Time is running out.
The campaign kicks off in less than four weeks and British Columbians head to the polls in less than eight, but the numbers for beleaguered B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark still haven’t improved.
A new online poll by Angus-Reid conducted at the beginning of this week shows the B.C. New Democrats with a comfortable 20-point lead over Clark’s Liberals, with 48 per cent to 28 per cent support. The Liberals have slipped three points since Angus-Reid’s last poll in late February, and have been stagnant since November.
The New Democrats, meanwhile, have been polling between 45 and 50 per cent in Angus-Reid’s surveys since May 2012. If the Liberals do not chip away at the NDP’s lead, and soon, they will be defeated in the May 14 election.
The B.C. Conservatives and Greens trail at length with 11 per cent support apiece, though their support is concentrated in certain parts of the province. The Conservatives have 17 per cent support in the B.C. interior, while the Greens have 18 per cent support on Vancouver Island. Green party leader, Jane Sterk, and noted climatologist Andrew Weaver are both running in ridings on the island.
The odds of a Liberal re-election keep getting longer as the vote approaches and Clark’s numbers fail to inch upwards. She is trailing the New Democrats by 14 points among men and 26 points among women, while the NDP leads by a margin of 46 to 31 per cent among British Columbians aged 55 or older — a clientele that votes in large numbers and would normally be in the Liberals’ camp.
The rise of the B.C. Conservatives, who took only 2 per cent of the vote in the 2009 provincial election, is no longer the main source of Liberal woes. The Liberals have retained only 58 per cent of those who voted for them in 2009, according to the Angus-Reid poll, while one-fifth have gone over to the New Democrats. Only 15 per cent have swung over to the Conservatives. In fact, if the Liberals picked up every single Conservative vote they would still trail the New Democrats by nine points.
Is a comeback possible? It seems unlikely when Adrian Dix, the NDP’s leader, is polling at much higher levels than Christy Clark. Whereas Dix is seen as the best person to be premier by 31 per cent of British Columbians, only 16 per cent choose Clark. His approval rating stands at 47 per cent to 39 per cent disapproval, while Clark’s approval rating has fallen to 27 per cent. Her disapproval rating has grown to a colossal 65 per cent. And on the issues of crime, health care, the economy, the environment, education, and federal-provincial relations, Dix scores better than Clark. He leads on the issues of the economy and health care, seen as the two most important issues for voters, by margins of six and 23 points, respectively.
An election campaign can change everything, but a leadership deficit is difficult to overcome. There are few signs that British Columbians are open to changing their minds about Christy Clark and her B.C. Liberal Party.
Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers on most Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.