The trend-lines for Vision Vancouver are not going in the right direction
Vision Vancouver political operatives and their elusive financial backers can't take much comfort from a Justason Market Intelligence poll released on Tuesday afternoon. It shows that the party brand is taking a beating, and that voters are less impressed by the notion of a Vision government returning to office in November.
The numbers are stark for the party. Since August the party's popularity, which has always held up well next to the plummeting ratings for leader Gregor Robertson, has gone down 11%. Robertson himself has ticked up modestly during that time, but the poll did not have him running against an opponent. When a hypothetical opponent was added to the poll last November – in that case it was NPA councillor Suzanne Anton – Vision & the NPA were in a statistical dead heat.
Reflecting on the results, the Justason says:
“There is no question that the fortunes of the NPA are changing,” says pollster, Barb Justason. “It may be a challenge to unseat the mayor; but I’d be surprised not to see more representation from NPA in Council after the November election.”
The poll highlights are summed up as follows:
Intelligence finds that support for Vision Vancouver has fallen since February to 41% of decided voters. Currently, 30% would support NPA, this level relatively consistent since August 2010. Notably, the gap between NPA and Vision is the narrowest recorded since August 2010. Support for COPE stands at 17%.
Despite some decline in support for the party, half (53%) of Vancouver residents “approve” of the performance of Mayor Gregor Robertson. Disapproval remains unchanged at 29%.
Of the three municipal parties in Vancouver, only the NPA have trended upward this winter. Both COPE and Vision have lost ground during this time. It's been said that COPE without a leader is virtually guaranteed to lose seats to an emerging NPA, and a party wipeout would be Vision's greatest hope for their left wing cousins on council, school and park board.
What else does the Justason poll suggest? There are many possible scenarios, particularly now the long rumoured launch of Suzanne Anton's mayoralty run could be announced on Wednesday morning.
On Tuesday afternoon a media advisory was sent out stating that Anton would be making a "special announcement" on Wednesday morning, and immediately the Twitter posts among media started heating up with speculation about her candidacy for mayor.
If true, this means that pollsters will no longer have to speculate about Mayor Gregor having an opponent. He will have one, and it will be sure to tighten up the race for both the top job and council seats. The NPA is shortly about to announce its candidate line-up for all three boards.
With Vision dipping in the polls and the NPA ticking upward, the pressure will be on Mayor Gregor to uphold the waning Vision brand. Robertson may look the part of mayor, but when he gets the inevitable challenge to debate Anton he's less impressive on his feet. If you are counting, give the advantage to the NPA on town hall talks between the mayoral candidates, provided Robertson actually consents to a debate.
My bet is that Mike Magee will do everything possible to stall and delay an appearance by Robertson beside Anton.
It appears that Robertson's negatives are remaining high. Almost one-in-three people polled either feeling strongly or somewhat strongly opposed to Gregor. The question to ask then is which voter will show up at the polling station in November? Remember that with voter turnout in the low thirty percentile, it only takes a handful of voters (angry or otherwise) to cause an upset.
If the political strategists were to take anything else out of the Justason poll it's that the expanded casino was a losing issue. In the end council approved a new casino next to BC Place, but at the same number of tables and slots as the one currently housed at the Plaza of Nations. As a political issue it's effectively dead, as Paragon is unlikely to make another move before an election.
Vision will try to spin this poll as good news for them, with Gregor ticking up a few points. But recall the Mayor's numbers were not so long ago in the high seventies. They've been declining ever since, bouncing somewhere between the low forties to low fifties. All it would take is one fare evasion scandal, or another effing NPA hacks moment and Vision could be sent packing.
What's clear is that if Anton indeed enters the race on Wednesday, it's going to be the most unpredictable election campaign in recent memory. With this being the first time an incumbent Vancouver mayor has run for re-election since 1999, you could give Gregor that advantage. However, the way Vancouver has been going through mayors over the last decade, anything is possible.
UPDATE: The Vancouver Sun's Jeff Lee gets an exclusive interview with Suzanne Anton in this morning's paper where she has announced her intentions to run for mayor.
- post by Daniel. Follow @CityCaucus for the latest tweets on the Anton announcement on Wednesday morning after 10am.