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The UCP has essentially drawn even with the NDP in the minds of decided Alberta voters, survey data released Thursday suggests.

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The United Conservative Party has been trailing the New Democrats in Angus Reid numbers for three straight quarters but the parties are now in a statistical dead heat.

The latest data doesn’t have much good news for Premier Jason Kenney however, he continues to face low approval of his job performance, sitting at a 30 per cent approval rating.

“Alberta Premier Jason Kenney in a precarious position ahead of an April 9 leadership review,” the report says.

“His personal appeal remains among the lowest of provincial leaders at 30 per cent, with 46 per cent of his past voters saying they disapprove of his performance.”

About 38 per cent of decided Albertans surveyed said they would vote UCP in an upcoming election, while 40 per cent said they would vote NDP. That puts the two major parties in statistically a tie when you consider the estimated margin of error.

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“The rise for the UCP comes as the electoral outlook of the Wildrose Independence Party falls. One-in-10 (11 per cent) say they would vote Wildrose, half the number who said they would as recently as June,” the report says.

For his part, Kenney appeared unconcerned by the latest numbers. At an unrelated event in Medicine Hat Thursday, the premier Albertans said he’s heard from are “excited,” pointing to the province’s balanced budget and economic recovery.

He said COVID-19 led to criticism both from people who wanted fewer restrictions and those who thought the government needed to do more.

“Unfortunately, there was a very divisive debate. I hope we can put that past us and focus on a very bright future for the province,” he said.

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Respondents were also asked to rate the UCP government’s handling of more than a dozen portfolios. Seventy-three per cent said the government is doing a poor or very poor job when it comes to health care and 63 per cent disapproved of the COVID-19 response.

Sixty-five per cent disapproved of the UCP’s handling of education and 53 per cent disapproved when it comes to managing the energy sector.

The latest numbers show that about two-in-five, or 40 per cent, of those surveyed have favorable views of NDP Leader Rachel Notley.

In a statement Thursday NDP deputy leader Sarah Hoffman acknowledged that the next election will be extremely competitive.

“I encourage every Albertan who needs relief from the soaring costs the UCP has imposed on them, every Albertan who relies on our public health-care system, and every Albertan who wants a competent government they can trust, to get involved with the NDP and help remove the UCP from office,” she said.

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The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from March 10 to 15. That was about a week before the UCP board announced that it was moving Kenney’s contentious leadership review from an in-person event in Red Deer to a virtual event with mail-in voting .

More than 15,000 people had registered to vote in person at the Red Deer event, which was more than organizers could manage. Results of the mail-in vote are now expected to be made public on May 18.

Online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population. If the data were collected through a random sample, the margin of error would be plus or minus two per cent 19 times out of 20.

Carbon tax motion passes

Meanwhile, a symbolic motion calling on Ottawa to stop increases to the carbon tax passed Wednesday night.

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The vote split along party lines with UCP majority MLAs saying the motion was a way of sending a message to Ottawa ahead of April 1 carbon tax increases and the NDP arguing that the motion was designed to be a distraction from the provincial government’s own actions that are making life more expensive for Albertans.

The final vote after two late-night debates on Tuesday and Wednesday was 25-4.

The Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled that the provincial government does not have the authority to stop the federal carbon tax.

The price of gas will increase by about two cents on April 1 as a result of the increasing carbon tax. The size of the rebate Albertans receive on their income taxes is also set to go up.

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