B.C. Politics Deep Dive: How does current federal vote intention impact this fall’s provincial vote?

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As British Columbians look ahead to marking their ballot in a provincial election this fall, the changing federal vote landscape plays out in the background. The federal Conservatives have climbed to the front of a three-way race in the province. Meanwhile, the Conservative Party of B.C. is clawing votes away from the formerly entrenched B.C. United party.
How do these dynamics intertwine and what does it mean for B.C.’s forthcoming election? New data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds those in B.C. who support the federal Conservatives are more likely to support the provincial Conservatives than BC United in the pending B.C. election.
More than half (56%) of likely federal Conservative voters place their vote with the provincial Conservatives currently. This comes as BC Conservative leader John Rustad has promised to “axe” B.C’s carbon tax if his party were to win the coming election, aligning himself with federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, who has not officially endorsed either United nor the provincial Conservatives.
The electoral map will be unfamiliar to B.C. – and indeed, national – politicos. For many years, the province had lacked an obvious right-wing, small ‘c’ conservative party contender. The Social Credit Party started as a right-wing populist party before moving more to the centre during its lengthy run as governing party first under W.A.C. Bennett and then under his son Bill.
This means most in the province remember only elections fought between the centre-right and parties on the left. Although the Conservative Party of B.C. was founded in 1903, it has not fielded a full slate of candidates in an election since 1960, something Rustad has promised to change this year. As the federal Conservatives rise in popularity in the province, both Rustad and BC United leader Kevin Falcon are jockeying for right of centre support.
Both have aimed at the province’s carbon tax, though Falcon has only said the party will remove the tax if the CPCs form government federally and axe it nationwide. The issue is perhaps more difficult to navigate for Falcon, as United’s support straddles both federal Liberals and federal Conservatives. On one hand, it is perhaps beneficial for the party formerly known as the BC Liberals to have a foot in both camps, giving Falcon a larger centre-right pool of voters to pull from. On the other, it also means BC United is fighting a two-front war to keep voters from defecting to the Conservatives on its right and bolstering the NDP on its left.
“The BC NDP finds itself as the dominant choice for left-of-centre voters, attracting both federal Liberal and NDP supporters. Vote splitting is still an issue for the party in ridings it competes with the BC Greens, who have traditionally been strong on the island and along the Sunshine Coast. The Greens have attracted one-in-six voters in each of the past two elections,” the report said.
Premier David Eby and the NDP government released its pre-election budget in March, projecting a near $8-billion deficit. Despite this, government spending is not typically seen as a major issue for the NDP’s base (see detailed tables). Instead, for federal NDP and Liberal supporters, health care and affordability are higher priorities. In both cases, while majorities among those groups feel the government is performing poorly on the issues, they are more likely to praise Eby and the NDP’s handling of the files than others.
Despite that criticism, (49%) of federal Liberal supporters and a majority (58%) of federal NDP supporters believe now is not the time for a change in government in B.C. (see detailed tables). This bodes well for Eby and the provincial NDP who currently enjoy the support of a coalition including four-in-five (82%) federal NDP supporters and more than half (57%) of federal Liberal supporters. Falcon and United lead among no federal party supporters but do appear to have more appeal among federal Liberals than Rustad and the BC Conservatives. The BC Conservatives are currently the preferred choice of federal Conservative supporters
The report finds, while the Conservatives have grown in popularity, the party’s coffers aren’t nearly as filled as its rivals as the election nears. The party finished fourth in fundraising behind the NDP ($4.55 million), United ($2.98 million) and Greens ($1.20 million) in 2023, although the $443,000 it raised quintupled the amount it generated the previous year. Further, nearly $300,000 of that came in the final quarter of 2023.
Rustad has been adamant that the Conservatives rise in polls is not simply “brand confusion” with the federal Conservatives. Perhaps to his point, United and Conservative supporters are equally likely to say they don’t have an opinion of their own party leader.