Polls show Conservatives in oil-rich Alberta may be set for defeat

Fri May 1, 2015 1:15pm EDT
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By Scott Haggett

CALGARY (Reuters) - The center-right government of Alberta is trailing badly in polls ahead of Tuesday's election, setting the stage for a possible left-wing victory in the province, home to Canada's oil sands and the largest source of U.S. crude imports.

A poll released on Friday showed the left-of-center New Democratic Party (NDP) with 44 percent support in Alberta, where the Progressive Conservatives have ruled for 44 consecutive years.

The poll by Mainstreet Technologies showed the governing Conservatives with just 21 percent support, while the right-wing Wildrose Party notched 26 percent as conservative Albertans split their vote.

While polls have been poor indicators in recent Canadian provincial elections, the survey echoed three Thursday polls that showed the NDP well ahead of the Conservatives as voters react to plunging oil prices, budget woes, and a series of political gaffes by Premier Jim Prentice and his party.

If the NDP wins office on May 5, it would likely be far less accommodative to the Western Canadian province's powerful energy industry.

The Conservatives have won 12 straight elections, the longest uninterrupted run of any provincial or federal party in Canadian history.

Prentice, who left investment banking to become party leader in September, had a 75 percent approval rating at the beginning of March. A poll this week showed his approval rating had dropped to 31 percent.

Voters have complained about the unneeded expense of an early election call in a province that faces a C$5 billion ($4.1 billion) budget deficit. Alberta has long relied on oil and gas royalties to balance its books.   Continued...