Down, heading toward out

A new Angus Reid opinion poll measures BC Liberal support at 26%, trending downward. This approaches levels faced by the NDP government before voters decimated its MLA ranks in 2001. However, considering other factors, the depth of current public distaste for Gordon Campbell’s government may be unprecedented.

The NDP succeeded in two elections. First under Mike Harcourt with 41% of the popular vote in 1991 and, with Glen Clark as leader, with 39% of the vote in 1996. During ten years holding office, the party had almost no sympathetic media coverage and was subject to frequent and severe criticism over claimed budget deception, ferry construction program failure and alleged influence peddling that went unproven in court. Coverage of real and imagined scandals was relentless and the party was further troubled by its usual disunity from distinct interest groups – socialists, moderates, radicals, trade unionists – struggling within the party for influence.

Additionally, third parties competed for attention throughout the NDP rule. Greens were bleeding leftist support and Gordon Wilson spent years trying to field his own populist movement. Despite the apparent personal popularity of post-Clark leader Ujjal Dosanjh, Gordon Campbell’s Liberals, with 58% of the vote, won all but two seats in 2001. The NDP vote fell from 39% of 1996 to 22%.

Consider the voting numbers again. In the last 5 years of NDP government, their popular support fell from 39% to 22%, a loss of 17% that left them holding only two out of 79 seats in 2001.

BC Liberals began their reign with 58% in 2001 and saw that drop to 46% in 2005 and again in 2009.  The recent Angus Reid poll puts their current support at 26%, a fall of 32% from their beginning level and 20% from the election of last year. This political disaster happened despite general success of the 2010 Olympics that Campbell thought would be helpful in restoring his image.

The assumption of allies is that Liberal unpopularity arises from imposition of HST and from their own version of budget deception. It is assumed that “tough” decisions early get forgotten and when the publicity machine kicks into full gear, all will be well. My own analysis is different. I believe that unhappiness with the Campbell government relates broadly to matters of ethics and ideology. Changes set in motion are so significant that the party will explore new depths of unpopularity, sufficient to become again the futile rump provincial Liberals were under Ray Perrault and Pat McGeer during days of Social Credit.

The BC Rail Corruption Trial, particularly if it carries on until next year, will be opening wounds among Liberals that will not heal easily.  As the party begins to disassemble, new scandals of influence peddling will bubble to the surface. Additionally, old media has lost its influence. Global TV and the editorial boards at Vancouver dailies can shape their messages however they wish but they compete with new media as never before. If nothing else, the Internet can hold the press to account.

I paraphrase English writer Samuel Butler:

The most important service rendered by new media is that of educating people to approach old media with distrust.

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6 replies »

  1. The assumption of allies is that Liberal unpopularity arises from imposition of HST and from their own version of budget deception. It is assumed that “tough” decisions early get forgotten and when the publicity machine kicks into full gear, all will be well

    Though the bolded strategy above has worked well for the BC liaRs so far, starting with their slash and burn attack on the vast hurtland at the beginning of their lopsided mandate in 2001, I agree with Norm that their problems are beyond this fix today, and they are in much deeper doo-doo than they are willing to admit publicly.

    For one thing, the publicity machine only has until this November, after which within months at least a half-dozen or maybe more BC liaR seats will become vacant along with hopefully the seats currently held by Carole James and Leonard Krog. Despite the odds against the HST petition having any effect on policy, it will prove to have been a great practice drill for the real thing – RECALL IN THE FALL!

    The only break the Campbelloids will have, between now and November that I can see, is a couple months of recess in the drip, drip of the Basi-Virk public shaming and daily embarrassment. Meanwhile people will be getting stiffed by the HST and paying even more for the ridiculous carbon tax imposed by the same government attacking the environment with subsidies to gas exploration, pushing through Enbridge, salmon farms and doubling and tripling of sticky goo shipments through Burrard Inlet among other 'green' (as in US Dollars) initiatives.

    Early in 2011 with a new composition in the infamous House, and a new leader of government that can provide leadership with integrity and grit, hopefully we can then begin the hard work of repairing the damage that has been inflicted on the province for the previous decade (2001-2011)!


  2. I truly hope we don't forget james or krog the dog on the recall,those two are inane and truly useless if I did my job like those two I'd have no job.


  3. Within the blizzard of numbers in this article is the comparison of public support for provincial NDP leaders. Harcourt scored 41% in his election victory and Clark 39% in his. Carole James stands at 46% in the latest poll. We might wish the Campbell Liberal destruction was faster but perhaps James is doing her job effectively.

    I am gaining respect for the front bench of the opposition. Adrian Dix is focused and is probably the best health critic in years, Farnsworth and Ralston are steady, Horgan appears to have a grasp of government and Spencer Herbert-Nahasapeemapetilon has potential.

    Emerging from the wilderness years, James will be able to draw on new talent keen to join a successful crew. As it is, Carole James has led the NDP to unprecedented public acceptance. She should not be condemned on old news.

    As Ian suggested in another forum, let us be careful of friendly fire consuming the decent people when we are chasing a gang of crooks.


  4. Sorry Norman but I think those numbers reflect the pure unadulterated hate for the capo nothing to do with what shes done,people say that the media won't pick up on anything she says,but by law if she presses, the media has to give her rebuttal time on air if I'm not mistaken.She has done nothing to carry a message even to explain why it is when they go on air that its always separate interviews first the ndp then the libs,what the hell.


  5. Standard political wisdom says, when a government is falling apart, stand back and let it happen. The Liberals, with near unanimous backing of the mainstream media, have utterly failed to overcome the aroma of dishonesty or to sell their position on HST. The BCR trial, at least in the beginning, reinforces Liberal ethical failures and there are other issues waiting to take center stage. It is not the time for scattered attacks by the Opposition.

    The NDP needs to emphasize strength in the areas where the present government is weakest. That means developing a plan to ensure ethical behavior, real accountability and complete transparency. They need to ensure an end to influence of lobbyists and political operators and restore the power of legislators. Political financing must be reformed.

    Strangely, many of the changes that we need today are those promised by Gordon Campbell before he became Premier in 2001. Carole James must do better than merely promising reform, she must ensure that it will happen.

    I hope they are working quietly on a game-changing agenda.


  6. decent as she clearly is, carole james is guilty of subjecting the people of bc to 4 more years of a corporate crime wave that rips the guts out of any chance of an equitable society in bc,and make no mistake, there is awful lot of poverty and hardship being visited upon the most vulnerable. anyone fit to lead bc would have generated enough enthusiasm among the electorate to defeat the dispicable crooked liar that is campbell.


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