Thursday, July 21, 2016

What Issue Will Define The BC 2017 Provincial Election Vote? Early Polls Offer Hints

BC NDP leader John Horgan - Bill Tieleman photo
If results prove true, next year's election won't be anything like 2013.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday May 17, 2016

By Bill Tieleman

''Politicians, like generals, have a tendency to fight the last war.''

- John Bolton, ex-American Ambassador to the United Nations

The last war politically in British Columbia was the 2013 election, with Premier Christy Clark pulling off an upset victory after starting considerably behind.

With a year till 2017's election, it appears Clark and her generals want to fight the same campaign with the same strategy.

But two new polls show this will be a different war -- and could have different results.

Political strategists try to shape the ballot question in each election -- that single crystallized issue that voters eventually find the most important in deciding who would form the best government.

In 2013, the BC Liberals and the BC New Democrats fought over the economy and employment, with the hard-hat-wearing and gobs-of-liquefied-natural-gas-promising Premier winning.

The BC Liberals would dearly love a re-run and are positioning themselves to roll out the same campaign, but there's a big hitch.

According to an Insights West poll released last week, the number one issue in B.C. is housing, poverty, and homelessness -- likely due to foreign ownership driving prices sky high -- at 22 per cent.

The economy and jobs rate second at 20 per cent, followed closely by health care at 17 per cent, and government accountability at 12 per cent.

What's still more concerning to Clark's generals is that even on their preferred issue of the economy and jobs, the Insights West poll found that 46 per cent say she's done a bad job versus 39 per cent who say it's been a good job. And that's the Premier's best result.

Clark performs worst on the top issue of housing, poverty, and homelessness, with a whopping 71 percent saying she's done a bad job and only 15 per cent liking what they've seen.

And on health care, 60 per cent give Clark a bad job rating versus just 26 per cent saying well done, while 67 per cent have negative views on government accountability versus 21 per cent who see positive.

That means the BC Liberals fighting the last war all over again in 2017 could be a losing strategy.

But it's still too early to tell.

Overall results

Overall, Insights West puts the BC NDP under leader John Horgan at 40 per cent, the BC Liberals at 34 per cent, the BC Greens at 14 per cent, and the BC Conservatives at 10 per cent.

But a new Ipsos poll also out last week has different horserace numbers, with the BC Liberals at 42 per cent, the BC NDP at 36 per cent, the BC Conservatives at 11 per cent, and the BC Greens at 10 per cent among decided voters.

The different numbers in the two polls don't matter much this far out, as 2013 proved in spades.

Overall, 59 per cent of those polled by Insights West disapprove of Clark's performance, while 34 per cent approve and seven per cent are not sure. While those numbers can change, voters have no difficulty making up their minds -- and most right now don't like what they see in Clark.

Horgan has a 40 per cent approval rating, with 29 per cent disapproving, and a big 31 per cent not sure. Horgan's task is to get better known in the next 12 months and hope that the more voters see him, the more they really like him.

Housing a 'vulnerability'?

The Tyee contacted both polling firms to discuss the differing results and what the election campaign focus may be.

Mario Canseco of Insights West sees the housing issue as a problem for the BC Liberals, especially in Metro Vancouver.

''There is definitely a vulnerability issue, but it needs to be exploited properly by the opposition in order to work. I've never seen 'housing, poverty and homelessness' as high as it is now in B.C. Ever. Most of the concern is coming from Metro Vancouver, home to more than half of all voters,'' Canseco said in an email interview Sunday.

''It will definitely be one of the key issues in the campaign, but I think it's too early to see if it will become the ballot question,'' he added.

But Kyle Braid of Ipsos said he doubts housing will decide the election.
''Housing affordability, along with cost of living in general, is without a doubt the number one issue in Metro Vancouver (and has been for some time), but that doesn't mean it is a vote issue,'' Braid said by email Sunday.

''I've done lots of research on this topic in the region, and while many people would like it if government could make things better, very few think government has the power to make a significant difference,'' Braid said. ''And even if they thought government could make a real difference, that doesn't mean they trust one party over the other on the issue.''

