Thursday, February 23, 2012

Double-digit lead for B.C. New Democrats

I'm catching up a little with this Ipsos-Reid poll done for Global News earlier this month, but its findings are worth taking a peek at.
This poll was conducted well before Premier Christy Clark dropped B.C.'s budget this week. Heavy on restraint, the budget could lure some B.C. Conservatives back to the B.C. Liberals, but whether it will be good enough to hold the centre for the Liberals remains to be seen.

The B.C. New Democrats led with 44% in this survey, well ahead of the Liberals at 32% and the Conservatives at 16%.

Ipsos-Reid was last in the field between September 28-October 3 of last year, and since then the NDP has slipped only one point.

But the Liberals have dropped six, demonstrating the big problem for the party of late. The NDP has not roared ahead so much as the Liberals have fallen behind, primarily to the benefit of the Conservatives, up four since last autumn.

The B.C. New Democrats lead in Vancouver with 43% (-2), on Vancouver Island with 50% (-4), and in the Interior/North with 42% (+3). The Liberals are up three points to 38% in Vancouver, down 10 to 21% on Vancouver Island, and down 15 in the Interior/North to 31%. This is where the Liberals have been bleeding support.

With these levels of support, the B.C. New Democrats would win 55 seats and form a majority government, with the B.C. Liberals winning 29 seats and the B.C. Conservatives only one.

This poll has good personal numbers for Clark, however. Her approval/disapproval rating is split at 47%, but she scores 31% on the Best Premier question, compared to 25% for Adrian Dix. He has the better approval rating, though, at 45% to 36%.

John Cummins of the Conservatives has an approval rating of 24% to 29% disapproval, with only 11% saying he would be the best person to be Premier.

But with the new budget, British Columbia could be in flux. The Liberals have been trying to portray Dix as a profligate spender, and now with a very fiscally conservative budget on the books they are at least in a position to cast themselves in a different light by comparison. We'll find out in the coming months whether it will stick, and whether British Columbians are in the mood for austerity in the first place.


  1. I noticed that since the 2009 election the NDP have only polled over their 2009 result of 42%, outside the MOE, like 6 times and all recent polls have only had them around that range. However, you're predicting their caucus will increase by upwards of 20 seats thanks to FPTP.

    I usually don't have to much issue with FPTP but I find it a bit disturbing when I see a party being able to go from Official Opposition to government without gaining support, or possibly losing support.

    1. FPTP has a poor track record at serving the people of BC. In 1996, the NDP got a majority government with 39% support, even though the BC Liberals took 42%. Next election the Liberals swept 77 out of 79 seats with 54% of the vote. :( Having the NDP go from opposition to majority without gaining a single vote is just par for the course unfortunately.

    2. Given that it tends to produce stable majority governments regardless of the disposition of the electorate, I'd say FPTP serves the people of BC exceptionally well.

    3. Did Greece's majority governments serve them well? They've only ever had 1 minority government.

    4. FYI too, only one democracy in the world has had more frequent elections than Canada, and that was New Zealand when it used first past the post. You'd be hard pressed to actually find a country that uses proportional representation that doesn't have a majority government. Their majority governments are just coalition governments.

      I think a better distinction is between one party government and multi-party governments. I'd argue that multi-party governments have a pretty good track record. There's a limit to this of course (ie when you have an asinine electoral system like in Israel and Italy that fractures the electorate into twenty parties) but I think if you look at countries like Germany which has been government by 2 party coalitions for most of its existence, you can make the case that coalition governments govern pretty well.

  2. I don't expect the Liberals will see much benefit from the budget. The opposition can rightly claim the government is merely fixing a problem it created for itself.

    You don't reward the arsonist for putting out the fire.

  3. Ira - So the BC Liberals are at fault for the decrease in natural gas prices? For every dollar that natural gas prices drop, the provincial government loses $300 million in revenue. Over the last 5 years natural gas went from $7 to $2.50 (with a brief spike to $15 in the middle). That's $1.35 billion a year to the budget.

    Eric - Have you seen this NRG Research poll? ( It was commissioned by the ICBA (who is very closely aligned with the BC Liberals), so much like the one done by "Integrity BC" (aka the Greens and BC Conservatives) I'd take it with a grain of salt, but still interesting. Within the MOE of the Ipsos poll.

