Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Meanwhile in British Columbia...

People are still reeling over the surprise victory of the New Democrats in this month's Alberta election. But what about the New Democrats next door in British Columbia?

It is interesting to note that, despite the focus on the Alberta NDP, nowhere else is a federal or provincial NDP polling better than in British Columbia, where the provincial New Democrats are ahead of Christy Clark's B.C. Liberals. But memories of 2013 still linger. We've seen this movie before.

The latest poll from B.C.-based Insights West for Business in Vancouver gives the New Democrats 43% support, against 37% for the B.C. Liberals.

The Greens come up in third with 10%, while the B.C. Conservatives registered 6% support.

Other parties garnered 4% support and 18% of the entire sample was undecided.

We last heard from Insights West on the provincial scene in B.C. in early December, and there has been little significant movement since then. But the trends are favourable to the NDP. Over Insights West's four B.C. polls since 2013, the NDP has consistently grown from one poll to the next from a low of 36%.

The Liberals, however, seem to be in a bit of stasis. Their scores over those four polls are the following: 40%, 38%, 36%, and 37%. Stability reigns and, after the 2013 experience, trailing by six points two years before the next election should be a piece of cake for Clark (until it isn't, of course).

The New Democrats led in every region of the province, with 43% in Metro Vancouver, 46% on Vancouver Island, and 41% in the rest of B.C.

The Liberals were second across the board, with their strongest result in Metro Vancouver at 39%. They had just 28% support on Vancouver Island, where the Greens polled at 18%.

Christy Clark's personal numbers are not looking very good. Her approval rating stood at just 30%, down four points since December. Her disapproval rating was up eight points to 62%, and even among 2013 B.C. Liberal voters her disapproval rating was 34%.

By comparison, only 7% of 2013 NDP voters disapproved of NDP leader John Horgan. His overall approval rating was up nine points to 43%, with his disapproval rating dropping eight points to 27%.

Perhaps most troubling for Clark, though, concerns how the opinions of British Columbians have shifted over the last six months. Only 4% said their opinions of Clark have improved, whereas 48% said they have worsened. And it isn't just opposition complainers - fully 33% of 2013 B.C. Liberal voters said their opinion of her had worsened, compared to just 8% who said it had improved.

Horgan's numbers were modest, with 15% of British Columbians saying their opinions had improved and just 8% saying they had worsened. The opposition leader is not registering very strongly, as 30% of respondents had no opinion on whether they approved or disapproved of him.

The Greens' interim leader, Adam Olsen, had an approval rating of 21% and a disapproval rating of 26%, with 53% unsure.

Dan Brooks, the Conservatives' leader, had an approval rating of just 12% and a disapproval rating of 36%. Among people with an opinion, Brooks had the worst approval rating of the four leaders.

But the next election is two years away, and these are not horrible numbers for a government that has been in power for 14 years. And because of British Columbia's warped political scene, there is little we can draw from these numbers to shed any light on the federal race.

If you think Alberta's provincial politics are hard to translate to the federal scene, British Columbia is even worse. Below I've lined up B.C.'s parties on a left-to-right spectrum, and compared it to how the federal parties, on their own left-to-right spectrum, are doing in B.C. in the latest projection.

As you can see, the math dictates a lot of overlap. Not so much with the Green Party, but the B.C. New Democrats gobble up much of the federal NDP vote but also almost half of the federal Liberal vote. The B.C. Liberals are made up primarily of federal Conservatives but also, by necessity, some federal Liberals as well.

Of course, there is not a perfect division along the spectrum and so voters may skip a party of two on it, but it does show how different B.C.'s provincial politics are from the federal level despite the similarity in party names.

Another difference is the static nature of B.C. politics. Since the collapse of Social Credit after the 1991 provincial election, the B.C. Liberals and New Democrats have hardly seen their numbers budge. With the exception of the 2001 vote, in which the Liberals took 58% to the NDP's 22%, over the last five elections the Liberals have always taken between 42% and 46% of the vote, and the NDP always between 39% and 42%. If these slightly different Insights West numbers were repeated on election day in 2017, they would mark one of the most dramatic shifts in B.C. provincial voting intentions in the last quarter-century!