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Poll gives B.C. Conservatives no ‘reason’ to cooperate with B.C. United: analyst

SFU’s Nicolas Kenny says Conservatives are benefiting from “conservative, anti-establishment wave”
B.C. Premier David Eby, here seen addressing the Fraser Valley Economic Summit on Tuesday (May 21), has reason to smile over a new Research Co poll, which gives him a personal approval rating of 54 per cent, 12 points better than support for the B.C. NDP. The poll sees the B.C. Conservatives in second place with 32 per cent, while the B.C. Greens and B.C. United — the official opposition — are tied with 12 per cent each. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

A political analyst says a new poll confirming the rise of the Conservative Party of B.C gives the party no reason to cooperate with B.C. United.

“I was skeptical of the merger discussion from the beginning and this does nothing to encourage thoughts of a merger,” Simon Fraser University professor Nicolas Kenny said. “Quite frankly, with the Conservatives surging out ahead of B.C. United like this, there is no incentive for them to merge.”

Kenny made these comments after Research Co. released a poll that shows the B.C. NDP with 42 per cent of support among decided voters with the Conservatives at 32 per cent. B.C. United and B.C. Greens each sit at 12 per cent.

The poll released May 21 but conducted May 13 to May 15 appears after days of speculations about possible forms of cooperation between the provincial Conservatives under John Rustad and B.C. United under Kevin Falcon.

Cooperation, even a merger, might have made sense when both parties sat around 20 per cent each, Kenny said. “But now, if you are John Rustad, you are surfing on this growing (wave of) popularity, you feel like you have the wind in your sails, why would you burden yourself with the sinking B.C. United (party)?”

The poll also brings good news for Rustad himself. While Premier David Eby remains the most popular of the major party leaders with an approval rating of 54 per cent — up three per cent and 12 per cent better than the B.C. NDP as a party — Rustad has claimed second place. His personal approval rating has hit 37 per cent (plus two per cent), ahead of B.C. Green Leader Sonia Furstenau with 35 per cent (minus two per cent) and Falcon with 31 per cent (minus five per cent).

“I think at this point, Rustad is benefiting from the conservative, anti-establishment wave, more than from his individual personality,” Kenny said. He added Rustad remains an unknown entity and people are attracted to him because he represents something new. “That’s why I think the three other parties are really going to try to seize this opportunity to define him in a negative light,” he said.

As for Falcon, he faces the opposite problem. While Falcon is a familiar figure, “he is not managing to rekindle any admiration that have been there before,” Kenny said. Quite the opposite might be the case, Kenny added.

“What’s interesting is that Kevin Falcon is really decreasing in numbers and that’s after weeks of advertising, trying to brand him as a leader that’s close to the people, who understands the day-to-day pre-occupations of British Columbians,” Kenny said. B.C. United spent a lot of money on advertising, only to wake up this week and see Falcon’s popularity drop by five per cent, he added.

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The poll also reveals provincial Conservatives ahead of New Democrats among decided voters aged 18-to-34 (39 per cent versus 34 per cent) with New Democrats leading among decided voters aged 35-to-54 (38 per cent versus 33 per cent) and decided voters aged 55 and over (50 per cent versus 26 per cent).

“It does seem to be a reversal of…what we are accustomed to with younger voters leaning a little bit more progressive and older voters leaning more conservative,” Kenny said. “I personally think it has a lot to do with a sense among younger voters that the established parties aren’t doing very much for them.”

Kenny specifically pointed to the issue of housing. “I think the cost of living is a real pre-occupation for younger voters, housing in particular.”

Many young people increasingly see home-ownership out of reach and renting is also becoming extremely expensive, he added.

But young voters also tend to be more sensitive to issues around climate change and LGBTQ-rights, Kenny said.

“So younger voters — especially in urban areas — aren’t necessarily going to accept that social conservative element of the Conservative Party, which is why I think those numbers could still change between now and October.”

This ideological split among younger voters mirrors a larger urban-rural split.

Provincial New Democrats lead provincial Conservatives in vote-rich Metro Vancouver (40 per cent to 30 per cent) and Vancouver Island (49 per cent to 29 per cent). But the race is closer in the more rural parts of the province.

New Democrats lead provincial Conservatives in the Fraser Valley and the southern Interior by one and two per cent respectively, while Conservatives lead New Democrats by two per cent in the northern Interior.

But the on-going split on the right side of political spectrum coupled with Eby’s own personal approval ratings should also make New Democrats feel good about the poll, Kenny added.

“With the Conservatives, they have a very clear distinction to make in terms of policies, ideology (and) proposals.”

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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