The Teflon-like coating the BC NDP government has been adorned with for quite some time shows little sign of fading, if a recent poll by the Angus Reid Institute is any indication.
Despite a string of controversies (not the least of which is the Royal BC Museum replacement project; more on that down below) the poll released last week shows the NDP government continues to sail along atop public opinion.
While the poll found solid (69 per cent) opposition to the museum scheme (just four per cent strongly support it) it also showed the NDP is the current choice of 42 per cent of the voters compared to just 31 per cent for the BC Liberals.
More tellingly, many people are willing to stick with the NDP even though the government is failing those same people on the issues they rank highest in importance: cost of living, health care and housing affordability.
The government gets failing grades on all three issues (81 per cent on cost of living, 89 per cent on housing and 76 per cent on health care) yet these bleak numbers do not translate into more support for the BC Liberals.
This situation shows the public is still willing to cut the NDP government a lot of slack despite its performance in key areas.
It also shows just how much more work the BC Liberals have cut out for them as they struggle to regain credibility with the voting public.
New party leader Kevin Falcon’s job rating numbers are not good: just 23 per cent approve of his performance, while 44 per cent disapprove. A fairly high number (32 per cent) have not really heard of him, which gives him some potential room to boost his approval numbers as we draw ever closer to the next election.
But one other number in that poll must give the BC Liberals pause for concern. That would be the 10 per cent showing for the BC Conservative Party, and it is safe to say many people in that camp are disaffected or would-be BC Liberal voters.
Perhaps this situation explains Falcon’s bolt-from-the-blue announcement last week calling for not only the end of vaccine mandates for health care workers but also the reinstatement of unvaccinated health care employees back into their jobs.
This represents the first time the BC Liberals have opposed a public health order since the pandemic began. Given that opposition to vaccine mandates runs highest in conservative segments of society, it is hard not to view this as nothing more an attempt to woo more conservatives into the party fold.
Allowing about 2,000 unvaccinated people to work in hospitals and long-term care homes seems rather risky. Absences among health care workers are already running at about 10 per cent every week, about double pre-pandemic levels, and it is almost entirely because people keep contracting the COVID-19 virus.
Placing 2,000 unvaccinated people in workplace settings in hospitals and long-term care homes would likely increase the COVID-19 case count, meaning even more staff shortages at a time when they have become critically high.
The Angus Reid poll showed just six per cent of the population are concerned about the COVID-19 response from the government and public health, the lowest-ranked issue of all.
The BC Liberals want to start putting some tents in the BC NDP’s Teflon coating, but I am not sure opposing public health orders that the vast majority of the population seems to back is the right way to go about that.
Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.