Ques­tion mark in B.C.

The Prince George Citizen - - Opinion - MARIO CANSECO Glacier Me­dia — Mario Canseco is pres­i­dent of Re­search Co. He writes a col­umn ex­clu­sive to Glacier Me­dia news­pa­pers

The pos­si­bil­ity of a new cen­tre-right party led by Maxime Bernier has given rise to the idea that the 2019 fed­eral elec­tion will con­clude in a new vic­tory for the Lib­eral Party of Canada. The Con­ser­va­tive Party of Canada’s share of the vote will split, al­low­ing Justin Trudeau to win a new four-year term as prime min­is­ter.

The 2015 fed­eral elec­tion shat­tered pre­vi­ous no­tions of party favoura­bil­ity that had dom­i­nated Bri­tish Columbia since the start of this cen­tury. Some ar­eas of the prov­ince voted pri­mar­ily for Re­form, Cana­dian Al­liance or Con­ser­va­tive politi­cians, while oth­ers favoured the fed­eral New Democratic Party (NDP).

The fed­eral Lib­eral Party, even at a time when Jean Chrétien was form­ing ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ments in Ot­tawa, could rely only on some pock­ets of sup­port in ur­ban ar­eas. When the Lib­er­als were led by Michael Ig­nati­eff, they fin­ished the 2011 fed­eral elec­tion with just two seats in Bri­tish Columbia, both of them in the City of Vancouver.

The 2015 elec­tion ef­fec­tively ended Bri­tish Columbia’s twoparty sys­tem and showed that – un­der a charis­matic leader who was able to con­nect with vot­ers

– a po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion could go from re­ceiv­ing a pal­try 13 per cent of the vote in 2011 to boast­ing the largest num­ber of Bri­tish Columbia fed­eral seats four years later, with the sup­port of 35 per cent of the prov­ince’s vot­ers.

Al­most three years have passed since that elec­tion, and the time is right to re­view whether vot­ers in our prov­ince have a spe­cific set of ideas and values that makes them vote a cer­tain way, re­gard­less of is­sues or can­di­dates. With that in mind, Re­search Co. re­cently asked Bri­tish Columbians to de­scribe them­selves on an ide­o­log­i­cal ba­sis.

Across the prov­ince, 30 per cent of res­i­dents said they are far-left, left or cen­tre-left, while 25 per cent placed them­selves firmly on the cen­tre and 20 per cent ac­knowl­edged be­ing cen­tre-right, right or far-right.

One-in-four Bri­tish Columbians (25 per cent) are un­de­cided when it comes to ide­ol­ogy. These are not nec­es­sar­ily poll tak­ers who sim­ply do not care about pol­i­tics. Some of these re­spon­dents choose to move on is­sues from elec­tion to elec­tion.

The group of ide­o­log­i­cal un­de­cid­eds in Bri­tish Columbia in­cludes 14 per cent of peo­ple who voted for the BC NDP in the last pro­vin­cial elec­tion, 15 per cent of those who cast a bal­lot for the BC Lib­er­als and 30 per cent who sup­ported the BC Green Party.

The sit­u­a­tion is sim­i­lar when we ask Bri­tish Columbians about the party they voted for in the 2015 fed­eral bal­lot, when Trudeau be­came prime min­is­ter. Among fed­eral NDP vot­ers, 16 per cent are un­de­cided on their ide­ol­ogy, and the pro­por­tion rises slightly to 19 per cent among those who voted for the fed­eral Lib­er­als.

There is cur­rently only one po­lit­i­cal party in Bri­tish Columbia where ide­ol­ogy is firmly en­trenched. Just 10 per cent of fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive vot­ers in 2015 are un­de­cided about their ide­ol­ogy (with 56 per cent de­scrib­ing them­selves as cen­tre-right, right or far-right).

There is a rea­son for Bernier’s in­sis­tence in sug­gest­ing his for­mer party has be­trayed “core con­ser­va­tive prin­ci­ples.” He needs to con­nect with the type of Bri­tish Columbia voter that is more likely to be ide­o­log­i­cal. This could prove a chal­lenge to the Con­ser­va­tive Party led by An­drew Scheer, if and when Bernier starts to re­cruit can­di­dates.

But Scheer is not the only leader who will have dif­fi­cul­ties re-con­nect­ing with the elec­torate. Trudeau’s vic­tory in Bri­tish Columbia was any­thing but ide­o­log­i­cal. For­mer Con­ser­va­tive vot­ers dis­sat­is­fied with in­ac­tion on so­cial is­sues be­gan to look else­where. Dis­en­chanted NDP and Green vot­ers from past elec­tions saw in Trudeau a spokesman for two is­sues they des­per­ately cared about: en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship and elec­toral re­form. They had no dif­fi­culty in aban­don­ing their pre­vi­ous choices with Trudeau’s Lib­er­als on the bal­lot.

We are just over a year away from the next fed­eral elec­tion, and both ide­o­log­i­cal and non­ide­o­log­i­cal vot­ers in Bri­tish Columbia will have much to pon­der. Un­der the right cir­cum­stances, ide­ol­ogy can move for­mer Re­form, Cana­dian Al­liance and Con­ser­va­tive vot­ers in Bri­tish Columbia to Bernier’s new party.

On the other side of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum, Trudeau has dis­ap­pointed those who voted for a per­ceived mora­to­rium on pipe­lines and the demise of the first-past­the-post sys­tem for elec­tions to the House of Com­mons. It re­mains to be seen whether these vot­ers grav­i­tate to­ward their sup­posed nat­u­ral homes in the NDP or Green par­ties, stay with the Lib­er­als for an­other elec­tion or take a look at what con­ser­vatism has to of­fer.

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