NDP scare in Victoria reflects a problem facing Adrian Dix
On paper, there's no way the NDP should have even come close to losing yesterday's federal by-election in Victoria. The seat, which was once held by prime minister John A. MacDonald, has been safely in the hands of the New Democrats since 2006.
In 2011, incumbent Denise Savoie took 50.78 percent of the votes. Back then, Green candidate Jared Giesbrecht was back in fourth place with just 11.61 percent.
Four well-known New Democrats squared off for the nomination to succeed Savoie, with highly regarded environmental lawyer Murray Rankin winning in a landslide.
But a funny thing happened on the way to his coronation to the House of Commons. Green candidate Donald Galloway's campaign caught fire, and he ended up fewer than three percentage points behind Rankin on election day.
Rankin's vote percentage of 37.23 was the lowest for a New Democrat in Victoria since the former mayor, David Turner, was defeated by Liberal cabinet minister David Anderson in 2004.
That's a fairly weak performance by a party trying to convince Canadians that it's the government in waiting. The federal New Democrats have also fallen behind the federal Liberals in recent opinion polls.
Poor nomination turnouts
Meanwhile, former NPA council candidate Mike Klassen has pointed out that the B.C. NDP has not drawn very many members to some high-profile nomination fights in Vancouver.
In the winnable seat of Vancouver-Fairview, former public-sector union leader George Heyman managed a mere 221 votes compared to 161 for councillor Geoff Meggs.
Compare that to more than 6,000 who voted in the Vision Vancouver nomination race in 2008.
In the winnable riding of Vancouver-Fraserview, the turnout was even lower in an NDP nomination fight between two well-known candidates. The 2009 candidate, Gabriel Yiu, won with 130 votes compared to just 95 for Coun. George Chow.
The NDP fight in Vancouver—False Creek also didn't exactly set the neighbourhood on fire, with Matt Toner edging park commissioner Constance Barnes.
Leader Adrian Dix and the B.C. NDP are still polling exceptionally well across the province. And it seems that the public is never going to fall in love with the premier, Christy Clark, judging by her personal disapproval ratings.
The last Angus Reid poll had the B.C. NDP leading the B.C. Liberals by 18 percentage points.
Even still, the results in the Victoria federal by-election should be cause for concern for Dix. The NDP's failure to attract large numbers of people to its Vancouver nominations is another sign that the party cannot be complacent.
Advertising is getting through
Meanwhile, it appears that those brutal Conservative radio attack ads on leader Thomas Mulcair are taking a toll on the federal New Democrats. These messages push the lie that Mulcair supports a $20-billion carbon tax.
Nobody, least of all those in the media, likes to admit that they're influenced by advertising. But since these Conservatives negative ads have gone over the airwaves, the federal New Democrats have slid in the polls.
Dix and his party are probably also going to pick up some of the stain of these messages, which emphasize how Canadians "can't afford the NDP".
The B.C. NDP is really fighting a two-front war
These attack ads are Stephen Harper's way of softening the ground under the provincial New Democrats and helping the B.C. Liberals in advance of the next provincial election.
And the federal ads coincide with the B.C. Liberal government bombarding voters with ads trumpeting the B.C. Jobs Plan.
It's starting to look like the B.C. NDP is in a two-front war against both the B.C. Liberals and federal Conservatives. What's worse for Dix is that this means the resources of both the provincial and federal governments may align against his party in increasingly visible ways in the coming months.
There will be "good-news announcements"—we've already seen this with a recent infrastructure project in Langley—and lots of ominous suggestions that the rise of the B.C. NDP will threaten B.C.'s and Canada's fragile economic recovery.
It probably won't be enough to stop the election of Dix as B.C.'s next premier, but it could slow his momentum somewhat.
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.