New Democrats can’t assume their secure lead in opinion polls will translate into seats in the Interior and B.C. Conservatives have a lot of legwork to do to regain lost ground.
Those are among observations drawn from a surprising poll result that has sparked interest while the provincial election is still four months away.
In the Interior, the NDP and the Liberals are deadlocked while the B.C. Conservatives are polling less support than the Greens, the Angus Reid survey found. That contrasts with the rest of the province where the NDP command a 15-point lead.
Asked online which party they would support if an election were held tomorrow, 39 per cent of online respondents in the Interior said either NDP or Liberal. Eleven per cent would vote Green — the first time the party has polled double digits — while only nine per cent said they’d vote B.C. Conservative.
“I think it has to do with window shopping from the centre-right,” said Mario Canseco, vice-president of Angus Reid Public Opinion.
The drop in Conservative support is striking considering that a few months back they were ahead of the Liberals, Canseco noted.
“It’s been happening gradually, when you look at the trend over the past few weeks. Some people expect an overnight effect,” he said, recalling the delayed reaction — a slight gain — to Premier Christy Clark’s line in the sand on Enbridge. That’s also been the case with the B.C. Conservatives.
The Conservative slide began with internal dissension over John Cummins’ leadership last summer. That was compounded when MLA John Van Dongen, who had crossed over from the Liberals, left the party to sit as an independent. According to the poll, half of British Columbians disapprove of Cummins’ performance. He’s not even a factor in survey responses about leadership.
“Things could change for the Conservatives,” said Derek Cook, TRU political science instructor. “Once their candidates are chosen locally, I would expect their numbers to come up.”
The B.C. Green Party doesn’t have a nomination process in place in local constituencies, let alone a candidate for the May 14 election. Meanwhile, two B.C. Conservatives are vying for the Kamloops South Thompson nomination leading up to a membership vote on Feb. 21.
City councillor Donovan Cavers may yet run again for the Greens.
“I’m still considering it and will probably decide by the end of the month,” he said.
His dilemma is that he sees Ajax as a defining issue for the city, yet the NDP hasn’t taken a stand on the proposed mine. As a Green candidate, he could hold that ground.
“I want to keep focused on City council, but I want to make sure (Ajax) is given a hard look in the election.”
Other observations drawn from the poll: NDP support provincewide appears to be firm since they remain above 45 per cent in terms of voting intention. In the same category, the Liberals have gained points, reaching 30 per cent for the first time in more than a year.
“I suppose the Liberals will feel buoyed by this,” Cook said of the Interior poll result. “You never know. Maybe people will forgive the HST broken promise, but maybe not.”
While Premier Christy Clark has gained on the question of who would make the best leader, her party is still losing support to the NDP and Conservatives.
Canseco lives in Clark’s riding, where he’s seen first-hand the potential of a well-known candidate to bridge ideological differences. That can be a deciding difference once active, door-to-door campaigning begins.
“I know people who are left of the Marijuana Party who voted for her,” he said.
As for the reliability of polls, often questioned, Canseco is firm.
“I’ve personally been involved in 34 elections in North American since 2007. We’ve been right in 33 of those,” he said.
The sole exception was the Albertan provincial poll last summer, which forecast a Wild Rose victory, but that was an anomaly based on specific circumstances, he said. Anything can happen in politics.
“The Conservatives might be ahead next month,” he speculated.