Is British Columbia on track for another provincial election upset?

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Photo Credit: Facebook/John Rustad

Wednesday marked the 11th anniversary of one of the most dramatic electoral upsets in recent Canadian history, when former Premier Christy Clark successfully led the BC Liberal Party (now BC United) to a surprise victory over the BC NDP. 

In the lead up to that fateful election day, public polling at times had the BC NDP leading Clark’s Liberal Party by as much as 17-points. While the scoreboard shifted throughout the course of the campaign, the NDP had a comfortable margin in the lead up to election day.

Pundits, politicos and pollsters alike were ready to call it. But then the votes were counted, and despite Clark failing to win her seat, the Liberal Party sailed to a resounding victory.

The reason for the turn of events? Some chalked it up to Clark’s ability to throw on a hard hat and connect with workers on job sites. This affable show of personality stood in stark contrast with former BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix’s lacklustre public persona. 

While it is true that anything can happen in politics, very rarely in today’s day and age do we see the kind of electoral upset that took place in 2013. The question now is whether this year’s upcoming provincial election in BC will see the defeat of the BC NDP, and if so, what this tells us about the future federal election.

There’s been a lot of speculation in BC politics about what exactly is happening on the ground. Between the rise of a recently revived political party, subsequent merger talks, and the backtracking of key policies by the governing NDP Party, it’s anything but clear what the future will bring.

According to Abacus Data polling released this week, less than half of respondents think it’s definitely time for a change of government. The caveat here is this is only one key indicator of voting sentiment, and there are still several months to go before the writ drops. This time last year, few would argue that the BC NDP weren’t primed to win the next election.

Since then, the fledgling BC Conservative Party has found itself trailing in second place behind the NDP in the polls by a gap of just six points. In a province that has traditionally been dominated by two political parties, this would be a history making outcome if today’s polling held true on election day.

As for the issues that are top of mind for British Columbians, they closely mirror the concerns of federal voters from coast-to-coast-to-coast. Cost-of-living, housing, affordability and accessibility and healthcare concerns are central to the preoccupation of voters and demonstrates that people are looking for credible alternatives that can address their economic anxieties, whether that be housing affordability or lowering taxes. The appetite for change may not be at a boiling point in BC right now, but there are simmering tensions underlying voting intentions. 

The sudden surge in popularity for the BC Conservatives also speaks to the power of the federal brand, whose leader has relentlessly banged the drum on issues that are directly correlated with provincial policies, like drug decriminalization, crime, and housing. 

Change comes in many forms. It may mean that the electoral odds see the BC Conservatives gain enough seats to form the Official Opposition in the legislature. Alternatively, they could stand a real chance to unseat the governing party. Whatever the outcome of the provincial election, one best believe that federal political parties will be watching for the results.

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