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BC Liberals use taxpayer money for election advantage
  Oct 22, 2004

A targeted survey of 1,080 respondents throughout 14 regions in British Columbia between October 14th and October 21, 2004, beginning on Vancouver Island (October 14th, 2004), throughout Northern and Interior of BC, and concluding in Vancouver City. Respondents had indicated in previous ROBBINS surveys that they were provincial voters and federal voters, and were derived from surveys where over 50% of the time involving BC political history since May 1, 2001 they had voted BC Liberal. The final numbers were adjusted for (1) population distribution and (2) for voter turnout relative to registered voters in the past general provincial election. An additional 100 responses were obtained directly in the BC constituency of Surrey-Panorama. This survey has a margin of error of 1.75 per cent, 19 times out of 20 @99% competency.

Question #1
In BC politics it is a historical reality that 40-41% of public support at election time, will likely win your party a majority government. If it takes a good performance by government to get re-elected and achieve 40-41% per cent of public support than what percentage of public support from 0 to 100% would you say the BC Liberals currently enjoy?
Average    29 %
Question #2
In your opinion do you expect that you will see Gordon Campbell re-elected in May 2005?
Yes    33 %
No    65 %
Question #3
Do you regularly listen to the radio, read the news or watch television?
Yes    71 %
No    29 %
Question #4
Are you specifically aware of any recent television advertising conducted by the BC government which depicts the province of British Columbia in a positive light?
Yes    39 %
No    60 %
Question #5
Are you specifically aware of any recent newspaper advertising in your daily newspaper which depicts the province in a positive light?
Yes    18 %
No    74 %
Question #6
In your opinion should ‘political talk radio’ be prohibited by law from receiving any advertising monies from either Ministries, agencies or Crown Corporations of the BC government to ensure that those radio stations featuring ‘political talk’ are not bias and acting as a propaganda agent for the government in power?
Yes    71 %
No    27 %
Question #7
Would it absolutely disappoint you to see the New Democratic Party voted in to a majority government in May 2005?
Yes    53 %
No    38 %
Question #8
-Do you agree or disagree with this statement? The BC government should not be allowed to use taxpayers dollars to advertise in any capacity nine months before a scheduled general election?
Agree    84 %
Disagree    14 %
Question #9
Would you prefer to see a political party either than the NDP or BC Liberals in power in May 2005?
Yes    37 %
No    63 %
Question #10
Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Critics who argue that the BC Liberals should not be allowed to advertise during provincial by-elections are just plain wrong-
Disagree    89 %
Agree    09 %
Question #11
Currently, we have a minority liberal government in Ottawa, would you find it acceptable if there was a minority government in British Columbia after the May 2005 general provincial election?
Yes    46 %
No    52 %
Question #12
-In your opinion should the BC Liberal government advertising produced in the Vancouver Sun and Province, Surrey Now and Surrey News Leader newspapers during the current Surrey-Panorama by-election be considered as an election expense under the BC Elections Act for the BC Liberal party and its candidate in Surrey-Panorama?
Yes    71 %
No    25 %
Question #13
In your opinion should the BC Liberal party reimburse BC taxpayers for money which has been spent on partisan government advertising during the period of the Surrey-Panorama by-election?
Yes    62 %
No    31 %
Question #14
Do you agree or disagree with this statement? If the BC Liberals win the by-election in Surrey-Panorama, they did so because they cheated and used taxpayer advertising to influence voters in that riding?
Yes    62 %
No    32 %
Question #15
Do you agree with BC taxpayer dollars going to pay for advertising in media including radio, television, and daily and community newspapers owned by large corporations whose major shareholders live outside the province of British Columbia?
Yes    11 %
No    87 %
Question #1 reflects accurately public perception of BC Liberal performance to date. Question #2 reaffirms Question #1 because some respondents believe that there are outside forces that want Campbell’s re-election and are of the opinion that they will be able to achieve it. The New Democrats are in the 40 per cent range consistently in ROBBINS polls over the past six months.
Nearly 40 per cent of “decided” voters would like to see another party other than the NDP or BC Liberals “in power in May 2005”, and 46 per cent who would find a minority government “acceptable”. This means that well under 60 per cent of decided voters are confirmed to be satisfied with either the BC Liberals or the New Democratic Party. This is nearly 30 per cent lower than the numbers ascribed to the BC Liberals or NDP by mainstream press and pollsters for so-called “decided” voters.
The newly emerging advertising political spectacle involving the BC Liberals throughout the province generally, and specifically in Surrey-Panorama during the provincial by-election is not being received well by respondents in this survey. It frustrates and angers most respondents that the government might purchase re-election or public support using their tax dollars (from a commodity driven budget surplus that arguably has come off the back of health care and education) rather than confronting voters squarely on their record.
In question #9 some respondents who disagreed with “cheating” as the operative characterization of BC Liberal conduct, thought the language was too strong. Most respondents who agreed did not. Other respondents who disagreed were comprised mostly of supporters of other political parties who did not believe the BC Liberals would win in Surrey-Panorama.
