With three months until the next provincial election, a majority of British Columbians are positive about the strength of the economy, but at the same time many are struggling financially, according to a new poll.
“I think it has good and bad news for both political parties,” said Mario Canseco, the vice-president of public affairs at Insights West, the company that conducted the poll.
Some 61 per cent of British Columbians surveyed said economic conditions are currently “very good” or “good,” a 15 per cent increase from a year ago.
That lines up with one of the key messages of Premier Christy Clark and the BC Liberals, who stress that the province is leading Canada in economic growth and job creation.
But other survey results suggest many will agree when NDP leader John Horgan and his opposition team talk about the rising cost of living and the struggle many families face to afford what they need.
While a majority say their household finances are at least good, about one-third of respondents say their finances are “poor” or “very poor.” A similar number say they are worried about carrying debt on their credit card and being unable to pay their bills.
And about one-third say they expect to spend less on dining out, entertainment and holidays in the next six months. More than four out of five respondents are expecting the price of groceries and gasoline to rise.
“There’s one-third who are not spending a dime on anything.” Canseco said. “There's a group who are definitely struggling with the way the economy is.”
And Clark’s message may not resonate if people have decided she’s lost touch, he said. “I don't think it’s a bulletproof strategy to go out and say we have the best economy. We had the best economy in the world under [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper, and he still lost the election.”
Insights conducted the online study of a representative sample of 831 B.C. adults between Jan. 11 and 13. The results were weighted to match census figures for age, gender and region. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
The survey did not ask respondents which party they favoured. Canseco said a large number of potential voters are undecided with the election still months away, but provincial voting patterns are well established.
Roughly a third of voters won’t vote NDP no matter what and about the same number strongly oppose the premier, he said. There’s a middle group that are willing to consider their options, he said. “They’re really fighting over that one-third of the electorate.”
Canseco said it will be interesting to see what role the Greens play in this election, as MLA Andrew Weaver is better known than past leaders. But if the election becomes about Clark’s record, the Greens may see themselves squeezed out by voters looking for the party most likely to replace the government, he said. “It’s going to be a tough one for them as well.”
Canseco said the May 9 election would be close, with neither of the main parties likely to win with a margin of more than 10 per cent of the popular vote. “It’s a tough battle for sure.”
Read more: BC Election 2017