Candidates must 'connect': pollster

I also asked each veteran pollster if politicians could overcome high disapproval ratings and negative impressions on key issues.

Canseco pointed to the recent victory of Manitoba Conservative Premier Brian Pallister, who ousted the ruling New Democrats in April 2016 despite a personal approval rating that remained a ''stagnant 45 per cent'' throughout the campaign.

''The 'sentiment for change' was more powerful than Pallister's personal appeal,'' Canseco said.

Alternatively, the Alberta election in 2015 showed what can happen when a party aligns the planets, Canseco said.

''This was not the case in Alberta, where Rachel Notley had the trifecta: 'Time for change' at 82 per cent, NDP vote at 42 per cent, and her own approval as leader at 62 per cent, she gained 21 points on approval during the campaign. Twenty-one!'' Canseco says.

''And Alberta provides a cautionary tale about government arrogance and how perceptions can shift. Jim Prentice's approval was at 52 per cent in December 2014 after the PCs poached the Wildrose members,'' Canseco said.

''The day before the election, Prentice's rating had dropped to 25 per cent. If you don't connect on the campaign, everything you did before matters little. Half of the people who said Prentice was doing a great job in December abandoned him and the party,'' he concluded.

Braid agreed that leaders can overcome bad reviews, noting that former BC Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell did and so did Christy Clark last time around. ''It depends heavily on who they are up against in the election,'' Braid said. ''They don't need to be perfect, just better than the alternative.''

The millennial mystery

Both pollsters are well respected -- and I have worked with both of them and their firms on projects for my own clients -- so I had to ask why their horserace polling results were so different.

They both identified one anomaly: the millennials' voting choices in the Ipsos poll.
Ipsos had 18- to 34-year-olds supporting the BC Liberals at 46 per cent versus the BC NDP at 29 per cent, but Insights West had it quite differently, with the BC NDP leading with 33 per cent versus the BC Liberals at 19 per cent.

To his credit, Braid said the party preference of millennials was ''not consistent with past voting for this group'' and is likely an odd result, something Canseco also observed.

That question and others will only be answered in the next set of polling from both firms as we head into a year of heightened anxiety for political parties and pollsters alike.

But one thing is sure: the 2017 battlefield will not look the same as the one where the parties fought in 2013, and the winning strategy has not yet been found.


Saturday, July 09, 2016

Axing the TPP? Taxing the Rich? Wait... Is Donald Trump Going Further Left Than Hillary Clinton?

Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump - DonkeyHotey caricature
OK, Trump's obviously no real progressive. But next to Clinton he can look like one.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday May 10, 2016

By Bill Tieleman

"Donald Trump is a progressive. He's not a conservative."

- Right-wing broadcaster Glenn Beck

Bernie Sanders' socialists of Canada rejoice -- there is a progressive choice for U.S. president they can like. He was in nearby Lynden, Washington on Saturday, and his name is Donald Trump!

UPDATE: The latest aggregated polling shows Clinton narrowly ahead of Trump by 45.6% to 40.9% according to  While most polls have Clinton ahead, they also came before FBI Director James Comey said that Clinton and her aides while Secretary of State were: “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”

It may surprise you, but the Republican Trump card will play better for Canadian and American leftists than the corporately funded, consummate Washington establishment insider and Democratic disaster Hillary Clinton.

Suspend your socialist skepticism for a nanosecond, overlook for a moment the obviously offensive Trump quotes on Mexicans, women, the disabled and others, and then look at the cold hard facts on both candidates.

Who do the odious, far-right billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch strongly oppose?

Donald Trump.

Who just said "it's possible" Hillary Clinton would be a better president than Trump?

Charles Koch!

Former Republican presidents George W. Bush and George H. Bush say they won't endorse Trump. Ex-Florida governor Jeb Bush says he won't even vote for Trump.

Who else says Trump is a progressive?

The right-wing National Review, which said "All of the hubbub over Trump's newfound embrace of populist, rightist rhetoric tends to conceal his many progressive stances."

