Alberta is the base of the Conservative Party of Canada, and the province is as blue as they come. A recent poll suggests that the upcoming by-election in Calgary-Centre will not change things. So what chances do the Liberals and New Democrats have of adding a little red and orange to the Albertan landscape?
The province will be getting six more electoral districts by the time Canadians next head to the polls, and the new boundaries do open up some opportunities for the New Democrats. Edmonton in particular is more of a level playing field, with the NDP having a shot at increasing their toehold from one seat (Linda Duncan’s in Edmonton-Strathcona) to two or three.
But the New Democrats have a big challenge ahead of them. While Thomas Mulcair has increased the party’s support throughout the country, he still remains unpopular in Alberta. A recent survey by Abacus Data found that only 12 per cent of Albertans had a very or somewhat favourable impression of the NDP leader. By contrast, Mulcair scored 30 per cent in neighbouring British Columbia and 52 per cent in Quebec.
The provincial New Democrats under Brian Mason did make some gains in the last election, increasing their representation from two to four seats in the legislature. They still only captured 10 per cent of the vote, but those extra seats mean the NDP will have an easier time putting together an organization come 2015.
Nevertheless, the NDP has a long way to go before they will have more than an outside shot at another seat or two in the province. The polls indicate that the New Democrats are about where they were on election night in 2011, and the party is focusing more on holding on to their seats in Quebec and making gains in British Columbia and Ontario. But any extra riding that votes for the NDP in Alberta will be one less seat for the Conservatives, and if the next election is as close as the polls are right now those seats could make a big difference.
The Liberals have an even greater distance to travel before they can become a factor in Alberta politics. The party has been sinking in the West at both the provincial and federal levels in recent elections, and has only one MP between Vancouver and Winnipeg.
But despite their poor showing in the last provincial election, the Liberals did show some resilience. The party dropped more than 16 points since the 2008 election but managed to hold on to five of the eight seats in Edmonton and Calgary that they had when the election began. Three of them took 40 per cent or more of the vote.
The Liberal leadership race could play a big role in the party’s fortunes in Alberta, as well as in Canada as a whole. Justin Trudeau, who is likely to run (and likely to win if he does), has a polarizing name in the province but polls have suggested he would give the party a boost. That bump is not so pronounced in Alberta, but it might put the party ahead of the NDP. A westerner like Ralph Goodale (a long shot to win, if he even runs) could do better, though if the next leader of the party falls flat the New Democrats could take advantage.
Alberta is not a federal battleground, and is unlikely to become one in 2015. But the New Democrats and Liberals do have a shot at putting pressure on the Tories in more than a few ridings.
Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers on most Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.
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Surprising Justin Trudeau Facts
With talk of Trudeau making a bid for the Liberal leadership reaching a fever pitch (again), HuffPost takes a look at some surprising facts about Canada's perpetual PM-in-waiting. (CP)
11. Politics On Mother's Side Too
Trudeau's maternal grandfather <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Sinclair_(politician)" target="_hplink">James Sinclair</a> was a Liberal MP and cabinet minister in Louis St.-Laurent's government in the 1950s. (House of Commons) <em><strong>CORRECTION</strong>: An earlier version of this slide incorrectly said Sinclair was a Progressive Conservative MP.</em>
10. Born In Office
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justin_Trudeau" target="_hplink">Trudeau was only the second child ever to be born while a parent was prime minister</a>. The first was John A. Macdonald's youngest daughter Margaret Mary Macdonald. Trudeau's younger brothers, Alexandre (Sacha) and Michel were the third and fourth. (CP)
9. Educated Enough?
Trudeau has a Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill and a Bachelor of Education from UBC. He also studied engineering at the Université de Montréal and environmental geography at McGill, but never finished degrees in those fields.
8. Enemies To Friends
While fathers Brian Mulroney and Pierre Trudeau were rivals, sons Justin and Ben are friends. Mulroney attended Trudeau's wedding to Sophie Grégoire. Grégoire has worked as Quebec correspondent for CTV's eTalk, which is hosted by Mulroney. (CP)
7. Let Them Eat Anything But Cake
Trudeau didn't have cake at his wedding, with <a href="http://www.macleans.ca/canada/national/article.jsp?content=20050606_106678_106678" target="_hplink">Sophie arguing that people never eat it anyway</a>. (Shutterstock)
6. Born On Christmas
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justin_Trudeau" target="_hplink">Trudeau entered the world on December 25, 1971</a>.
5. Two Tattoos In One
Trudeau has a large tattoo on his left shoulder. <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/justinpjtrudeau/statuses/179973685136998400" target="_hplink">The planet Earth inside a Haida raven</a>. Trudeau got the globe tattoo when he was 23 and the raven when he turned 40. (Media Ball)
4. Keeping It In The Family
Trudeau and his wife Sophie have two children, Xavier James (4) and Ella-Grace Margaret (3). Both are partially named after family.<a href="http://www.chatelaine.com/en/article/4970--the-littlest-trudeau" target="_hplink"> Xavier James is named after Trudeau's maternal grandfather James Sinclair</a> (the politician) and <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophie_Gr%C3%A9goire" target="_hplink">Ella-Grace Margaret is named after Trudeau's mother Margaret and Grace Elliot, Trudeau's paternal grandmother</a>. Xavier also happens to share a birthday with Pierre Elliott Trudeau. (CP)
3. Politician And Actor
<a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0846011/" target="_hplink">Trudeau played Talbot Mercer Papineau</a> in the 2007 CBC miniseries "The Great War."
2. .. And Video Game Star
<a href="http://arts.nationalpost.com/2011/09/06/in-deus-ex-justin-trudeau-is-the-pm-and-canada-has-a-problem-with-illegal-immigrants-from-the-u-s/" target="_hplink">Trudeau is prime minister in the dystopian future portrayed in the video game Deus Ex: Human Revolution</a>. (CP)
1. Childhood Sweathearts
Sophie used to visit the Trudeau family home when she was a child. She was a classmate and friend of Trudeau's youngest brother Michel, who died tragically in a B.C. avalanche in 1998. Justin and Sophie made contact again at a fundraiser in 2003 and soon after began dating. <a href="http://www.macleans.ca/canada/national/article.jsp?content=20050606_106678_106678" target="_hplink">Trudeau was so smitten</a> that he declared they would spend the rest of their lives together on the very first date. (CP)