Recent poll aggregations by 338 show that Conservatives and the Greens look to gain much in the upcoming election if polls hold true. But I have a few observations that should caution pollsters from making too many assumptions.
To start, let’s look at the regional breakdown.
Most pollsters are showing a bit of a Green wave happening here, and after the recent by-election breakthrough for the Greens in Nainamo-Ladysmith, they are likely correct for once. Vancouver Island has demographics supremely friendly towards the Greens. The provincial capital and all the left wing public servants are on the Island, and they came very close to winning the seat for the city in the 2012 Victoria by-election. This has been a strategy the Greens have been hoping would bear fruit for years, in focusing on the most leftwing areas of the country, and gaining footholds over time to push for party status. As such, 338 is showing 5 of the 6 seats for Vancouver Island going for the Greens. But with little support elsewhere in the Province, they aren’t likely to pick up support aside from the Island. The remaining seat is a toss up – a strong populist campaign for either side could definitely turn it in favour of the populist versus a “quiet seat warmer”. And with many of the traditional populist-Progressive NDP MP’s showing they have lost faith in new NDP leader Jagmeet Singh by either refusing to run again or outright standing against his leadership, it’s thus far not looking as good for the NDP in 2019 as it was in 2015.
Though 338 shows the Conservatives just holding their 3 seats and the NDP as likely holding their 2, I would like to point out 2 game changers that could see those seats go Conservative.
The first, the riding of Northern Island-Powell River, which is a riding split between the northern part of Vancouver Island and part of the coast of the lower mainland, could potentially swing to the Conservatives. Notably, the 2011 redistributed results for the current ridings would have easily seen this riding go that direction –
46% CPC to less than 42% for the NDP.
The NDP’s saving grace last election was the drop in Conservative support entirely to the Liberals. In addition, the presence of Comox on the edge of the riding, and potentially many military voters who routinely vote for support our troops, Conservatives in large numbers could help sway momentum if the often anti-armed forces NDP remain true to their roots. If the Liberals are doing as badly in BC as we currently see, this one could actually be a toss up. And the longtime NDP incumbent for the other NDP Riding, Nathan Cullen of Skeena-Bulkley valley, is NOT running again. Prior to his close 37-33% win in 2004, in which he has held double digit leads since, the ridings that made up his area during the time of the Reform and Alliance parties, had consistent votes for Reform/Alliance MPs.
So a populist Conservative challenger may also have a chance of taking this riding from the NDP. That is, if the NDP replacement doesn’t sufficiently fill Nathan Cullen’s shoes. The fact that Nathan Cullen, who placed as third and king maker in the 2012 NDP leadership race and who was not willing to wait out Jagmeet Singh’s exit, suggests that we can hope a New NDP leader is incapable of rallying the populist lefties of the BC mainland as well.
The East and Rockies:
The BC interior is an interesting combination of self-reliant mountain folk and union/company towns, that give most of the seats to the Conservatives election after election but allow occasional turnovers to the NDP, and on occasion, even a few for the Liberals. However, nearly all of these are likely to go to the Conservatives now, as the Liberals inability to deliver on pipelines that promised to bring jobs to the region, and contempt for Indigenous issues (and even their own indigenous MPs) has all but smashed the coalition of voters they relied on to gain a few rare seats in the BC interior where they normally have little chance or who will just strategically vote NDP. And with the NDP in civil war, it is quite possible the Conservatives will take back all the seats they lost in this region in 2015.
The Lower Mainland:
The king maker region in BC. The heartland for Liberals in the Province, and the one area Jagmeet Singh potentially could gain votes, but not likely seats, the NDP looks to be confidently holding 4 of their 5 seats, with the 5th, Port Moody-Coquitlam, possibly going back to the Conservatives. In the city of Vancouver itself, the Liberals will likely hold most of their seats, and most can only realistically be challenged by an NDPer… Unless a game changer crosses the floor to the Greens. More on that wildcard shortly.
