Will the civic election this fall really be a photo finish?
It's late into the evening in Vancouver, but that hasn't stopped local pollster Barb Justason from releasing a bombshell. Her latest poll now has the NPA (32%) and the governing Vision Vancouver party (37%) in a statistical dead heat heading into this fall's civic election.
Back in February, Mayor Gregor Robertson's Vision Vancouver party was riding high at 54% in the polls. That means they've dropped a whopping 14% in less than six months. It's a trend that even the most die-hard spinmeisters within the labour-backed party will find difficult to paint as rosy.
Some of the more interesting highlights from within the poll include:
- The proportion “strongly” disapproving of Mayor Gregor has grown to its highest level (19%).
- Gregor Robertson's "strong support" is down to 12% - the lowest in his term in office
- Approval of the performance of Suzanne Anton as City Councillor stands at 35% and disapproval, at 17%.
- Almost 40% of voters disapprove of Vision Vancouver performance when it comes to reducing homelessness
- In Feb '11, 22% of respondents said they "strongly approved" of the Mayor's record of consulting with the business community. This has now dropped to only 7%.
- In Feb '11, 21% of respondents strongly approved of Vision Vancouver's record of "considering the needs of residents". That has dropped to only 10%
After looking like they were going to fade away into the sunset, the COPE party is also now making a bit of a resurgence. They are sitting at 24% in the polls, but the agreement they signed with Vision earlier this year prevents them from running more than three candidates for council. In addition, they are not allowed to run a candidate for mayor.
What will be interesting to see is what COPE voters do with their remaining seven votes they have for council.
If the Green Party does run a full slate this fall, they may be the beneficiary of votes that would have otherwise gone to COPE. In fact, a Green/COPE coalition could have scored a few impressive political victories. But that door is now firmly closed shut.
Frances Bula was first off the mark once again with her story posted online at the Globe and Mail. If you just read the headline, you'd be left with the impression that Vision's backroom operatives were popping open the celebratory champagne tonight. But I somehow doubt that's the case once they have fully analyzed the numbers.
In reaction to the poll, the NPA's campaign manager Norman Stowe tells Bula:
Voters don’t really pay attention to civic politics until four or five weeks before the election. And their opinions can swing sharply.
These are early days. We need to work to create a home for those who feel disconnected from city hall. That opposition is there. People are feeling more and more disaffected.
We are still in the dog days of summer, so the real intense heat of the election campaign is still weeks away. But the release of this polls shows that something is starting to bubble under the surface.
After all, who would have thought only a few months ago that Vancouver's governing juggernaut and the NPA would be neck and neck heading into the election? I know I certainly wasn't in that camp.
That said, I still remain convinced that the election is Mayor Gregor's to lose. However, for the rest of the Vision team, I no longer believe their electoral victory is a fait accompli.
If this trend continues any further, a number of them may well end up being defeated. Therefore, hang on to your hats folks. This election just got a lot more interesting.