The B.C. Greens have nudged their way into second place on Vancouver Island, according to a new poll, ahead of the governing Liberals, as the provincial election campaign kicks off.
The Angus Reid Poll, conducted exclusively for The Globe and Mail and CTV, sampled 804 B.C. residents online. In the poll, the Liberals dropped to third place on Vancouver Island with support from 19 per cent of respondents, while the Greens came in at 22 per cent. The NDP was way ahead at 45 per cent.
Vancouver Island is where the Greens have traditionally received most of their support, both provincially and federally. But the latest figures, according to Angus Reid vice-president Mario Canseco, are an indication that the Greens are cleverly using their resources, and that the party is appealing to voters who have become disgruntled with the Liberals but who aren't willing to vote NDP. The big question is whether that can translate into significant gains at the ballot box in four weeks. "I think what they're doing, very wisely now, is recruiting people who are well known," said Mr. Canseco. "They are focusing their resources."
He turned to Oak Bay-Gordon Head and Saanich North as examples of ridings where he said the Greens are trying to capitalize on high-profile candidates like Andrew Weaver, a professor and well-known environmentalist, and Adam Olsen, a Central Saanich municipal councillor. "If they realize they have a candidate with star potential, it makes more sense for them to spend resources trying to get those people elected," said Mr. Canseco.
He adds that it is possible to see the type of victory Elizabeth May had in 2011, when the federal Green Party Leader beat an incumbent Conservative cabinet minister by 7,000 votes.
"People tend to assume that ideologically you can't move from the centre right to the environmentalist. [Ms. May's] riding proved it can be done at the federal level and what they're hoping to do is to do that provincially," said Mr. Canseco. "If you're unhappy with the B.C. government and the way things are going, and if you don't to vote for the NDP, here's your opportunity to send your own Elizabeth May, so to speak, to Victoria."
According to the poll, the Greens also fared better than the Liberals with voters aged 18 to 34. The Greens had support from 22 per cent of respondents in that age demographic, while the Liberals had 18 per cent. The NDP was way ahead again at 47 per cent.
Jane Sterk, the B.C. Green Leader, had an approval rating of 29 per cent, according to the poll, while Premier Christy Clark was at 27 per cent. Conservative Leader John Cummins had an approval rating of 18 per cent, while NDP Leader Adrian Dix led all of them at 41 per cent.
Richard Johnston, a Canada Research Chair in public opinion, elections and representation at UBC, says that while on paper the Green Party's ideology lines up most closely with the NDP, the party has become a "parking spot" for disgruntled Liberals. That, however, doesn't necessarily translate to success at the polls.
"They have been picking up votes like that … but where they can't actually make a difference at the margins, at the outcome," he said, adding that voting Green has often been a way of expressing a kind of a neutral or "none of the above," ideology.
Mr. Johnston said if the current margin between the Liberals and the NDP shrinks as the election nears, fewer people will likely cast votes for the Greens. Mr. Canseco agreed, adding that the Greens have historically shown strong numbers at the beginning of campaigns, but as the election nears, have tapered off.