As B.C.’s three party leaders head into Tuesday’s (Oct. 13) televised debate, a new poll shows John Horgan’s NDP holding a comfortable, double-digit lead over Andrew Wilkinson and the B.C. Liberal Party.
According to the Leger poll released on Tuesday morning, the NDP have the support of 50 per cent of election-eligible adults surveyed, with the Liberals trailing at 35 per cent and the B.C. Green Party at 12 per cent. Those numbers are consistent with a similar Leger poll conducted shortly after the writ dropped on Sept. 24, when the NDP were at 47 per cent and the Liberals at 31 per cent.￼
By comparison, a poll conducted before the 2017 election, in which the NDP won a minority government, showed 40.4 per cent of election-eligible adults surveyed planned to cast their ballots for the Liberals, 40.3 per cent for the NDP and 16.8 per cent for the Greens.
Only 47 per cent of those surveyed in the recent poll plan to watch the leader’s debate.
Leger executive vice-president Andrew Enns said the poll reveals a few things about what the leaders may try to do during the debate.
“John Horgan will probably try to emphasize his record and not expose himself to any undue attacks,” Enns said. “He will also want to speak to his supporters and to the need to get out and vote. When you have a fairly large lead, there is a risk of apathy, but it could be a historic night for the NDP if these numbers continue.”
Andrew Wilkinson “needs to be aggressive and he needs to tie the PST reduction to something more,” Enns said. “It hasn’t connected with voters and he has to make a more compelling argument for it.”
For Green Leader Sonia Furstenau the debate will be an opportunity to introduce herself to voters.
“The Greens are four or five points down from where they were [in 2017],” Enns said. “For many voters, this will be the first time they see and hear her speak, so look for her to take those moments.”
The main concerns for British Columbians are quite clear, as 91 per cent of respondents said investment in services such as health care, education and child care was their top concern, with 62 per cent respondents stating those social supports were very important and 29 per cent saying they were somewhat important.
Eighty-nine per cent of respondents said a stable, experienced government that keeps British Columbians safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, while keeping the economy moving, was their next priority, with 66 per cent saying that is very important and 23 per cent saying it is somewhat important.
Other themes important to British Columbians include homelessness and the environment. Eighty-two per cent of those polled said a plan to reduce homelessness and remove tent cities was very (47 per cent) or somewhat (36 per cent) important, and 76 per cent said climate change and a credible plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was very (41 per cent) or somewhat (35 per cent) important.
Horgan was the candidate most likely to be invited over for dinner and a casual conversation, with 37 per cent of those polled choosing his company over either Wilkinson or Furstenau, who weighed in at 19 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively.
Forty-nine per cent of those polled plan to vote by mail-in ballot, a much greater number than usual.
“That’s a sizeable portion of voters,” Enns said. “It’s uncharted territory.”
The poll also gauged the potential political impact of an ongoing controversy within the B.C. Liberals over LGBTQ+ rights.
Langley East candidate Margaret Kunst has been criticized for refusing to support a rainbow crosswalk as a local councillor and Chilliwack-Kent candidate Laurie Throness has faced public backlash for supporting so-called conversion therapy.
Approximately 58 per cent of the respondents in the Leger poll said they are less likely to support a party if it allows candidates to run who have homophobic of anti-LGBTQ views. That figure rose to 65 per cent among Vancouver respondents.
Wilkinson has resisted calls to remove the candidates.
The Leger poll of 1,100 B.C. residents of voting age was conducted between Oct. 6 and Oct. 9. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of 1,100 respondents would have a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent, 19 times out of 20.