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BC NDP leadership change promises to redraw province’s political landscape

Research Co. and Glacier Media polled British Columbians on their support for various parties, leaders and outcomes
Pollster Mario Canseco finds Liberal lead over Conservatives has narrowed quickly since election call. | BIV

Eight months ago, Research Co. and Glacier Media reviewed the state of affairs in British Columbia’s political scene. A lot has happened since then, and there is plenty of action expected before we actually cast ballots to choose new members of the legislative assembly. 

This may be the last time we ask about the performance of Premier John Horgan.

The current leader of the BC New Democratic Party (NDP) stands to leave office with an approval rating of 57 per cent, down 12 points since our previous survey. This is a substantial departure from the final numbers I measured for Horgan’s two predecessors, Christy Clark (38 per cent in 2017) and Gordon Campbell (nine per cent in 2010).

This month, the performance of BC Liberals leader Kevin Falcon gets a positive assessment from 36 per cent of British Columbians (down two points since February), while BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau checks in at 35 per cent (down one point).

We also asked about the two BC NDP leadership contenders. More than two in five British Columbians (42 per cent) approve of David Eby, while 30 per cent approve of Anjali Appadurai.

When British Columbians think about who they want to see as the next leader of the BC NDP, Eby has the upper hand over Appadurai (30 per cent to 12 per cent). If we look exclusively at those who cast ballots for the governing party in the 2020 provincial election, the advantage is closer to a four-to-one margin (42 per cent for Eby and 11 per cent for Appadurai).

If an election were to take place today, the BC NDP would arrive with a nine-point advantage over the BC Liberals among decided voters in British Columbia (44 per cent to 35 per cent). The BC Greens are third with 15 per cent, followed by the BC Conservatives with four per cent.

Compared with February, the two main parties have lost some support (two points for the BC NDP and three points for the BC Liberals), while there are modest gains for both the BC Greens and the BC Conservatives (two points each).

As part of this survey, we put four different scenarios in front of voters in British Columbia to get an idea of what could transpire depending on the intricacies of the BC NDP leadership race.

With Eby as leader of the New Democrats, the governing party maintains a nine-point lead over the BC Liberals (43 per cent to 34 per cent). The revealing finding on this match-up is Eby’s strong support among women (51 per cent) and British Columbians aged 55 and over (45 per cent).

With Appadurai as leader of the BC NDP, the election becomes a statistical tie: 38 per cent for the New Democrats and 36 per cent for the BC Liberals. Support for the BC NDP drops to 44 per cent among female voters, and the governing party would trail the BC Liberals among the province’s oldest voters (37 per cent compared with 41 per cent).

The final two scenarios entail the losing contenders in the leadership race launching new parties to contest the next election. An Eby-led BC NDP remains ahead of the BC Liberals (40 per cent to 34 per cent), with the BC Greens at 15 per cent, the BC Conservatives at six per cent and a new provincial political party led by Appadurai at three per cent.

If Appadurai were to command the BC NDP into the next election, her party would trail the BC Liberals by four points (31 per cent to 35 per cent), with the BC Greens at 16 per cent, a new provincial party led by Eby with 10 per cent and the BC Conservatives at six per cent.

In the simplest of terms, the defeated BC NDP leadership candidate would have a tough time crafting a new vehicle to get to the legislature. While Eby would be slightly more successful, his entry with a new party would propel the BC Liberals to first place.

Aside from the voting numbers with current or future leaders, British Columbians are pondering different challenges. Housing, homelessness and poverty remains the most important issue facing the province (38 per cent, up five points), followed by health care with 28 per cent (up five points), the economy and jobs with 11 per cent (down five points), crime and public safety with eight per cent (up four points) and the environment with six per cent (down four points).

The generational divide on issues is clear, with 47 per cent of British Columbians aged 18 to 34 concerned about housing, homelessness and poverty, and 44 per cent of their counterparts aged 55 and over worried about health care. Canada just witnessed a unique provincial election in Quebec, where medical services were consistently the most important issue, and where voters aged 55 and over provided a glowing endorsement of the governing Coalition Avenir Quebec party. If the BC Liberals can connect on the health care file and try to win back the support lost in 2017 and 2020, the campaign could be immensely complicated for the BC NDP.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted from October 9 to October 11, 2022, among 800 adults in British Columbia. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in British Columbia. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.