A year ahead of the next scheduled B.C. election, polls are showing the NDP has a solid lead over a divided opposition.
An Angus Reid Institute poll released Thursday found BC United, the renamed BC Liberal Party, with 22-per-cent support. That put the current Official Opposition and party that governed for 16 years ahead of 2017 in a virtual tie with the upstart Conservative Party of BC at 21 per cent.
The Green Party, which currently has two MLAs in the 87-seat legislature, trailed with 12-per-cent support.
If the numbers for the opposition parties from Angus Reid hold on election day, along with the 43-per-cent support for the NDP, Premier David Eby will return to office with a significant majority. The poll aggregator 338Canada gives the NDP a 99-per-cent chance of winning a majority in the next election.
BC United has seen its share of the vote projection “dip considerably since opting for a name change and rebrand from the BC Liberal Party,” Angus Reid’s summary of its results said, noting a nine-point drop since April when the party made the change. “Leader Kevin Falcon himself has recently suggested the name change may have confused some would-be supporters.”
Meanwhile the BC Conservatives appear to be in the midst of a surge of support, it said, noting former BC United MLA Bruce Banman from Abbotsford South in September crossed the floor to join Conservative Leader John Rustad and become the party’s second MLA.
The survey of 806 randomly chosen British Columbian adults was conducted online earlier in October and would carry a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
The results are consistent with recent findings from three other polling companies.
At the end of August Mainstreet Research was the first to see a surge for the Conservatives. The company had the NDP at 35 per cent, the Conservatives at 27 per cent, United at 22 per cent and the Greens at 13 per cent.
A few weeks later in mid-September Léger released a poll that found the NDP at 42 per cent, the Conservatives at 25 per cent, United at 19 per cent and the Greens at 10 per cent.
A day after that Research Co. had the NDP at 48 per cent, United at 20 per cent, the Conservatives at 19 per cent and the Greens at 12 per cent.
While politicians tend to downplay the meaningfulness of polls a year ahead, the pattern is strong enough that Falcon has faced repeated questions about the weak support and divided opposition.
Asked Wednesday, the day before Angus Reid’s findings came out, if he was worried about a split on the centre-right, Falcon said, “Yes, but we’ve dealt with this before.”
He gave the example of the “big threat” from the BC Conservatives who enjoyed a surge of support ahead of the 2013 election under former federal MP John Cummins, only to have it fizzle ahead of election day. Before that there was the threat from the BC Reform Party under former premier Bill Vander Zalm’s leadership, Falcon said.
The same thing will happen this time around, he said. “I guarantee you this, John Rustad and Bruce Banman and their gang of candidates they’re going to have are going to say some very interesting crazy stuff, and people are going to look at them and say, ‘Frankly that’s not representative of the British Columbia I want. They’re not ready for prime time.’”
In the spring the Conservative byelection candidate in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant ran a campaign opponents said was heavily transphobic. In the legislature this month Rustad and Banman have been blasted for staking out positions opposed to SOGI 123, the province’s sexual orientation and gender identity resources used in schools.
In contrast voters will understand where BC United stands and will see the calibre of its candidates, said Falcon. “People are going to say if there’s going to be an alternative government, they want to make sure those are responsible adults that know how to go in and govern on day one. That’s what we’ll be presenting to the public.”
The Angus Reid survey found that cost of living, health care, housing affordability and public safety are the most important issues to British Columbians. While there was 51 per cent approval for Eby, large majorities thought the government is performing poorly on the big issues.
The next election is scheduled for Oct. 19, 2024.
Read more: BC Politics