The bad news just keeps accumulating for Premier Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals, and there's little to suggest that pattern is going to change in their favour anytime soon.
The latest disappointment for them is the latest Angus Reid poll, which shows Clark and her gang got absolutely no bounce in the polls from her pipeline announcement. Indeed, it is the NDP that is growing in popularity, while the B.C. Liberals are stuck in the polls, unable to get any traction at all with voters.
The poll followed on the heels of revelations of increased credit card spending in a number of government ministries, including Clark's office.
While there are a lot of misconceptions about such spending - thousands of dollars spent at a 7-Eleven might look suspicious, until you realize it was for bus passes and phone cards for children in government care, for example - the fact is some of them are the kind of expenditures that can create anger among taxpayers.
Take Clark's office spending at five-star restaurants like Bishop's and Cioppino's in Vancouver for example. While the explanation for such spending may be acceptable to many (the dinners were for visiting premiers attending a conference), lavish dinners also paint a picture of a politician living it up at the expense of taxpayers.
The vast majority of people will never, ever eat at a five-star restaurant. And so they will question why they should foot the bill for their elected representatives to do so.
Now much, if not almost all, of this credit card spending can no doubt be attributed to the cost of doing business. Indeed, the provincial government can be likened to a company that spends more than $43 billion a year and employs more than 30,000 people. Obviously, a lot of expenses are going to be incurred in an organization of that size.
But the Angus Reid poll shows, once again, that a critical problem faces the B.C. Liberals. Simply put, the public has either tuned them out, or do not afford them the benefit of the doubt on pretty well any issue, and that likely includes the expenses issue.
As I wrote in this space last week, I thought Clark's pipeline position and fight with Alberta Premier Alison Redford might hold the possibility of resonating with voters in a way she had been unable to do with other issues.
Obviously, this didn't happen. In fact, her party declined by one point to just 22 per cent of decided voters. The NDP, meanwhile, continues to grow in popularity and is now approaching 50 per cent.
The breakdown of the poll's other findings reveal just what a bleak situation the B.C. Liberals find themselves in. Pick a category - region, gender, income level, age demographics - and the party trails in pretty well everything.
For example, just 15 per cent of decided female voters say they would back B.C.'s woman premier and her party - an astounding finding. The NDP also leads in all three age demographics, and among almost all income groups.
The B.C. Liberals have also lost the support of half the people who voted for them in 2009. They trail the NDP in all regions of the province, creating the potential for a scenario similar to the 2001 election results, except in reverse.
The NDP is now poised to win seats in the Okanagan and parts of the Fraser Valley, areas usually unfriendly to the party. As much as the B.C. Liberals winning a seat like Vancouver-Kingsway in 2001 was unthinkable, so too is the NDP winning in Kelowna - but it now ranks as a very real possibility.
So the pipeline ploy didn't work for Clark. I suspect this latest dust-up over her expenses will further cement her problems. When people aren't listening to you - or choose simply not to believe anything you say - it becomes impossible to make your case on any subject, whether it's pipelines or expense accounts.
As the next election draws nearer, it's a safe bet to assume the bad news will continue to accumulate for the ruling party. The pattern has been set, and there's little chance of it being altered in any great way. Even a change in leadership - as remote a possibility that it is - appears unlikely to right their ship.
Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC Keith.Baldrey@globalnews.ca
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