IF THIS MAN KICKED A DOG, HE’D STILL WIN THE ELECTION
NDP Leader Adrian Dix appears to be on the fast-track to the premier’s office
Mission impossible: For Premier Christy Clark and NDP Leader Adrian Dix the words carry dual meanings in the looming election campaign.
For Clark, a recent series of political pratfalls may have sealed her doom, and an election win in May looks as impossible as ever.
For Dix, his rival’s self-destructive habits have put him on a fast-track to the premier’s office. Judging by the polls, and the Liberals’ screw-ups, it looks impossible for Dix to lose.
Now the pollsters and political scientists are weighing in: Dix has a big lead and his opponent is mired in scandal. He should win — and fairly easily, too.
But impossible? Nothing is ever impossible in politics, especially in this nutty province.
“The B.C. NDP has a long history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” reminds Dennis Pilon, of York University in Toronto. “They excel at losing.”
If you include the party’s previous incarnation as the Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation, the NDP has lost 19 of 22 B.C. elections, Pilon notes. That includes the 1983 choke by the NDP’s Dave Barrett, who went into the campaign with 10-point lead over the Social Credit’s Bill Bennett.
“The numbers might change closer to the election, as more people pay attention,” Pilon said. “Some of Dix’s historical baggage might come back to haunt him. NDP forces might get overconfident, the more it looks like a cakewalk.”
But, for the record, Pilon thinks Dix will win.
And, unfortunately for Clark, she’s a lot farther behind than 10 points and she’s probably fallen farther back as a result of the ethnic-outreach scandal.
“I think the last week has pretty much baked it,” said the University of B.C.’s Richard Johnston. “A week is a long time in politics and all that, but Dix would have to succumb to massive hubris to blow it.”
Is it possible Dix could mess up that badly? Could Clark come back?
Pollster Kyle Braid thinks it’s unlikely, but not impossible.
“It’s often during a campaign that voters really make up their minds about leaders, especially new leaders, and neither Clark nor Dix have run a campaign as leader.”
Remember federal Liberal leaders Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff? They had good polling numbers, too. “Until Canadians were exposed to them in a campaign,” Braid reminds us.
But Clark has a new disadvantage going into this campaign: the fresh ethnic-outreach scandal that forced the resignation of her deputy and a cabinet minister.
“Too many setbacks,” observed Allan Warnke, of Vancouver Island University. “For the B.C. Liberals, nothing had to go wrong.”
Warnke said the scandal will blunt the effect of Liberal attack ads against Dix over the 1999 memo-to-file affair, in which Dix back-dated a memo in the casino scandal that brought down former NDP premier Glen Clark.
“The negative ads are dead,” he said. “Unless there is an ‘April Surprise’ the Libs can spring, or a huge error or indiscretion involving prominent New Democrats, Dix and the NDP are home-free.” Still, even big leads can disappear. “The unexpected does happen,” said the University of Victoria’s Norman Ruff, adding the NDP’s biggest worry should be “overconfidence, leading to failure to get out their vote, alongside complacency among their own supporters.”
Pollster Mario Canseco, though, points to the party’s “phenomenal” voter-retention rate.
“Roughly nine in 10 people who voted for the NDP under Carole James are still with the party under Adrian Dix,” said Canseco, of Angus Reid Public Opinion.
“Conversely, the retention rate for the Liberals is about 66 per cent, so a third of their voters have left them.”
Given all that, Hamish Tel ford thinks the Liberals shouldn’t plan on shocking the world, but plan on picking up the pieces of a shattered party. “Forget about winning and focus solely on winning enough seats to save the party,” said Telford, of the University of the Fraser Valley.
“If they come back with fewer than five or 10 seats, I suspect the Liberal Party will disappear.” Then again, there’s always hope. “Christy would have to carry out some deed that would instantly bury all past foul-ups,” Warnke said. “All I can conjure up now is an image of her battling aliens like Davey Crockett at the Alamo. Who knows? Maybe she will get lucky.”