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Angus Reid have now released the results of their poll which looked at how some form of ‘Free Enterprise Coalition’, bringing together the BC Liberals and Conservatives, might fare against the BC NDP in next year’s election.

Angus Reid’s party-by-party results show the BC NDP well ahead on 50%, followed by the BC Liberals on 23%, the BC Conservatives on 19% and the Greens on 6% – figures very much in line with the 2 May poll from Forum Research.

If these numbers are reflected on election day, the NDP would clearly win a landslide majority. My seat projection last week, based on very similar numbers from Forum Research, had the NDP on 68 seats, the Liberals on 9, the Conservatives on 6 along with 2 independents.

Where the Angus Reid poll gets particularly interesting, however, is where voters are asked who they would support if the Liberals and Conservatives come together in a ‘Free Enterprise Coalition’. A coalition led by current premier Christy Clark would win support from 20% of British Columbians, to 33% for the NDP. (A coalition led by finance minister Kevin Falcon would have 21% support, and one led by Conservative leader John Cummins would have 17%).

Significantly, the number of undecideds leapt up from 16% on the traditional party support question, to 35% when asked to consider a coalition. With over 1 in 3 undecided, any projection has to come with a major health warning. The poll also has ‘Others/Independents’ on a relatively high total of 7% compared to 2% on the traditional question.

With both these major caveats duly noted, here goes. If you allocate the undecideds proportionately to the other parties (and assume that ‘Others’ do as well as they did in 2009), the FEC would be on 34%, the NDP on 57%, the Greens on 7% and Others on 2%. This would result in a sweeping victory for the NDP:

Perhaps a more realistic scenario may be to split the undecideds equally between the ‘Free Enterprise Coalition’ and the NDP (while giving a small portion to the Greens and again assuming that ‘Others’ only do as well as they did in 2009) – this would result in headline support figures of FEC 39%, NDP 53%, Greens 6% and Others 2%. This scenario would result in a closer but still solid NDP win:

Despite numbers like these, the NDP can’t afford to take anything for granted. The 35% undecideds are the crucial factor – if they were to swing decisively towards a coalition, the NDP’s hopes of a majority could be dashed. It’s also worth noting that NDP support among all voters (including undecideds) is about 42% when all parties are listed – but drops to 33% of all voters when the prospect of a coalition is put on the table.

That said, for advocates of a coalition, the Angus Reid findings don’t offer much more by way of encouragement. The poll puts the combined BC Liberal and Conservative support on 42% – but support for a coalition between the two parties falls well short of that figure.

It may be that should a coalition actually be formed, it could prove more attractive to voters than these numbers suggest. But there’s not much hard evidence in this poll to support that proposition – hard evidence which coalition advocates will surely need if their project is to gain momentum.

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BC’s next election is scheduled for just over a year from now on 14 May 2013 – and the province is already in something of a political ferment, with Premier Christy Clark’s governing BC Liberals having recently lost two of their electoral strongholds to the NDP in by-elections.

A big reason for these Liberal losses was the split in the centre-right vote due to the surge in support for the BC Conservatives, a party which won just 2.1% of the vote in the last election back in 2009.

Last time out the BC Liberals won 49 seats to the NDP‘s 35, with Independent Vicki Huntington picking up the remaining seat in the 85-seat legislature. The BC Liberals had a narrower win in terms of percentages in 2009, winning 45.8% to the NDP’s 42.1%.

The opinion polls reflect just how much things have changed in British Columbia politics since 2009. The most recent poll is from Forum Research who were last in the field on 2 May:

The headline figures of NDP 48%, LIB 23%, CON 19%, GRN 8% may seem eyebrow-raising – but are pretty much in line with those from other pollsters who have also shown the NDP with a hefty double-digit lead over a BC Liberal Party struggling to stave off the surge from the BC Conservatives.

When these poll results are broken down by region and fed into my BC seat projection model, the NDP would unsurprisingly win a sweeping majority:


The NDP would win 68 seats with the Liberals being reduced to a rump of just 9, the Conservatives winning 6, and independents 2.

(For ridings where the BC Conservatives did not stand a candidate in 2009, my seat projection model allocated them a notional support value somewhat lower than that of their weakest ridings in the region.)

With the NDP polling this well with barely over a year until the election, many on the right are urging the Liberals and Conservatives to bury the hatchet and form some kind of alliance, coalition or even a merger. What might happen if the BC Liberals and BC Conservatives did join forces in this way?

Well, with the NDP polling just a couple of points below the 50% mark, even a straightforward addition of the BC Liberal and BC Conservative support base would not be enough to prevent an NDP majority:

The NDP would still come out on top, winning 47 seats to a projected 36 seats for the Lib/Con pact. That said, it would be a close race in much of the province, and the NDP would have Vancouver Island to thank for their majority.

Of course, a straightforward addition of BC Liberal support to that of the BC Conservatives is very unlikely to be how things would actually pan out in the event of a merger. Some supporters of both parties would be alienated by the prospect of working with the other. For example, some moderate BC Liberal supporters may feel they have more in common with the Greens or with the NDP than with the Conservatives. A ‘free enterprise coalition’ could prove less popular than the sum of it’s parts.

Angus-Reid reportedly have a poll in the field looking at how attractive a ‘Free Enterprise Coalition’ would be under a range of different prospective leaders. When these figures are published we’ll start to get a better idea of what support for a centre-right merger or alliance would look like – I’ll run a new seat projection based on the results when they are released.

British Columbia’s Harmonized Sales Tax is no more, following defeat in a post-in referendum held over the summer. Full riding-by-riding results are here – note that ‘Yes’ votes were in favour of abolishing the HST.

BC’s two main parties, the governing Liberals and the opposition NDP, took opposite sides in the referendum debate. The HST was initially introduced by former Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell in circumstances (immediately after an election where it did not form part of their platform) widely perceived as controversial.

The NDP campaigned strongly in favour of a Yes vote for abolition, and were joined on the ‘Yes’ side by low-tax groups and personalities on the right of the spectrum, notably including former SoCred premier Bill Vander Zalm.

When you compare the riding-by-riding results of the referendum with the 2009 election, there’s a clear correlation between support for the NDP and support for the ‘Yes’ vote:

New NDP leader Adrian Dix will no doubt take heart from this result – but the most immediate outcome of the referendum is that recently-installed Liberal Premier Christy Clark has ruled out a provincial election this fall. It had been speculated she would go to the polls to seek a mandate of her own – instead she will now continue in office until the fixed election date of May 2013.



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