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The Globe and Mail

HST, deficit push Liberal support to record low

Just four months after winning a third successive election, the B.C. Liberal government has hit a record low in the polls.

Ipsos Reid's new poll shows the Liberals now trail the opposition New Democratic Party by 10 percentage points, while Premier Gordon Campbell's personal approval rating has dropped by 15 points.

The poll shows less than one-third of British Columbians approve of the Liberals - the lowest number recorded since Mr. Campbell took office in 2001.

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Pollster Kyle Braid said the collapse in support can be traced to a double whammy of bad news: the province's ballooning deficit and the introduction of the harmonized sales tax.

Throughout the spring election, the Campbell government maintained that its deficit figures were solid and did not concede that revenues had collapsed until after winning the May 12 vote.

The government has since launched a series of unpopular spending cuts, but it is the surprise turnaround on policy to adopt the HST that has triggered the strongest backlash.

The telephone poll of 800 British Columbians was conducted between Sept. 9 and 13 and is considered to be accurate to plus or minus 3.5 per cent.

Among decided voters, the B.C. Liberals have 35-per-cent support, down 11 percentage points since the May election.

The NDP is up three points, to 45 per cent.

Mr. Braid said he is not surprised that the Liberal support has dropped, predicting the party will be paying the price for its handling of the province's financial troubles for some time to come.

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"The deficit might recover, people will get used to the tax, but in the long run, it's the sense that people were misled that will hurt the Liberals more," he said. "That will take longer to repair."

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