When on July 11 Angus Reid released the latest numbers calculated from the responses of 800 British Columbians commenting on the B.C. political scene, personality results captured the headlines.
NDP leader Adrian Dix had picked up another one per cent gain in the "best premier" standings, current Premier Christy Clark had dropped two per cent, Conservative Party leader John Cummins remained static and B.C. Green party leader Jane Sterk lost one per cent.
The final tabulations — Dix 26 per cent, Clark 15, Cummins 12, Sterk a distant two per cent — touched off a flurry of headlines, editorial, cartoons and comments.
But none that I could find paid any attention to two most important categories reported by Angus Reid's pollsters.
Let me explain. The question the media decided — with direction pointers from the pollster's press release — most worthy of highlight and expansive comment was simple: "Which of these leaders would make the best premier of British Columbia?" The answer, as noted above, gave Dix an 11 percentage-point lead over Clark, 14 ahead of Cummins and a 24 per cent romp in front of Sterk.
So what? Well, for the answer, let's look at the responses to that same question in the two categories that seemed to draw the least attention.
Remember those early percentages — Dix 26, Clark 15, Cummins 12 and Sterk 2? Now make note of: "None of these — 21 per cent." But don't go away, because there's one more slot to fill. This one just reads: "Not sure — 24 per cent."
There is a similar pattern of "none of the above" or "don't know" when respondents were asked which leader would be best at dealing with crime, health care, the economy, environment, education and federal-provincial relations.
Dix leads handily in every field. But, again, the undecided vote measured high, a warning that although Dix is running strong, there's a huge bloc of voters out there waiting to swing behind him and guarantee a landslide next May — or turn against him and bring defeat.
Does Christy Clark have the talent to swing the "not sures" and a few "none of these" behind her? Judging by past and present performance, it doesn't look likely. She is now in desperate need of ideas and bold initiatives and appears devoid of either.
Any ideas from this corner? Well, she could jump vigorously into the great pipeline debate with a revised version of Dave Barrett's spring-of-1973 plan to bring oil from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Lower Post, B.C., for eventual delivery to the Lower U.S.A. It caused quite a stir when the young - and first - NDP premier in B.C. proposed a TransAlaskaB.C. railway link with 147 car-tanker trains, one every hour, round the clock rumbling south and eliminating the need for the vast pipeline projects being proposed then — and now.
U.S. president Richard Nixon vetoed the idea in Washington; in B.C., Liberal senator Arthur Laing termed the idea crackpot "Jules Verne stuff.”
Premier Clark may well get the same reaction and end result if she dusted off the old environmental studies and suggested that with a major freight-carrying railway line already in existence between Tumbler Ridge and Prince Rupert, there is no need for the Northern Gateway pipeline.
But to stand up and offer an alternative to the controversial pipeline would require a little more "iron lady" than Premier Clark appears to have. A pity, because if nothing else, a counterproposal to the pipeline would command some respect for Clark and B.C. even if it was tinted with dismay by Alberta and Ottawa.
And, who knows, it might even win her support from a few of those many undecided voters.
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