With just a few days remaining before British Columbians vote, the New Democrats' appeal for change appears to be winning the day.
Two polls released on Friday show that while the B.C. Liberals continue to expand their support, the rate of growth has slowed. What it means is that, absent a momentous surge over the weekend, the long-time governing party will run out of time to persuade a majority of voters to give it another shot at power.
A new The Globe and Mail-CTV poll conducted by Angus Reid this week shows the spread between the two main parties is still significant. The pollster has the NDP at 45 per cent – up four from a week ago – and the Liberals at 36, which is up two. Overall, the nine point difference is two points higher than last week. The recent survey has the Greens at nine per cent (down three) and the Conservatives at a weakening six per cent (down four).
The poll is not dissimilar to another one published on Friday, by Ipsos-Reid. It shows the New Democrats holding a six-point advantage over the Liberals, which was down from the 10-point lead the same pollster had the NDP holding a week before.
Any poll is just a snap-shot. Many have been reported in the past week or so, some with the Liberals a lot closer than either Angus Reid or Ipsos has them. Still, one irrefutable fact must buoy New Democrats the most: the support all polls show the party has is in populous Metro Vancouver.
That is where this election will turn, not in the North or the Interior – both areas where the Liberals have made inroads in recent weeks, but where the New Democrats still have an edge. It will be decided in the Lower Mainland where the Angus Reid survey shows the NDP has a six-point advantage over the Liberals. On top of that, the NDP's support has always been regarded as more efficient than that of its main opponent – meaning it's more evenly spread throughout the province. This is a distinct benefit as well.
There is little question that the Liberals have run an effective, albeit highly negative campaign. Liberal Leader Christy Clark has done a good job of making the economy her major issue. The economy is ranked as the No. 1 topic on the minds of voters in B.C. Ms. Clark is seen as best able to deal with that area. That would explain some of the shift in momentum her way. The continual erosion of support for the B.C. Conservatives has helped her immensely as well.
Still, it is not enough to overcome the desire for change that seems to exist among the electorate. Maybe the Liberals' highly negative campaign has begun to wear on people. (Although it must be said the NDP has recently veered off the high road it was on for most of the campaign). Ms. Clark's disapproval rating in the Angus Reid poll is 61 per cent. That is an awfully big number. One can't fathom a leader getting elected with that level of antipathy.
The New Democrats waited until this last week to start reminding voters of a litany of Liberal sins amassed over 12 years in office, chief among them the ever-resented harmonized sales tax. But there were other gaffes and scandals that the NDP was only happy to dredge up, perhaps causing more than one person to shake their head at the sheer volume of screw-ups and dreadful decisions for which the Liberals were responsible. It's a directory of blunders that all governments of a certain age compile.
And it's why, eventually, the public responds to an opportunity to free itself from the shackles of the status quo.
Of course, last year's election in Alberta reminds us we can never take poll results as gospel. But at the moment, there appears reason to believe that British Columbians are readying to assign the B.C. Liberals to the political sidelines.
Change is in the air.