Sunday, 15 May 2005
Gleaning pre-election polls
By Joseph Planta
VANCOUVER - The latest Ipsos-Reid poll conducted for BCTV News, the Vancouver Sun, and the Victoria Times Colonist makes for interesting reading. Polls are fascinating, as they are not always reliable. They do however give observers like me something to chew over before the poll that really matters, that to be taken at the ballot box on Tuesday.
It's perhaps dangerous for me to read these polls, as I haven't the backgrounds of people like David Schreck or John Twigg, who are more learned in reading polls. Nevertheless, I'll do it anyway, because it's a fascinating snapshot. Believe me, I do it cognisant of Diefenbaker's idea of polls having no value-that polls are for dogs to urinate on.
In terms of the public's support of the parties, the Liberals remain ahead with 47%, the NDP at 39%, the Greens at 11%, and 3% for 'other' parties. The Ipsos-Reid poll is similar to the Mustel Poll that has the Liberals at 45% and the NDP at 40%, with the Greens at 12%.
The Greens at 11% is close to what they got in 2001, and it's curious that they haven't had a significant improvement over the course of the campaign, considering Adriane Carr has been out front at leaders's debates and elsewhere. It is reported that she's been working hard in her riding, so perhaps the province-wide campaign hasn't been as strong as it could be.
The undecided figure is at 10%, where two weeks ago it was at 12%. This is critical, because if they undecideds choose to show up on Tuesday, depending on how many of them do, it'll be interesting to see where they'll end up, thus the poll numbers for the party are closer than they appear. Now, turnout is critical. If Liberals are complacent, their campaign has sort of given off that vibe, and their supporters stay home on Tuesday, then all bets are off, the election will be closer than everyone is currently predicting. Whatever party can mobilise their supporters on Tuesday to show up, will probably see some benefit, than that party which is complacent.
Green support in the Lower Mainland is not as high as the provincial average of 11%. In the Lower Mainland, they have an average of 9% support, which makes vote splitting not very likely as it was in 2001. What's interesting is that in that if you just take Vancouver, the North Shore, New Westminster and Richmond, Green support falls to but 6%. Again, if undecideds are compelled to vote, it will be interesting to see if they turn up to vote Green. That's depending on how Carr has resonated through her profile, as well as the quality of Green candidate in the ridings in question.
The NDP leads on Vancouver Island a full ten points, 48% for the NDP, 38% for the Liberals, 13% for the Greens. That's not unexpected considering the Island has been known to be NDP territory in the past, pre-2001. It'll be interesting to see if this holds through Tuesday.
There's been no big change in the numbers of the leaders. Gordon Campbell is still considered to make the best premier at 48%, while James is thought to be by 39%. Carr reflects her party's popularity at 13%.
As for the party of second choice, it's interesting to note that the Greens top that poll with 37%. 21% of respondents would vote for other parties, while only 16% for the NDP, and 8% for the Liberals. It's clear the Greens would stand to benefit would STV pass, as would other parties, other than the Liberals and NDP.
Carole James has impressed many of the pundits I have talked to on the interview segment. It was widely held that James would be a transitional leader, bringing freshness to a party that needed it in the short term. It was not a view that she would be material for premier down the line. Her performance in this campaign has changed that. If she continues to perform well as opposition leader, then it will be interesting to see if she'll be kept as leader for the 2009 campaign. Certainly the NDP is known as a party willing to eat one of its own, so it'll be a test of James's mettle as leader to see if she can quell the hardcore pols.
An interesting discussion that I had with John Pifer and Paul Willcocks when they both appeared was the possibility that Gordon Campbell's leadership is no longer a guarantee. John Twigg posited that Carole Taylor's entry into political life signals that possibly Campbell could be replaced with six months to a year. It's clear that 2001 was an aberration. The numbers Campbell got were extraordinary, thus Campbell is judged on his campaign performance in 1996 and 2005. And considering that, it's been largely mixed success. Campbell won the popular vote in 1996 but didn't form the government, as something went awry in his campaign's message. In 2005, he's failed to ignite much confidence. If he falls below the expected seat count of the low to mid-50s, one suspects the Liberals will be seeking leadership contenders in very short time.
Consider that Campbell has been leader since 1993. It's generally been the case in Canada that leaders run two or three elections and bow out, with premiers serving out two terms or so and then depart. In BC, a premier serving out two terms has been impossible, but the last one to do that successfully, Bill Bennett, served for 11 years, winning three elections. Sure, Campbell wants to be around as Premier in 2010, but that's another election and five years away. Can he hold out? Importantly, can his potential successors hold out?
Pifer put out an interesting idea. The 2009 election could very well see an election with three female leaders. Within the Liberals, the two frontrunners at this point to succeed Campbell are Carole Taylor and Christy Clark. If Carole James proves a good opposition leader with the potential for being premier, then she'll run in 2009. If Adriane Carr wins her seat on Tuesday, then there's no question barring her own departure, she'll fight on in 2009. How interesting will that be, no?
Christina McCall died some weeks ago. Last fall, I interviewed the journalist Peter C. Newman, who was once married to McCall. Having read Newman's autobiography, Here Be Dragons, it's obvious that McCall was of such great consequence to his life, personally and professionally. If you look back to Newman's own books on politics in the 1960s to the early '70s, McCall's influence is undeniable. Newman said that she was a much better writer than him. Not to diminish Newman, but he's right of course. Anyone who has read some of the political journalism of the last forty years will have no doubt encountered her work. Her study of the Liberal Party of Canada, Grits, is a monumental effort. And her two-volume study with husband Stephen Clarkson on Pierre Trudeau remains a much sought after text when learning about the man. Newman wrote that she haunts him still. One thing's clear. Her influence on political journalism is significant.
Read this column tomorrow for why I'm voting 'yes' in the STV referendum; and the day after, whom I'll be voting for in Vancouver Kensington.
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