May 1, 2015 / 5:19 PM / 3 years ago

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

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.

A poll by Return On Insight released on Thursday showed the NDP with 38 percent of the decided vote, with the Conservatives in second place with 24 percent support and the Wildrose Party with 21 percent.

A Leger poll for the Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal newspapers showed the NDP leading by 38 percent, while 30 percent picked the Conservatives and 24 percent supported Wildrose.

A third poll, for Global News by Ipsos Reid, showed 37 percent support for the NDP, 26 percent support for Wildrose, and 24 percent for the Conservatives.

The three polls had similar margins of errors of between 2.8 percentage points and 4.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Additional reporting and writing by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Peter Galloway

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