News / Vancouver

Pollster predicts minority government as B.C. Election Day arrives, contenders in dead heat

Forum poll predicts 42-42 seat split, Greens gaining, after month-long campaign fraught with attack ads, personal jabs and affordability talk pitted against jobs and the environment.

A Vancouver voter casts her ballot in advance polls in the 2017 B.C. election.

Jennifer Gauthier / Metro

A Vancouver voter casts her ballot in advance polls in the 2017 B.C. election.

B.C. Liberals and NDP are in a statistical dead heat heading into election day Tuesday, a new Forum Research opinion poll released late Monday suggests.

It’s been arguably the most vicious election campaign in British Columbia’s recent memory. Over the past month, B.C. Liberals, New Democrats and Greens have duked it out with attack ads, personal jabs and testy debates.

The campaign hasn’t been without substance: It’s also brought some big issues to the fore, such as jobs, affordability, child care, health care, the environment, and the role of “big money” in politics.

Tuesday is election day across B.C., and voting opens from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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If the latest opinion polls are any indication, the race has ended with John Horgan’s B.C. NDP neck-and-neck with Christy Clark’s B.C. Liberals and stark regional differences at play.

The Greens, reaching their highest-ever results in final weeks, could still play a decisive role — either by increasing their seats from their one MLA, or siphoning votes from other parties particularly the NDP.

According to a new opinion poll from Forum Research, released to Metro on Monday evening, the B.C. NDP and B.C. Liberals were in a statistical tie with NDP leading with 41 per cent of the popular vote, and B.C. Liberals with 39 per cent. Greens had fallen since previous polls, to 17 points.

“The race has been very close,” said Forum Research president Lorne Bozinoff in a phone interview. “Over the last week, the two parties have been see-sawing back and forth. But when you take the margin of error into consideration, we’ve seen the parties essentially tied … The polls have tightened up to nearly dead even."

The pollster, who came closest of all polls to call the results in the B.C. Liberals' 2013 provincial election surprise win, also predicted that both the B.C. Liberals and the NDP would tie with only 42 Legislature seats, less than the 44 needed to hold a majority.

The Greens were expected to win two, with one seat "other," meaning Andrew Weaver could wield an historic level of influence if a minority government comes to pass after Tuesday.

Other polls the day before election day, however, varied.

According to veteran poll analyst Eric Grenier — whose multi-poll averaging predictions are featured on CBC News — the B.C. NDP would get 39.9 per cent of the popular vote, and B.C. Liberals statistically tied at 39.4 per cent. He places the Greens at nearly 18 per cent.

Despite the tied predictions, however, Grenier’s seat predictions suggest that the B.C. Liberals could win a majority government with 45 MLAs, the B.C. NDP with 40, and Greens adding one seat to their caucus of two MLAs.

Another poll, Insights West, released Monday suggested a straight tie of 41 per cent for each of the B.C. Liberals and NDP, and Greens with 17 points. But B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark trailed in popularity (38 per cent) as a leader behind Greens' Andrew Weaver (46 per cent) and NDP's John Horgan (42 per cent). Its margin of error was 3.5 points, and sample size 744 voters.

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But in 2013, pollsters didn’t foresee the frontrunner B.C. NDP being trounced by the B.C. Liberals. Forum Research came closest of the various polls then, but it led to much hand-wringing about whether to trust pollsters at all.

“It’s a mugs game to try to figure out which one poll is more accurate than another,” Bozinoff mused. “We’ll of course know after the election, but not before.”

“I wouldn’t worry about any one particular poll. I’d take them all together and average them for a better indication.”

One reason pollsters were so wrong last time, he said, was because of a last-minute shift in the electorate away from the B.C. NDP despite a significant lead earlier in the election campaign.

“Some polls may have stopped too early to catch the change. That was one of the lessons from the previous election and the accuracy of the polls then,” he said. “Something can happen in the last day or two, and we want to get that reaction. You want to make sure no intervening events happen between your survey and election day.”

Forum Research conducted its poll of 1,076 B.C. residents using automated phone Interactive Voice Response. Results were within a three per cent margin of error, 19 times out of 20.

How to vote
Election Day is Tuesday, May 9 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. There are lots of voting stations across Metro Vancouver. To find out more about when and where to vote, visit Elections B.C.'s Where To Vote app.

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