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Poll Finds Surging Conservatives and NDP in a Dead Heat

With the election five months away, BC United could be doomed.

Andrew MacLeod 8 May 2024The Tyee

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of All Together Healthy (Douglas & McIntyre, 2018). Find him on X or reach him at .

The BC United party is in such a “precarious position” that it could cease to exist after the next provincial election, says the public opinion researcher who worked on former premier Christy Clark’s winning 2013 campaign.

“The battleground in British Columbia is shaping up to be the most interesting election since the 2013 surprise BC Liberal election victory,” says the research update written by Dimitri Pantazopoulos with Yorkville Strategies. “With about seven months until voters cast their ballots, we have a dead heat between the governing BC NDP and the BC Conservatives.”

Among decided voters, the company’s survey found 37 per cent support for the Conservatives under leader John Rustad and 35 per cent for Premier David Eby’s incumbent NDP.

BC United, which was renamed from the BC Liberal Party a little more than a year ago after Kevin Falcon became leader, and the BC Green Party led by Sonia Furstenau are trailing. At 16 per cent support, BC United is doing so poorly it “could result in the demise” of the party, the Monday update said.

The poll was not, however, good news for the governing NDP either.

“With the B.C. election on the horizon, the NDP can’t shake voters’ ongoing concerns about housing, affordability and health care,” it said. “The party that came to power in 2017 promising to ease the burden on British Columbians and improve health care now faces an electorate that doesn’t see progress on this front.”

More than half of voters, including seven per cent of NDP voters, believe it is time for a change, Pantazopoulos found. Only a quarter believe the government deserves to be re-elected.

It is uncertain what form change might take, he said, but the numbers suggest a dead heat between the Conservatives and the NDP, with the 20 per cent of voters who said they were undecided unlikely to favour the incumbents.

He did not believe that the poll numbers were the result of confusion caused by the BC United name change since respondents were also provided with the names of leaders. It was likely, however, that the BC Conservatives were enjoying “some halo effects” thanks to the popularity of the federal Conservative party.

“These results point to another complicated election result in the fall,” Pantazopoulos concluded. “If the numbers remain unchanged, British Columbians could wake up the morning after the election to a result that has either the BC Conservatives or the BC NDP in power.” The next election is scheduled for Oct. 19.

Another possibility is that BC United will win enough seats — though fewer than 10 — to hold the balance of power in the legislature, which expands to 93 seats this election.

The research update notes that Pantazopoulos was the only pollster to accurately predict the outcome of the 2013 B.C. election. He has also worked on campaigns for former prime minister Stephen Harper, former Alberta premier Jason Kenney, former BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson and Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

The survey of a random sample of 618 British Columbians was conducted by telephone, including both cell and landline numbers, between April 26 and May 2. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 per cent 19 times out of 20.

All polls should be treated with skepticism and this one had a particularly small sample size. And as opposition parties look to consolidate the “time for a change” vote, polls have the potential to amplify those sentiments and become self-fulfilling.

Rustad, a former BC Liberal cabinet minister, became leader of the Conservatives a year ago after Falcon booted him from BC United over a dispute around climate change and party discipline. He was joined last September by Abbotsford South MLA Bruce Banman. The pair are the party’s only MLAs.

Starting last October polls began showing the Conservatives even with BC United and recent polls have had them continuing to gain support and closing on the NDP.

BC United Leader Falcon has consistently dismissed polls, saying that they have frequently been wrong in the past and that donations and his interactions with people suggest support for his party remains strong.

Eby has been showing he takes the rise of the Conservatives seriously, taking opportunities to criticize the party’s policies and ideology.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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