    1. Ryan the fact is that BC, Ontario, Alberta, and the feds all have spending problems and NOT a revenue problem.

      If your budget is only balanced when oil or natural gas is at all time highs and your economy is growing at 3+% then you're in trouble.

      The BC Liberals have shown a stunning inability to hold down public sector wages.

      This includes executive compensation at crown corps and increases beyond inflation for teachers, doctors, nurses, etc.

      Public sector wage increases is one of the largest drivers of spending in Canada.

      Demographics aside the blistering rate of health care inflation would even be more modest if nurses, doctors, admin staff, and janitorial staff weren't getting these huge pay increases at a time when private sector workers are seeing flat wage growth.

      We'll see if they cave on the teachers strike.

      Clark's zero growth wage agenda is nice but McGuinty promised something similiar and has never delivered.

      Only in Campbell's first term was he able to show the toughness required to hold down spending. After that its been like we've had an NDP government anyways.

    2. Crothers,

      The net-zero agenda has been in place for a couple of years actually, and I think it's been pretty successful at restraining spending so far. The teachers are getting a wage freeze imposed as we speak. Gordon Campbell is gone, and Christy Clark is no Dalton McGuinty. This wage freeze is very real, as is the spending restraint.

      I agree completely though that the natural gas revenue, or at least a large part of it, should be set aside rather than used to fund the day-to-day spending of the Province. Resource revenues are just too volatile to rely on.

      That being said, you're mistaken in characterizing today's natural gas prices as a reversion to the mean. Right now they're the lowest they've been in twenty years. As I said above, I'd prefer that those price fluctuations not impact the Province's operating budget, but at the same time I hardly think Ira's characterization that the BC Libs had set fire to the budget fair in the current context.

      Believe me, the spending restraint is a big reason I was so happy with the budget. :)

    3. Ryan the last round of wage negotiations was right before the Olympics where they got higher than inflation wage growth so as not to disrupt the games. This policy of restraint is new and untested. We'll see how it goes.

      One of the last budgets before the collapse is illustrative. Scroll down to chart 1.3.

      The Liberals balanced the budget not by reducing spending (nominal spending flat, granted with inflation + pop growth real spending did decrease) but by waiting for the commodities boom.

      Once we were back in black spending picked right back up again and kept pace with revenue growth.

      This was also the Martin-Harper approach.

      As long as you ran a small surplus the debt to GDP ratio would decline over time as growth/inflation decreased the relative value of your debt holdings.

      The danger is obvious. The projections in that chart never came to be. Instead revenues collapsed, spending increased as "stimulus" and the debt exploded.

      All debt in today's dollars which wiped out any previous gains.

      We're probably going to have around 60 billion dollars in debt by the time this is all over.

      From 34 billion when the Liberals took over a decade ago.

      You think that's acceptable ?

      We need a new provincial government with a plan to reduce that debt to zero and build a heritage fund like Alberta.

  4. I suppose what remains to be seen is whether the rise of the BC Conservatives is the beginning of a new right-wing coalition party, just as the BC Liberals replaced the SoCreds, or whether it is the beginning of a true three-party system for BC. If it is the second, the NDP could wind up governing for quite a long time.

    1. Agreed there. I feel that Conservatives are pretty welcome in the BC Liberals, but I doubt very much the opposite is true.

      The BC Conservatives are made up of people who are fundamentally opposed to the idea of the free market coalition. I don't see any hope of that coalition ever being rebuilt within using that party as a vehicle. Which would leave me, a right-wing federal Liberal, pretty fricken screwed lol. :(

    2. You won't get a three party system though. It's just not stable under first past the post, and the legislature is so small that even parties in the 20% range will have a hard time taking any seats. It's unfortunate, but a two party system with periodic realignments is kind of a given with how things are.

    3. I tend to agree with Ryan, although BC might end up with a three-party legislature as a transition, starting after the next election in 2013 for a term or maybe two. If the NDP wins, and I think they might, we could have a scenario where the Liberals still pull in enough support to be the opposition with the Conservatives in the one to five seat range. But BC traditionally splits sharply left and right with two parties and I expect the above situation would resolve itself probably the next election after, in 2017.

  5. Ontario has a three party leg for a long time. So has quebec since the early 2000s. Don't see why that won't happen in BC too.


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