|Premier Clark unable to talk her way into B.C. hearts
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|Author:||Gunnair [ Fri Feb 24, 2012 6:16 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Premier Clark unable to talk her way into B.C. hearts|
Brian Hutchinson: Try as she might, Premier Christy Clark unable to talk her way into B.C. hearts
VANCOUVER — Christy Clark seems willing to try anything. She has returned to talk radio, to the station where she spent years in exile remaking her profile, rebuilding her political base. She has tweeted and pleaded. She has launched blistering broadcast attacks, first at the man on her political right, then the man on her left.
She has switched advisors, her chief of staff and press secretaries, all in the past few weeks. On Tuesday, her Liberal government presented a budget. Her first as Premier Clark. A cautious, responsible plan, some pundits and economists wrote.
Yet nothing seems to work. Results from a new telephone survey conducted a day following the budget indicates that voters still aren’t impressed. Forum Research Inc. asked 858 British Columbians which party they were most likely to choose, were an election held now. Only 24% indicated a preference for the ruling Liberals. The nascent B.C. Conservative Party, Ms. Clark’s newest and most worrisome threat, was the choice of 22%.
The provincial NDP appears as an overwhelming favourite, with support from 42% of those surveyed. The results are considered accurate within a range of 3.3%, 19 times out of 20. The poll mirrors recent results from other firms; moreover, the NDP numbers match the electoral support the party received in the last provincial election, in 2009. The difference now is projected seat count: Based on today’s landscape, says Forum Research, the NDP would grab 63 of 85 provincial ridings.
“NDP would form crushing majority government if election held today,” the survey firm declared. A year ago, people would have scoffed. The Liberals had just replaced Gordon Campbell with Ms. Clark. Things were looking up. The NDP was still resolving its own leadership mess, and was about to settle on a relative unknown, Adrian Dix. By the summer, the Conservative party had installed former Tory MP John Cummins as boss. It started attracting attention and, by the fall, it was eating away at the Liberal base. The NDP pulled away. Simple as that.
Some will blame Ms. Clark. Her leadership approval numbers are low and moving in the wrong direction, notes Forum Research president Lorne Bozinoff. “That’s something very tough to address,” he says. For the first time in decades, B.C. is “a three-way race…. The Conservatives wouldn’t get a lot of seats [were an election held now], but they would wreck things for the Liberals.” The ruling party “is between a rock and a hard place.”
The budget presented a way out. “Budgets are one of the few major events that a government can control,” says Mr. Bozinoff. His survey found that certain measures — such as a new tax credit for young home buyers and a credit for seniors doing home renovations — were well received. But only 29% responded favourably to the document as a whole, which suggests an entrenched, anti-Liberal sentiment. “The government didn’t get any real bounce.”
The survey didn’t even touch upon the most controversial budget item, a 4% raise in individual provincial health insurance premiums. B.C.’s medical services plan rates have more than doubled since the Liberals took office in 2001. Meanwhile, British Columbians are just starting to notice other painful measures, such as increases to car insurance and hydro rates. To help meet its budget forecasts, the government aims to transfer into the treasury billions of dollars from Crown corporations.
“Really, what should be happening is any profit in that corporation should be returned to the ratepayers through lower rates or reimbursement,” Jordan Bateman, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, told the Victoria Times-Colonist this week. “Instead, it goes to government. … As long as they have these piggy banks, they are going to keep breaking them and stealing the money from them. Ratepayers are beginning to feel very uncomfortable.”
Their discomfort has already started to spread.
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