A new poll showing BC United and the Conservative Party of BC neck and neck has sparked a range of reactions with Premier David Eby warning of American-style culture wars coming to British Columbia.
The online poll from Research Co among decided voters shows BC United — formerly the BC Liberals — with 20 per cent support, down 13 per cent, and the Conservatives with 19 per cent, up 15 per cent. The BC Green Party is fourth with 12 per cent.
New Democrats continue to lead with 48 per cent, up two per cent from a similar poll done in May.
Premier David Eby said his government remains focused on delivering on the priorities of British Columbians, when asked about the poll.
“We know what they are — issues of affordability, cost of housing, issues around public safety and community, issues around building a clean economy…issues around health care and that is the measure by which I’m judging the success of our government, that we are showing progress on these key issues for British Columbians,” he said. “I will say that I am very distressed by the race to the bottom among the right-wing parties in our province.”
Eby added that BC United and Conservative Party of BC are trying to divide British Columbians and “import American-style culture wars in our province.”
These conflicts have served the United very poorly, he added. “I think the division between people there is not something that we want in British Columbia and we should all be making an effort to bring British Columbians together, even if disagree on key matters of policy.”
He added that the poll reflects the distaste among British Columbians for a divisive approach at the expense of marginalized groups.
BC Conservative Leader John Rustad said he is pleased with the poll, adding it is the latest showing growing support for the party.
“All of these are showing significant advancement for the Conservative Party of B.C.,” he said. “We are on an uptrend, BC United is collapsing and the NDP is in decline,” he said.
Rustad acknowledged that the party is benefiting from the strong poll numbers for the federal Conservatives.
“But I would also suggest that the federal Conservatives are benefiting from what we are doing in the province as well,” Rustad said. “It’s not about being Conservative or Liberal or NDP or Green. We are attracting people from across the political spectrum because we are taking this approach, because we are fighting for the average, every-day person.”
Rustad, naturally, disagreed with Eby’s comments.
“I have to chuckle that he calls (BC United) a right-wing party,” he said. “If you look at their policies and approaches, they are very similar to the NDP and I actually think quite frankly, that the Green Party, the NDP and BC United are all fighting on the left side of the political spectrum and three lefts doesn’t make it right.”
Lindsay Cote, executive director of BC United, said the name change from BC Liberals was a calculated decision to start building a new brand.
“When we changed our party name in April, we knew that it would take time for voters to learn who we were and that we’d likely pay a price for having a relatively unknown brand,” Cote said.
Cote added that the party “continues to hear growing discontent among British Columbians concerning the state of the province, with unaffordability skyrocketing, soaring housing and gas prices, exploding crime, reckless decriminalization and a crumbling healthcare system” in continuing to share its vision.
“We will continue to build awareness of the new brand and recruit skilled and experienced candidates committed to restoring public safety, improving healthcare delivery and outcomes, and making life more affordable for British Columbians after years of NDP inaction,” Cote said.
BC Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said she agrees with Eby that B.C. does not need to see greater division.
“As the governing party, the BC NDP can help create the conditions for greater collaboration between parties, and between the provincial government and communities around B.C.,” she said. “We can make it easier for different groups and communities in the province to work together.
“If we’re open and honest, talk more, and pay attention to the ideas from communities, it will help us build trust. That’s something all of us, as MLAs, should be doing together.”