B.C.'s political archrivals are deadlocked in the Interior, according to a poll of B.C. voters released on Monday.
While the Angus Reid poll shows minor fluctuations provincewide in party support, a major shift appears to have occurred in the Interior over the past two months.
Provincially, the NDP remains the party to beat in May's election with 46 per cent of decided voters and "leaners" overall. The governing Liberals have narrowed the gap with 31 per cent support, up two points since November 2012.
But in the Interior, the survey suggests the parties are tied at 39 per cent each.
"It is encouraging to see a trend over the last couple of polls, that's for sure," said MLA Terry Lake, who expects a hard-fought battle to hold Kamloops-North Thompson.
A similar Angus Reid poll conducted in November 2012 indicated a 17-point spread between the two, with the NDP commanding 43 per cent to the Liberal's 26 per cent.
"In the Interior, we're definitely seeing strong numbers, but again, you certainly don't want to take that for granted and we'll continue to work hard to represent our constituents here," Lake said.
The poll shows another dramatic shift as well - Interior support for the B.C. Conservatives appears to have plummeted to nine per cent from 22 per cent in November. That may be another indication of the upstart party's internal strife in the fall, when a faction was pushing for the resignation of leader John Cummins.
The Green Party, meanwhile, has gained momentum, climbing to 11 per cent of support from seven in November.
Alan Forseth, the Conservatives' regional director for Kamloops-Thompson-Fraser-Nicola, wasn't sounding the least bit discouraged by the latest numbers. He cited a recent Ipsos Reid poll indicating nine per cent support provincewide instead of 10 per cent for the Conservatives.
"If anything, it could be an indication that the slide has stopped and it's going in the opposite direction," Forseth said. He was quick to point to turmoil the Liberals have encountered by parachuting preferred candidates into several ridings.
Lake feels that the long game will work to Liberal advantage, not their free-enterprise rivals, the Conservatives.
"What we do see is, as we get closer to election, is that people are understanding what the B.C. Conservatives are all about and I think, understanding that the free enterprise party alternative is the Liberal party," he said.
"As we get even closer, I think we'll see the NDP drawn out a little more as they finally outline their policies, including what sort of tax increases we would see and how they would deliver on economic opportunities that, of course, a lot of people are worried about."
Every candidate contacted questioned the value of polling.
"Polls are like statistics and biblical verses," said Kathy Kendall, NDP nominee in Kamloops-North Thompson. "You can always find one that supports your position if you look hard enough."
She was door-knocking in Clearwater and Westsyde on the weekend.
"We've got a job to do and the polls don't affect that one way or another."
The Conservative's Maria Dobi is seeking the Conservative nomination in Kamloops-South Thompson and is door-knocking a month ahead of the nomination vote on Feb. 21.
"I'm feeling very positive; I still think we have a great chance in the election," said Dobi, who has also been door-knocking.
Peter Sharp, a former City councillor and former Liberal supporter seeking the same nomination ticket as Dobi, was trying to catch a flight out of London, England, on Monday.
He sees a fundamental shift underway with the Liberals in the same position as their free-enterprise predecessors, Social Credit, two decades ago. From where he stands, the B.C. Conservatives face the same uphill battle that Gordon Wilson's Liberals faced.
"We just came on the scene and it's the first attempt at bringing in a party that might make a difference so that people have a choice," Sharp said. "The fact that the Liberals are where they're at right now points out, to me, that not everybody is happy with them."
© Kamloops Daily News