Who joins with labour unions in strongly opposing the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement that includes Canada and the U.S., calling it "insanity?"

Donald Trump.

Who likes the TPP?

B.C. Premier Christy Clark, who attacked Trump for rejecting it.

"It's not helpful when down in the States there are serious presidential candidates who are talking about building a wall between Canada and the United States. Trade barriers are just another kind of wall," Clark told CBC Radio.

Who agrees with labour and progressives that the U.S.-Canada-Mexico NAFTA deal was a bad one?

Trump, who calls it "one of the great economic disasters."

Who, like labour, wants to take back jobs from the military dictatorship of China?

Trump, who said that unlike his Republican opponents, he opposes cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid because the real problem in America is the loss of "manufacturing jobs to China." 

Who will raise taxes on the rich and is "open" to increasing the minimum wage, possibly beyond $15 an hour?

Trump, who said, "I don't know how people make it on $7.25 an hour" and "You know what? The wealthy are willing to pay more. We've had a very good run."

Is Trump anti-union?

Despite his Las Vegas hotel trying to stop an organizing drive, Trump says he has had "great relationships with unions."

And in his 2000 book The America We Deserve, he wrote: "Is Trump a union man? Let me tell you this: Unions still have a place in American society. In fact, with the globalization craze in full heat, unions are about the only force reminding us to remember the American family."

Rise of the FU voters

Trump's Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton has repeatedly assured voters that she actually is a progressive as she wins the nomination battle with left-winger Bernie Sanders.

But there's lots of contrary evidence.

Clinton sat on the board of directors of fiercely anti-union Walmart for six years without commenting on its repeated efforts to stop organizing drives. Two former directors who sat with Clinton on the board between 1986 and 1992 say she never spoke up for labour -- but she did end up with $100,000 in Walmart shares in addition to her $15,000 a year directorship.

"I'm always proud of Walmart and what we do and the way we do it better than anybody else," Clinton said at a June 1990 shareholders meeting.

That kind of attitude has paid off for Clinton.

In December 2015, Walmart heir Alice Walton gave Clinton's Democratic National Committee Victory Fund $353,000 after a previous $25,000 contribution to Clinton's political action committee.

But Clinton's corporate connections don't end with Walmart -- they extend to Wall Street's worst.

Clinton was paid $675,000 for three speeches to Goldman Sachs, the giant investment banking firm bailed out by the U.S. government in the subprime mortgage scandal.

"It was pretty glowing about us," said an executive who attended one of the speeches. "It's so far from what she sounds like as a candidate now. It was like a rah-rah speech. She sounded more like a Goldman Sachs managing director."

Clinton has refused to release transcripts of the speeches.

So is Trump really the progressive candidate?

No. But Clinton is hardly able to claim that title either.

Trump's success is coming because of anger at the establishment of both Republican and Democratic parties -- and leaders like Clinton.

As irreverent progressive political commentator John Stauber summed it up:

Let's call them Trump's FU Voters. They are huge in number, hate politicians with a passion, don't give a rat's ass about the Koch Brothers or MoveOn, might not even like The Donald, but see him as a statement of rage and discontent, as way of giving the finger, a huge middle finger, to all the hacks and flacks and whores and pimps of both the Republicans and Democrats who have delivered America into the hands of the one per cent, the professional political class who are perceived as the enemy. 

The FU vote is "yuuuge," and getting "yuuuger." Things are shit-canning across America and the world in so many ways, and here comes this brash jerk of a sexist celebrity billionaire with the sexy model wife, a contradictory emotional angry guy who has never ever held office or been in the military or done anything you are supposed to do to be dogcatcher, much less president, and they are ready to vote for him, to say "screw you" to everyone. 

Do not discount Trump's strongest weapon, the FU Voter, slouching toward Bethlehem to be born, just before Christmas, 2016, like some new Hollywood release.

Trump may be scary to many progressives, but what's likely scarier is that many working class Americans endorse his populist messages and find his positions far more like theirs than Clinton's or the establishment of either party.

And that may be a winning formula that trumps Clinton's hopes.