voters, a majority government delivered courtesy of the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrosers splitting 52 per cent of the popular vote.
This time around the right-wing is united, at least in name, so knocking it off would appear to be a far greater challenge. Opinion polls conducted prior to and during the campaign suggest that’s not an impossible task, but it means convincing a great many Albertans who are predisposed to supporting the party representing the right-of-centre to change their stripes.
To do so, these voters must either be enamored with NDP policy/candidates or disillusioned with those from the UCP. Given NDP Leader Rachel Notley returns with a similar platform to what didn’t resonate with voters four years ago, it stands to reason that any significant swing would have to come from alienated right-wing voters.
The wildcard in that equation is obviously Danielle Smith, the UCP’s lightning rod of a leader whose polarizing views and outspoken ways have rubbed many the wrong way. The big question as we near election day is whether moderate Conservatives are willing to overlook any concerns they might have with Smith in order to get a government that most aligns with their priorities.
Even though it was a relatively even affair, Smith helped her cause in last week’s leaders' debate by sticking to the script and hammering home economic realities, reinforcing the notion that the UCP is best suited to steer the ship through uncertain times.
Has she convinced enough Albertans to stick with the party they’ve long supported? We’ll see in the only opinion poll that counts next Monday.