NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair delivered a campaign-style speech to a packed room at the Victoria Conference Centre Thursday night, telling the crowd the NDP hopes to ride a wave of popularity to win the next federal election.
“We did it in Quebec in 2011, we did it in Alberta last week, and we’ll do it from coast to coast to coast on Oct. 19,” he said to cheers.
Mulcair stressed a number of NDP commitments, including strengthening the middle class, bringing in a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage and providing cheaper child care in B.C., which has the second-highest child-care costs in the country.
“We’ll fix that and deliver one million $15-a-day child-care spaces across Canada,” he said.
In an attempt to colour Vancouver Island orange, Mulcair has visited several times — twice in March alone.
This week, a new poll of B.C. residents from Insights West found Mulcair has a 52 per cent approval rating, slightly ahead of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau at 46 per cent and Green party Leader Elizabeth May at 44 per cent, and leaps and bounds in front of Prime Minister Stephen Harper at 35 per cent.
Mulcair, once judged an aloof politician from Quebec, is now getting higher numbers in B.C. polls than the late NDP leader Jack Layton got in federal elections in 2004, 2006 and 2008, pollster Mario Canseco said.
“To be five months away from an election at a 52 per cent rating — that shows they are connecting,” Canseco said.
“[Mulcair] is the one talking about Bill C-51. He’s the one talking about [suspended senator] Mike Duffy. The way [Mulcair] has behaved in the House is something that many people who are voting here are actually paying attention to.”
But when people were asked who would make the best prime minister, Harper is in first place with 27 per cent, followed by Mulcair with 22 per cent, Trudeau with 19 per cent and May with six per cent, the poll found.
If Mulcair is targeting the Island in the belief that the Greens — at 20 per cent support on the Island — will draw votes from the NDP — at 47 per cent support — that may be a mistake, because the Greens draw from all parties, the pollster said. “The Green vote in reality is coming from everywhere,” Canseco said. “I think the real danger for [the NDP] is if the Greens decide to do what they did in the last election, and focus their money to get just one or maybe two people elected, like if that person they are targeting is [Victoria NDP MP] Murray Rankin.”
Rankin said before Mulcair’s speech that he doesn’t worry about such things.
“I’m running to beat Stephen Harper, and that’s the only thing that gets me up in the morning.”
Canseco said a preferable strategy for the NDP on Vancouver Island, which is highly concerned with environmental issues, is to suggest it can form a government to deliver on its environmental agenda.
Overall, the NDP would win the popular vote in B.C. if a federal election were held tomorrow, the poll found. The new survey found 35 per cent of decided voters in B.C. would cast their vote for the New Democrats, compared with 29 per cent for the Conservatives, 25 per cent for the Liberals and 10 per cent for the Greens.
The poll results are based on an online survey of 814 British Columbians conducted from May 7 to 9. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.