The devolution of a discredited party

The League of Freaked Free Enterprisers — the Liberal “coalition” — has just received another scary visit

The League of Freaked Free Enterprisers — the Liberal “coalition” suffering an identity crisis pending rebranding — has just received another scary visit from the ghost of elections looming.

Just as Premier Christy Clark and her “Canada Starts Here” entourage were wheels up on a Japanese trade jaunt, pollster Angus Reid was distributing another in a series of trend-setting death notices.

Across B.C., 50 per cent of decided and leaning voters will support the NDP in the next provincial election. That means there won’t be a Liberal MLA left standing on Vancouver Island.

The Liberals are mired at 23 per cent support while the upstart Conservatives are sputtering and have dropped four points to 19 per cent since March. The Greens are nowhere at six per cent.

The NDP’s 50 per cent represents a seven-point gain since March and the biggest lead Adrian Dix has enjoyed since he became leader. The Liberals are barely managing to hold on to half of their 2009 voters. Twenty per cent of 2009 Liberal voters committed treason and have fled to the NDP camp. Another 30 per cent now call themselves Conservatives.

For beleaguered free enterprisers there is a shred of hope buried deep in the online survey of more than 800 potential voters. More than a third of voters are taking what the pollster calls “a wait-and-see approach” in the event the Liberals and the Conservatives actually merge as Premier Clark was hinting just before she escaped to Japan.

In a video posted on the Liberals’ website, Premier Clark muses about dropping the Liberal name and forming a coalition with Conservatives. Standing in front of a blurred scenic coastal backdrop, including what looks suspiciously like a loaded oil tanker, she says: “This isn’t about changing our principles, but making sure that everyone can feel at home in our coalition.”

“I’m open to this idea and I’ve asked a working group to reach out and look into the possibility and report back in September.” Presumably the working group’s recommendation, including a proposed name change, will be put forward at the party’s convention in October.

The Angus Reid poll offered three scenarios of coalitions led by Clark, Conservative leader John Cummins and Finance Minister Kevin Falcon. Falcon won by a nose. In all three scenarios, the NDP would retain the support of about a third of British Columbians. However, the most significant finding is that the level of undecided voters grows dramatically from 16 per cent in the traditional ballot question to 34 per cent in the event of a free enterprise coalition.

The pollster says this “discrepancy shows that while the idea of a merger does not immediately materialize in a high level of support for the centre-right option, a significant portion of the electorate remains uncommitted.”

Obviously, Clark hopes to sell coalition making as the inevitable evolution of the centre-right in B.C. I suspect most voters will see it as more evidence of the devolution of a discredited party that needs a time out.

Surfing around the Internet, I found an online poll on the question of a Liberal name change. Just 18 per cent favoured finding a new name for everyone who isn’t NDP; 25 per cent rejected the notion of rebranding; and, a whopping 56 per cent said: “Who cares?”

Damned by indifference. That’s not good. M

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