Duane Bratt is a professor in the department of policy studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary.
Ever since the Alberta NDP's surprising victory, there has been speculation about the impact of the provincial election on the federal vote. In particular, would the orange chinook that hit Alberta in May extend to major gains in Alberta for Thomas Mulcair and the federal NDP in October?
It is clear that Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party are worried about the NDP in Alberta. Before the writ was dropped, Conservative cabinet ministers were touring the province with billions of dollars in spending announcements. In the first week of the campaign, during a rally in Quebec, Mr. Harper criticized the newly elected Notley government's economic policies as a "disaster" that are already being rejected by Alberta voters. At a rally in Edmonton on Wednesday, Mr. Harper doubled down by emphasizing the tax increases (corporate and individual) that the NDP has brought in.
Mr. Harper is not running against Rachel Notley, but he is using her as a proxy for Mr. Mulcair. He is aiming his message at two distinct audiences.
The first are those outside Alberta who are considering the NDP, believing that if Albertans can elect them, then they must be a viable alternative. This is an argument that Mr. Mulcair has explicitly made. Mr. Harper needs to put doubt in their minds, and the best way of doing so is to tarnish the record and policies of Ms. Notley. In Edmonton, Mr. Harper warned about taking an "NDP gamble" in the federal election.
The second audience is Albertans, in particular those who wanted to remove the unpopular Progressive Conservatives but are now having second thoughts about their decision.
Within Alberta, there are signs of an NDP spillover from the provincial election to the federal one. But this spillover is limited to Edmonton, which is the heart of the NDP and the unions that support it. The NDP swept every Edmonton riding in the provincial election handily (winning with more than 70 per cent of the popular vote in several of them) and is likely to win several federal seats.
After the election, incumbent Linda Duncan will have more NDP colleagues from Edmonton. Gil McGowan, former president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, has a great chance in Edmonton Centre. Other potential NDP gains are in Edmonton-Manning and Edmonton-Mill Woods. Another possibility is in St. Albert, where incumbent Brent Rathgeber (a former Conservative) is running as an independent – opening up the possibility of an intra-conservative vote split that could allow an NDP victory.
Outside Edmonton, however, do not expect to see Mr. Mulcair benefit from the Notley victory. Unlike in Edmonton, the NDP has very little base in Calgary. Before the 2015 election, they had not won a provincial seat in Calgary since the 1980s. They have not recruited star candidates or nominated many candidates (at last count, the NDP has candidates in only 16 of Alberta's 34 ridings).
In Calgary, the provincial NDP benefited from two major factors: a split in the conservative vote between Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose; and the collapse of the Liberal vote. These conditions are not at play in the federal election.
These weaknesses are exacerbated by Mr. Mulcair's energy policies. He clearly opposes Keystone XL and Northern Gateway, but, as last week's debate showed, he is hedging when it comes to Kinder Morgan and Energy East. This type of uncertainty will not be welcome in an energy sector already scarred by the multiple whammies of dropping world oil prices and a looming royalty review instituted by the Notley government.
Fears over the energy policies of a Mulcair government were accentuated by comments from Toronto candidate Linda McQuaig, who said that "a lot of the oil sands oil may have to stay in the ground" in order to meet future greenhouse gas emission targets. Ms. McQuaig is not just an ordinary candidate, but a star candidate who would be a cabinet minister in any NDP government. Her comments reminded Albertans of the "Dutch disease" comments that Mr. Mulcair made several years ago, suggesting that oil exports raise the value of the Canadian dollar, which in turn hurts the economy in other parts of the country.
Finally, unlike Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who is actively campaigning for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Ms. Notley has been muted in her support for Mr. Mulcair. Ms. Notley will have an NDP sign on her front lawn, but will not be sharing her electoral honeymoon with her federal counterpart.
While rumblings exist about the personal relationship between Ms. Notley and Mr. Mulcair, on energy policy, there is a wide gap. Ms. Notley has tried to be reassuring to the energy sector in private and in public. She often proclaims that "Alberta is an energy province."
Thus, the NDP is likely to win three to four seats in the Edmonton area, but will be shut out in the rest of the province. While this would be a huge improvement from previous NDP performances, it is far away from the breakthrough that Ms. Notley made last May.