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The state of the province’s politics - THE COMMENTARY

By Joseph Planta

VANCOUVER -- Nearly two weeks ago Ipsos-Reid, commissioned by Global and the Vancouver Sun, came out with a poll on politics in this province. The Liberals remain the popular choice of the public clocking in at 45% support. That’s a pretty good number considering we haven’t had a government in this province with support past the ‘teens in a long time. However that 45% is a decline over the 58% they got when elected one year ago.

13% of British Columbians who supported them one year ago have now chosen to go elsewhere. They haven’t gone to the NDP though. The NDP, which got 22% at last May’s election has only gone up to 27%. The Green Party, which got the all-time high 12% last year gains 8 points to reach 20% popularity in the poll.

So who makes up that 13% of British Columbians that voted Liberal in 2001, and now one year later, choose to not do so? Amongst men, Liberal support has gone down 10%, but that doesn’t really matter because men still over all, support the Liberal party -- about 52% after that decline. Amongst women, who are more inclined to vote NDP than any other party, and who historically have never liked Gordon Campbell much, support went from 64% a year ago to 38% now. But whether they have gone to the NDP is the big question. Have women taken to the fact the NDP caucus of two is 100% female? Well, a decline of 26% support from females has gone 16% to the NDP and 10% to the Greens. Certainly, the NDP is gaining, but they’re also loosing a traditional constituency to the Greens and Adriene Carr.

The 18-34 year old demographic -- I’ll call them young people -- supported the Campbell Liberals in numbers of about 60% a year ago. Today, only 34% of people in this age group can support the Liberals, though the NDP only winds up with 29% and the Greens real close with 28%.

The trends, no matter the age group point to more support for the Greens. Adriene Carr hasn’t done much but call for voting reform to a proportional representation system, whilst on the floor of the Legislature the members MacPhail and Kwan have busted their backs holding the government to account. One could interpret this poll, and all polls in general, that though Carr’s Greens have some support now, it could merely mean voters are parking their votes until the real election. It doesn’t help either that Joy MacPhail, no matter the fact she did resign from Glen Clark’s government, is so attached to the legacy of the NDP decade. A decade, which by all reasonable accounts was a misspent one.

Unless Joy MacPhail calls it quits and the NDP evaporates from the political scene, I do not expect the Greens to play a part in BC politics anytime soon, except in the avenue of vote splitting. Sure they went from under 2% in 1996 to 12% in 2001, and they now have the declared support of 20% of British Columbians -- they still have no elected seats to boast on, nor will I think they’ll have in 2005. Sadly for BCers already sick of the Liberals, the NDP doesn’t pose much of a choice either. The consensus amongst pundits is that Liberal rule will certainly last for a while to come.

Joy MacPhail is certainly not the person who will pose a challenge to the Liberals anytime soon, let alone form a government. According to the poll only 7% of British Columbians believe she’s been doing a good job at keeping the government to account. This is far behind the 34% who believe the media have been doing the job of holding the government’s feet to the fire; and the other 34% who feel the public themselves are so empowered. Even organised labour seems to be doing a better job, in that 12% of people think they’re the opposition to the government.

If we were to take the 27% support the NDP has, and add that to the 20% the Greens have, you could make a case that ‘uniting the left’ could be something both parties could do to stop the Campbell Liberals. However having been part of the NDP and knowing how proud that party is of its (yes) time in government and this province’s history, that won’t be something Ms. MacPhail will pursue. And having participated in the ‘unite the right’ debacle that tried to fuse the old Reform party with the Tories and other small-c conservatives federally, engaging in a ‘unite the left’ scenario in BC would be sheer folly.

Sure there are a plethora of healthcare woes seen nightly on BCTV and protests through the streets of Kelowna and Vancouver, but the opposition to Campbell is so fractious he’ll be in power for a time to come. From here on end all British Columbians can do is see their surgeries get cancelled, see the quality of education decline, see some taxes cut, see some deregulation of government services, business flourishing and the Liberals in office for a long time. They said it’d be painful at first, and I believe there’s no gain without any pain. However I get the feeling it’ll be painful for a long time to come. That’s the way it is in a province of such polarisation politically.

Then again we can heed Diefenbaker’s notion, that we should take polls with the same seriousness that dogs do.

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