This vote count could see the Conservatives taking possibly half of BC’s seats. With about 17 of 42 of them looking like fairly easy Conservative wins, and potentially taking as many as 26 seats if a focused, populist, and grassroots campaign is run. They will need to appeal to the desire of British Columbians to have a government that will see them as something other than just another “Have Province” to rob to give money to Bombardier, that doesn’t kick out it’s Indigenous MPs for wanting to protect prosecutorial independence, and that doesn’t spend $Billions on a pipeline we can’t use that we would have obtained for free!
The Liberals are scared of this being the narrative in BC this election, how they will be squeezed by both the left and the right, how they could lose in the lower mainland to the NDP, to the Greens on Vancouver Island, and to the Conservatives everywhere else. That’s why suddenly they have announced $Billions for new coast guard ships, but with no actual plans so far for investment in the project before or AFTER next election, let alone by October 2019. It’s an empty promise. That’s why they are announcing Terry Lake, BC’s Former Environment Minister who made it policy to blockade Alberta, as their Liberal candidate. That’s why they are pushing far left environmental initiatives suddenly that they once called ridiculous, threatening to kill Kinder Morgan even after spending Billions on it, in the hopes of looking more like wasteful environmentalists than the Greens. They feel threatened on their left flank, and they should be. Because it’s unlikely they will get support from progressive-populists after shedding their accountability on SNC-Lavalin and by kicking out an Indigenous MP for doing her job.
The numbers appear fairly in-line with reality for once, and after the recent back-to-back pollster days of shame in Alberta, PEI, and Newfoundland & Labrador, where they proved to be massively wrong in each case, they can breath a short sigh of relief. Simply because they appear to match the voting behavior of the people, and none of the pollsters seem to have much any ulterior motives in showing a potential Green breakthrough on Vancouver island or Conservatives taking back ground lost in 2015. But this is just a snapshot in time. The question is, will this hold until election day?
Or will the Liberals make enough of people’s money fall from the sky on government projects to change the subject from their broken promises and scandals to new promises and making someone else look crooked? Would BC voters believe them after they just spent BILLIONS on a pipeline that we can’t even use now? Will competition to court the vital strategic demographics like the Sikh community by political heavy weights like Jagmeet Singh and Liberal Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, both of which have demonstrated their ability to mobilize their support in the communities greatly to their favor in key elections, be challenged by a Conservative to court the votes in these communities? Can the Greens build on their breakthrough in Vancouver Island and expand it to the rest of BC?
And more importantly, could the Greens mobilize the progressive-populist support that both the NDP and Liberals have lost in the lower mainland IF Jody Wilson-Raybould suddenly crossed the floor to the Greens? Her riding is marked as “Leaning Liberal”, but this is both on the presumption she won’t run again, and that she won’t take the Liberals to town in the election. Neither of which are safe assumptions to make after what has been seen in Parliament this year. The city of Vancouver and a few of the greater metropolitan areas are their last bastion in the Province. And some journalists have suggested she may cross over to the Greens. IF this happens, or even if she drops another bombshell during the election campaign that Trudeau does not expect (another damning recording of the PM or his aides perhaps?), could create large opportunities for all three of the Liberals main competitors that currently aren’t there.
We can strongly hope for Jody Wilson-Raybould having more to share.
One can also wonder how increasing gas prices will change the perceptions of voters in the Province. Especially as voters realize that anti-pipeline policies and taxes, like the carbon tax, are increasing the price at the pump to unheard of levels. And one can only wonder, would Premier Jason Kenney time the turning off of our taps to BC in such a way as to turn the screw on those trying to claim high gas prices are not the fault of anti-pipeline policies? He has already joked that since the mayor of Vancouver wants his city to be free of Alberta oil by 2040, he’ll make Vancouver oil free by 2020! Two can play the economic manipulation game that Trudeau created with carbon taxes, and I don’t see Premier Kenney, who is a proven populist-strategic legend, as making a move that would hurt Andrew Scheer’s chances of becoming PM.