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  • bluecheese4u bluecheese4u Oct 9, 2007 1:40 PM Flag

    Royalty Report: Stelmach's vow that he wouldn't be bullied by Big Oil

    Royalty Report: Stelmach's vow that he wouldn't be bullied by Big Oil

    Voters warm up to premier
    Popularity rose amid royalty review fallout
    Suzanne Wilton, Calgary Herald
    Published: Tuesday, October 09, 2007

    Premier Ed Stelmach appears to have pulled out of his popularity nosedive, with public approval ratings climbing in the days after the release of the controversial royalty report.

    In a poll done just prior to the release of the report and in the contentious days that followed, Stelmach enjoyed a 58 per cent approval rating across the province. It was highest in rural Alberta.

    The poll reveals that 45 per cent would vote for Stelmach's Tory party if an election were held today, according to the Leger Marketing poll provided exclusively to the Herald.

    That compares to 15 per cent who said they would cast a ballot for the Liberals, who have lost gains made when Conservative support tumbled.

    "(Stelmach) was almost head-long toward political death," said political analyst David Taras, a University of Calgary professor. "He's pulled out of the nosedive and is on his way up."

    Marc Tremblay, vice-president of Leger Marketing, said Stelmach's climb in popularity comes after a steady decline in voter support.

    In a steady decline since last January, the premier hit bottom in June, with 39 per cent of Albertans saying they would vote for Stelmach's ruling Conservative party.

    "He took a bit of a beating over the summer months," said Tremblay, noting the poll preceded Auditor General Fred Dunn's report blaming the energy department for missing out on billions in royalty revenues.

    "He's finding his legs on some level. Now he's seen as a little bit more decisive."

    The telephone survey of 900 Albertans was done between Sept. 17 and Sept. 27.

    Since January, Stelmach and his party have been dogged by several issues, including the spring budget, the Calgary byelection that saw a Tory stronghold go to the Liberals, and a cabinet shuffle.

    On top of that was the very vocal Dave Bronconnier, Calgary's incumbent mayor who continually screamed at Stelmach for dragging his heels on a municipal infrastructure deal.

    Bronconnier quieted late in the summer after Stelmach came through with a $11.3-billion, 10-year deal for towns and cities.

    Then came the royalty report on Sept. 18 and Stelmach's vow that he wouldn't be bullied by Big Oil.

    Taras said the "peace accord" with Bronconnier has helped Stelmach.

    "But it was also Ed making a decision, and a long-term decision," said Taras.

    After being elected premier, Stelmach "became the great ditherer," said Taras.

    "What's pulled him out of the nosedive is the fact that we're seeing him be decisive."

    Whether Stelmach holds on to that support, however, will depend on how he deals with the royalty review. The landmark study recommends the government boost its take from oil and gas development by $2 billion a year. The proposal has drawn threats to halt exploration from Calgary's oilpatch.

    "It's a tough decision because there are so many decisions within that decision," said Taras. "The cards will be on the table and he could lose the whole hand if he plays it poorly."

    The Leger Marketing poll is considered accurate within 3.3 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

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