April 25, 2017 8:00 am
Updated: April 25, 2017 8:23 am

In B.C., NDP open up double-digit lead over Liberals with election looming

B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan listens to voters during a campaign stop on April 14, 2017.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
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At the midway point of the British Columbia general election, John Horgan’s New Democrats have built up a double-digit lead over Christy Clark’s Liberals according to a new poll published Tuesday.

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Mainstreet Research says Horgan’s NDP are up by 10 points over Clark’s Liberals with 44 per cent of decided and leaning voters telling the pollster they’d vote NDP and 34 per cent saying they’d vote Liberal if the election were held today. 

The poll of 1,650 British Columbians was done April 20 to 22, right after a bizarre radio debate in which Clark, the incumbent premier, touched Horgan, the opposition leader, on the elbow at one point and told him to calm down. Horgan, upset at the contact, told Clark not to touch him again, an exchange that sparked more debate and discussion than any of the issues discussed in the debate.

The pollster said the results of its automated telephone poll, using both landline and cellphones, are accurate to within 2.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The Mainstreet poll found that, in the wake of the radio debate, the NDP made new gains in the Greater Vancouver Area and now hold a 16-point lead in communities like Surrey, Burnaby and Delta — all crucial battleground areas where the May 9 election is likely to be decided.

Still, partisans on all sides will look back to the 2013 provincial election when pollsters found the NDP, then led by Adrian Dix, up by between 10 and 24 points at this point in the campaign, a lead which evaporated at the end when Clark’s Liberals won a majority with 44 per cent of the popular vote compared to the NDP at about 40 per cent.

That said, Clark faces a steep challenge to pull off a repeat upset. Only 26 per cent of B.C. voters have a positive approval of the premier and her net approval rating — approvals minus disapprovals — is at -30 says Mainstreet. Horgan has a net approval rating of +5.

Source: Mainstreet Research, Apr 20-22, n=1,650 via IVR. MoE for province-wide results is 2.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The biggest wild card in the current election — an election which has national implications related to resource development — is the B.C. Green Party, led by former University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver.

Weaver, in the 2013 B.C. provincial election, became the first Green Party member to be elected to any provincial legislature. And though Weaver was the only Green to win a seat in the 2013 election, the Greens are polling well enough on Vancouver Island that Weaver may find himself leading a small group of Green MLAs that could well hold the balance of power in a minority government.

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Mainstreet says the Greens have the support of 22 per cent of all decided and leaning voters across the province but on Vancouver Island, where there are 11 provincial ridings, the Greens are the most popular party with 37 per cent support compared to the NDP at 36 per cent and the B.C. Liberals at 27 per cent.

Vancouver Island is considered an NDP powerhouse — the party holds nine of the 11 seats there — and a strong showing by the Greens could split the vote in close races and that, in itself, could deny Horgan’s NDP a victory.

British Columbia has not had a minority government since 1952.

The last time the NDP won power in B.C. was in 1996. The Liberals took over in 2001 and have won four consecutive majority governments since.

Mainstreet said it has dropped polling of the B.C. Conservative Party because that party is fielding candidates in only a few ridings.

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