A formal coalition between the B.C. Liberals and Conservatives would transform “undecided” voters into the leading political grouping in the province, but also fail to beat the surging New Democrats in the next provincial election, according to a new poll.
The Angus Reid Public Opinion survey, which suggests “unprecedented” 50-per-cent support for Leader Adrian Dix’s NDP, also says the current opposition party would have only between 32- and 33-per-cent support against a “free-enterprise coalition” led by Premier Christy Clark, Finance Minister Kevin Falcon or B.C. Conservative Leader John Cummins.
Mr. Cummins has flatly ruled out any coalition with the Liberals. While Ms. Clark has said it’s crucial to unite centre-right voters, she has talked more about outreach to Conservative voters than any official political union. The Premier is also enthusiastic about the idea of changing the name of her party to something that would be more appealing to Conservative voters.
Still, Angus Reid polled on the Liberals and Conservatives running together as a free-enterprise coalition, finding 21-per-cent support for such a union led by Mr. Falcon, 20 per cent if led by Ms. Clark and 17 per cent if led by Mr. Cummins. Ironically, Mr. Falcon ran second to Ms. Clark in the 2011 leadership race.
But the survey also shows notable undecided numbers – 35 per cent with Ms. Clark leading the coalition, 34 per cent with Mr. Falcon and 38 per cent with Mr. Cummins.
Mr. Falcon made it clear Monday he was not interested in leading a coalition, noting he tried to make such an argument to link centre-right forces in the leadership race Ms. Clark won in early 2011. “That wasn’t successful,” Mr. Falcon told reporters at the B.C. legislature in Victoria.
“I’m quite happy with where we are with our current leader and we’ve lots of work ahead of us,” Mr. Falcon said, calling the legislation he introduced Monday to reinstate the provincial sales tax, a major milestone in that effort. The PST is to be back next April, replacing the harmonized sales tax that was rejected in a referendum last summer.
Against either Ms. Clark or Mr. Falcon, the NDP would have 33 per cent compared with 32 per cent with Mr. Cummins.
Overall, the survey of 802 B.C. adults conducted between May 7 and 9 found 50-per-cent support for the NDP, 23 per cent for the B.C. Liberals, 19 per cent for the B.C. Conservatives and 6 per cent for the Green Party. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Mario Canseco, an Angus Reid vice-president, said the NDP’s 50-per-cent standing is a first. “For an opposition party to be at this point a year before the election is unprecedented.” British Columbians next go to the polls in May, 2013.
He said the NDP support against a free-enterprise coalition would mean a majority although his company has not done a seat breakdown.
Mr. Canseco said the only Liberal hope rests with their majority, which allows them to pass policy that might win back disaffected centre-right voters. “But it takes time and a lot of policy to do something like that,” he said.
With files from Justine Hunter in Victoria