Catching election fever would be no fun if we were not able to make predictions we may later hope the reader forgets. This week, I offer two.
First prediction: World champion paralympics athlete Michelle Stilwell will be the next Liberal MLA for the riding of Parksville-Qualicum here on Vancouver Island. Stilwell is a compelling “star” candidate who was nominated by acclamation to replace Ron Cantelon. You may remember that Cantelon was a two-term MLA who announced his retirement late last year. The former agriculture and lands minister and caucus chair suffered a heart attack last year, but returned to the legislature after his recovery.
In 2009, Cantelon racked up the biggest Liberal victory on the Island, defeating his NDP rival by 3,600 votes. That solid base of support and Stilwell’s unique persona should be enough to keep the riding in Liberal hands.
Second prediction: Ms. Stilwell will be the only Liberal elected on Vancouver Island. (I hope Ida Chong reads this.)
I know you’re thinking I’m way out on a limb with this prediction. I beg to differ. The Liberals have yet to nominate candidates in half of Vancouver Island’s 14 ridings. Premier Christy Clark says the slow pace of candidate selection here is a deliberate strategy to release, for the public’s sequential amazement, the best candidates the party can attract.
“We’ve staged all of this,” Clark told reporters at a Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce gathering. Gag me with Pinocchio’s nose. The only thing that is staged is the premier’s lame attempt to mask her party’s state of despair.
There is no question the party is experiencing a pre-election crisis of confidence. In the past year, no less than 18 Liberal MLAs have announced their resignations, including heavy hitters like Kevin Falcon, George Abbott, Pat Bell, Colin Hansen, Joan McIntyre and Blair Lekstrom. Another three, including former premier Gordon Campbell, quit mid-term.
Behind the closed doors of caucus the walls are not thick enough to mute the rising angst of the remaining panicked MLAs who must march to almost certain defeat. And, in a few ridings, the only available Liberal candidates willing to plug the resignation gaps and fall on their swords are constituency presidents.
For those of you out there clinging to the faint hope of a Liberal campaign miracle, I refer you to ThreeHundredEight.com, a definitive non-partisan poll reporting website that is committed to reporting polls responsibly and has earned a reputation for accurate analysis.
Compiling data from four different polling firms in the field over the past five weeks, ThreeHundredEight says there is a 95.5 per cent probability the NDP will be elected in May. It predicts the NDP will elect 62 MLAs to the Liberals’ 22 with one independent. The popular vote B.C.-wide will be 48 per cent NDP to 31 Liberal. Here on Vancouver Island, ThreeHundredEight predicts the popular vote spread will be greater, 53 per cent to 25, and the NDP will sweep all 14 seats.
ThreeHundredEight’s current analysis leans most heavily on a new post-budget poll by Angus Reid Public Opinion that gives the NDP a commanding 16-point lead. Angus Reid vice-president Mario Canseco says one of the most telling findings is the number of voters — 59 per cent — who say it’s time a different provincial party was in power. And, here’s a surprise, even 29 per cent of Liberals feel that way. M