Rachel Notley’s Alberta NDP government is suffering from a historic low in opinion polls. According to a recent Think HQ poll, the NDP only enjoy the support of about 24 percent of decided Alberta voters. Jason Kenney’s UCP enjoys a commanding lead in the same poll with a little more than 43 percent of decided voters supporting his party.
The NDP are trying to use Bill 24 to try and ‘trap’ Kenney into a mistake that will help their party win re-election.
The NDP are following the failed playbook of the American Democrats
Hillary Clinton suffered a historic defeat in the 2016 presidential election because of a fatally flawed campaign strategy. The strategy of her campaign was two-fold. The Democratic nominee wanted to drive her opponent’s negatives to stratospheric heights. The Clinton campaign relentlessly appealed to identity politics without realizing how limited the appeal of this portion of their strategy was.
The Alberta NDP is trying to use Bill 24 to create a wedge issue. Jason Kenney made a misstep in the summer when he stated that parents have the right to know if their children join gay-straight alliances. The NDP appears to have crafted Bill 24 to specifically take advantage of Kenney’s one statement on parental rights. Kenney has since moderated his stance on the issue.
The NDP appears to be overplaying their hand on the issue. The Alberta debt is set to balloon to more than $60 billion by the end of the NDP’s accidental term in office. Instead of dealing with runaway spending the NDP want to win government by focusing on identity politics.
Is Kenney taking the bait or outwitting Notley?
As the NDP believe they have a winning issue on GSAs, Rachel Notley’s caucus is happy that the UCP voted against Bill 24. The NDP underestimate Kenney’s proven political talents. Harping on Kenney and the UCP as homophobes will appeal to the 20 percent of voters who plan to vote for the NDP currently. If Kenney can successfully re-frame the issue then the NDP will struggle to hold their current level of support.
The NDP has introduced big government to Alberta. Alberta has a tradition of voting for politicians who espouse principles of small government and individual choice. University of Alberta professor Clark Banack highlighted how Kenney can frame the question in an appeal to Albertan’s populist nature:
In opposing Bill 24 through the frame of “a parent’s right to know and decide,” Kenney is attempting to align his party as the true party of “the common people,” seeking to protect their right to decide from an NDP government supposedly eager to take that right away.
Kenney will focus on the wisdom of the common people as Banack refers to it. People with a liberal political philosophy inherently believe in big government. Conversely, conservatives believe that society is best served when we believe in the strength of individual choice.
Albertans have supported conservative parties throughout the vast majority of the province’s history. The political history of the province is rooted in far more than social conservatism. Support for fiscal responsibility is tied to a belief in the supremacy of the individual. Jason Kenney is re-framing the GSA issue in a manner that will add to his mandate in 2019. The NDP have been too clever by half with Bill 24 and in doing so are contributing to their own return to opposition status.