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More British Columbians support a BC United-BC Conservative merger, says survey

Premier David Eby still holds lead in approval ratings as B.C. prepares for election.
BC Conservative Leader John Rustad | Glacier Media file photo

With five months to go before British Columbians cast their ballots in the provincial election, our collective concerns remain clear. Housing, poverty and homelessness is still the most important issue for residents (37 per cent, down two points since January). Health care is second at 21 per cent (down one point), followed by the economy and jobs (18 per cent, up one point), the environment (six per cent, up two points) and crime and public safety (five per cent, unchanged).

David Eby’s approval rating as premier and leader of the BC NDP stands at 51 per cent—down two points but still higher than BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau (37 per cent, up three points), BC United leader Kevin Falcon (36 per cent, up five points) and Conservative Party of BC leader John Rustad (35 per cent, up three points).

The BC NDP remains ahead among decided voters with 45 per cent (down one point). The BC Conservatives are solidly in second place with 27 per cent (up two points), followed by BC United with 15 per cent (down two points) and the BC Greens with 11 per cent (unchanged).

The provincial race has become tighter among voters aged 18 to 34, with the New Democrats just five points ahead of the BC Conservatives (39 per cent to 34 per cent). Half of voters aged 55 and over (51 per cent) say they’re thinking of supporting the BC NDP in their riding, with the BC Conservatives and BC United further back (22 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively).

A little more than half of British Columbians (54 per cent, unchanged) would “definitely” or “probably” consider voting for the BC NDP. The rating is lower for the BC Conservatives (41 per cent, unchanged), BC United (37 per cent, up four points) and the BC Greens (also 37 per cent, up three points).

The proportion of British Columbians who would like to see BC United and the BC Conservatives merge before the election has risen from 32 per cent in January to 39 per cent in March, and encompasses small majorities of people who would cast a ballot for each of the individual parties (53 per cent and 54 per cent, respectively).

As the parties continue to announce who will represent them in each riding, fewer than half of British Columbians support the notion of establishing quotas to increase the number of female candidates (48 per cent) and candidates from visible minorities (44 per cent). Majorities say they believe it should be mandatory for candidates to attend at least one public debate in their constituency (65 per cent) and that all political parties should compel candidates to step down if they say something offensive on social media (51 per cent).

More than three in five British Columbians (63 per cent) say that when politicians show up to festivals and celebrations—such as Vaisakhi—they are just pandering for votes and not truly interested in engaging with people from different cultures and backgrounds. This is a remarkably high proportion of residents who look at these appearances with doubt and disdain.

A single voting question fails to provide the necessary context to understand an electorate as complex as British Columbia’s. We know from our recent research that perceptions on crime and public safety remain negative, but majorities of residents are satisfied with the provincial government’s work on housing. The environment is in single digits as an issue of concern, while more than four in five residents are worried about having to pay more for energy.

In 2020, we saw the emergence of a non-ideological John Horgan-Justin Trudeau voter in B.C.: Satisfied with pandemic management and disenchanted with the evident downgrade in the leadership of the BC Liberals. At this moment, the development of an ideological John Rustad-Pierre Poilievre voter has not materialized. Provincial voters are upset with the current prime minister: Canada’s governing party is at 16 per cent in the province. This animosity is not currently showing up for Eby and the BC NDP, especially among voters aged 55 and over, who usually turn out to vote in higher numbers.

The complexity for the opposition is to provide the proper venue for disenchanted voters who desire change. At this moment, the BC Conservatives appear to be connecting better with voters of all ages, while BC United is third in every region. The campaign will provide a chance for British Columbians to see what each party is offering and to review candidates individually. Incumbency will help particularly popular MLAs who were elected as BC Liberals in 2017 and 2020. The BC Conservatives will see their fresh faces tested in a manner that goes beyond the overly positive announcements posted on their website.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted from April 15-17 among 801 adults in B.C. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in B.C. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.