ROBBINS believes that the mainstream press and pollsters are giving the two mainstream BC political parties, namely the BC Liberals and New Democrats ‘higher polling numbers’ on the basis of public relations or ‘political spin’ and are polluting the political culture in the province as a consequence. For example, the Mustel Group, known primarily as an NDP or labour polling firm, appears to be polling the BC Liberals in the mid 40’s. ROBBINS does not believe that even one time out of 20 the BC Liberals would achieve 45 per cent in a random survey of “decided” voters in the lower mainland of BC. ROBBINS believes this type of ‘push-polling’ is being undertaken purposefully to reflect the cause and affect of BC Liberals using BC tax dollars for advertising.
It is apparent that the mainstream media is not prepared to expend the resources and train its reporters to deal with more than two political parties, which ironically are the only ones with any advertising budgets.
The BC Business Council which has just commenced an advertising campaign in support of their candidate Gordon Campbell, AND is likely doing so as a distraction to the advertising issue relating to taxpayer dollars and the BC Liberals in Surrey-Panorama. However this survey was conducted prior to that campaign’s commencement.
The issue of BC Liberals advertising might get ‘legs’, particularly after some BC voters who watch US politics witnessed ‘527’ advertising issue in United States Presidential election, and the Ad scam debate during the most recent federal general election. In fact, the NDP should consider Petitioning the BC Supreme Court for an ORDER that the government advertising as “targeted” for its electoral benefit in Surrey-Panorama, be declared an election expense under the BC Elections Act. This action might be underscored (or perhaps overwhelmed) by the possibility of legal involvement with provisional balloting in the United States if the Presidential election results there are close. Nevertheless a legal challenge by the NDP would do well to promote their Private Member’s Bill and to underscore it with the involvement of the courts. By doing so, the matter will receive more attention than it properly has by the media, which is too stupefied by the joy of financial gain that advertising generates to properly care.
Advocates for democratic reforms need to determine the amount of money that the BC government is spending on partisan advertising and specifically how much was spent in the period of time leading up to and during the Surrey-Panorama by-election.
Gordon Campbell’s leadership review is coming up in November and both Big Business and the NDP want him to stay on, each for entirely different reasons.
Watch for Mustel to drop the BC Liberals numbers as soon as (1) Campbell is confirmed as BC Liberal leader, and (2) when current BC legislation banning further BC Liberal government advertising with taxpayer dollars kicks in.
If the BC public can be led to conclude that they are provided only two political party choices, than statistically the mainstream has a better chance of achieving an outcome that is desirable to them, notwithstanding whether or not it is good for the BC public or for the province. ROBBINS asserts that it is presumed by the mainstream that this is a safe bet given the narrowing of decision-making which generally occurs down the homestretch in any election, and favours the political parties with advertising money. To wit: the nearly 30 per cent of public support that the NDP and BC Liberals ‘don’t have’ according to ROBBINS can be “bought”, or alternatively won’t show up at the polls.
The Gordon Campbell BC Liberals public support through over eighty independent polls conducted by ROBBINS since 2003 (see reveal a less than 22.5 per cent public satisfaction rate in BC Liberal policy. That is an abysmal record.
ROBBINS is able to hypothesize that this BC Liberal government has advanced policies and decision-making that statistically satisfy slightly more than 1 in 12 registered BC voters. That is clearly not acceptable. Further, it is very dangerous to stable democracy. The temerity of a political party hoping to change its ailing political fortunes by using taxpayer monies for partisan advertising is equally unacceptable.
ROBBINS is able to hypothesize that both Big Business and Big Labour, in conjunction with mainstream media is responsible for the current problems of voter (consumer) dissatisfaction with political processes in the province, which ROBBINS believes is acute.
It is obvious from this survey (and others by ROBBINS) that the mainstream press wants a two party political race between the BC Liberals and New Democrats. It is obvious that this “arrangement” with the establishment is not satisfactory to BC voters. It is obvious that many BC voters would like to see a minority government as a compromise between successive ineffective and controversial NDP and BC Liberal governments. It is obvious that the BC Liberals would be better off without Gordon Campbell, and just as obvious that there are special interest groups who want him to stay for their own benefit.
By introducing the Private Member’s Bill banning advertising during specific times, the NDP is taking the high road on taxpayer funded partisan advertising (notwithstanding their conduct in the past). The BC Liberals cannot reasonably criticize the NDP over their newly identified ‘ethics’, because that would open the door to the NDP citing BC Liberal criticism of NDP taxpayer funded advertising while the NDP was in power. Also, the NDP can say they are new and improved, have changed their ways, and demand legislative reforms in this area. The BC Liberals cannot say this because they are currently guilty of it. The NDP can rather easily make the case that the BC Liberals are ‘cheaters’, and that a new law is required to stop the purchase of democracy through taxpayer funded advertising. This is a very serious issue, and the outcome of the Surrey-Panorama by-election could end up fueling even greater debate, particularly if the BC Liberals win.

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