Vancouver’s condo king isn’t big on John Cummins and the B.C. Conservative party.
Real-estate marketer Bob Rennie thinks that it’s “irresponsible” of the party to be “splitting up the free-enterprise vote”. “I think that the Conservatives right now are being selfish and opportunistic,” Rennie told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
Rennie, a prominent supporter of Premier Christy Clark when she sought the leadership of the ruling but beleaguered B.C. Liberal Party, believes that the province cannot afford a divided centre-right vote, especially in these “tough economic times”. He said he’s afraid that this will allow the NDP to walk right up the middle.
“We can’t just lash out and be emotional,” Rennie said. “What we should be doing is working with the Liberal party and working together to stabilize it and having those tough talks with Christy and the Liberal party and make sure that we can satisfy the conservative side and liberal side. But now is not the time to break up the household.”
Cummins is having none of it, primarily because he doesn’t agree that the NDP is really benefiting from the split on the right. “If you look at the polls over the last year, the NDP hasn’t grown,” Cummins told the Straight by phone. “They’ve grown a point or two. That’s within the margin of error. The B.C. public is not flocking to the NDP. And they’re not likely to.”
Pollster Mario Canseco said that Cummins has a point. The vice-president of Angus Reid Public Opinion noted that although the NDP remains on top of the last survey conducted by his company, the party hasn’t improved from the last provincial election.
“The NDP got 42 percent of the vote in the 2009 election and still finished in second place,” Canseco explained in a phone interview with the Straight. “Right now they’re at 43 percent, so it’s roughly the same.”
According to Canseco, the highest that Angus Reid had the NDP in its series of polls since August 2009 was 49 percent. That was in the period before the unpopular Gordon Campbell stepped down as B.C. Liberal leader in November 2010.
Voter support for the B.C. Conservatives has increased from a mere seven percent in August 2009 to 23 percent. They are now tied for second place with the B.C. Liberals, based on Angus Reid survey results released on April 2.
It’s a momentum that gives Cummins a lot of confidence. He doesn’t believe that his party is just going to play a spoiler’s role in the next election, scheduled in May, 2013.
“The public is looking for an honest option,” Cummins said. “They’re tired of the Liberals because of their dishonesty. And they’re afraid of the NDP because of their incompetence when it comes to managing the economy. That’s why B.C. Conservatives are doing as well as they have.”
Cummins, a former Reform and, eventually, Conservative MP, didn’t pass up a chance to take a jab at the federal Liberals. That’s the camp that Clark has long been associated with.
“There’s no entitlement in a democracy to governance,” Cummins said. “Like the federal Liberals have this sense that they’re Canada’s national governing party. And it didn’t matter what they did, people should support [it]. They’re sitting there in Ottawa, and they’re still stunned that somehow or other they’re the third party, not understanding that the reason they’re the third party was that they couldn’t deal honestly with the Canadian public. And we’re in the same situation here in British Columbia.”
But Cummins has to do a better job convincing an increasingly worried centre-right constituency that it has a winner in the B.C. Conservative Party.
Like Rennie, business figure Mark von Schellwitz holds that it doesn’t make sense for the two parties on the right to split the vote. The chair of the Coalition of B.C. Businesses and Western Canada vice-president of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association would like to see the B.C. Liberals and Conservatives working together.
“Policy-wise, I don’t think they’re a lot different,” von Schellwitz told the Straight by phone. “And, certainly, it would be in their best interest to merge.”