IN THE NEWS ~ Romance blooms between B.C. and Mulcair's federal NDP
July 10th, 2012 - 9:27am
|Published | Publié: 2012-07-10
Received | Reçu: 2012-07-10 5:23 AM
|VANCOUVER SUN (FINAL)
CANADA & WORLD, Page: B1 / FRONT
Romance blooms between B.C. and Mulcair's federal NDP
Barbara Yaffe, Vancouver Sun
Quebec is not the only province having a love affair with Tom Mulcair. B.C. has leaped onto the federal NDP bandwagon.
What gives? British Columbians traditionally are wary of Quebec-centric political leaders. Yet a mid-June Angus Reid poll showed as many British Columbians would have voted for the NDP - 40 per cent - as Quebecers, 42 per cent of whom back the socialist party.
"With continued dominance in Quebec, B.C. could be the second plank of an NDP election victory in 2015," says political blogger Eric Grenier, who operates the polling website ThreeHundredEight.com.
Grenier, writing for the Huffington Post, observed: "The federal New Democrats have led in 10 of the last 12 polls in [B.C.]."
He notes NDP support is strong in especially fast-growing parts of B.C., a province that will gain six seats from redistribution in time for the next election, all of which augurs well for Mulcair's party in an election expected in 2015.
While NDP popularity has not changed in Quebec since the 2011 election, in B.C. the new numbers reflect a dramatic shift.
Stephen Harper's Conservatives last year won nearly 46 per cent of the B.C. vote, with 32.5 per cent choosing the NDP. These days, Conservative support is down to 34 per cent. So, why is the NDP suddenly all the rage in the far west?
It may have something to do with Mulcair mania; the leader's approval numbers are higher in B.C. than anywhere else in the country except for Quebec. And far higher than Harper's.
That is a bit surprising since Harper is a Westerner and Mulcair is from and all about Quebec. Raised in Hull and Laval, he was a Quebec MNA and minister in Jean Charest's Liberal cabinet before winning the Outremont riding for the federal NDP in 2007.
Mulcair has relatives but no roots in B.C. and has been here only a few times since winning his party's leadership last March.
His most high-profile policy pitch to date has been in support of higher taxation of Alberta's oil industry to moderate a strong Canadian dollar and ease conditions for Central Canada's manufacturing sector.
That's not necessarily a winning platform in B.C.
But what federal New Democrats have going for them in B.C. is a strong potential base of support, tied to a robust provincial presence. And Adrian Dix's crew lately has been doing well against Christy Clark's Liberals. So the federal support probably reflects spillover from the provincial realm.
While the old Reform and Canadian Alliance parties once siphoned support from the NDP among populist-minded voters in B.C., that's no longer the case. The Harper Conservatives are hardly populists.
Mulcair's party also may be benefiting from some particularly high-profile B.C. caucus members - deputy leader Libby Davies, House leader Nathan Cullen and energy critic Peter Julian.
And doubtless, the party's pro-environment pitch, including its opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline, is boosting West Coast support.
This theory is backed up by Angus Reid poll numbers that show robust support, too, for Green party leader and Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May, whose B.C. approval rating is as meteoric as Mulcair's.
The Harper Conservatives are surely concerned by the NDP advances in B.C.
A moderately strong NDP is to Harper's benefit, serving to drain Liberal support and perpetuate vote splitting among the two centre-left parties in many ridings.
But a recent Conservative attack ad targeting the NDP leader, the first to do so, is a sign the governing party doesn't want Mulcair becoming too popular.