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Horgan popularity plummets below half of British Columbians approval

Premier John Horgan’s popularity is on a downward trend following the billion dollar “vanity” museum controversy and unaffordability crisis.

According to an Angus Reid Institute poll issued Tuesday, the B.C. NDP leader has a 48 percent approval rating, down seven points from the previous poll in March and his lowest approval rating since the outbreak began.

In June 2020 Horgan’s popularity peaked at 71%., when B.C. had just emerged from the first wave of COVID-19 and appeared to be performing better than other provinces in terms of curbing the virus’s transmission, 

Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute, said the epidemic has been overshadowed by affordability issues including rising gas prices, home prices, and inflation, all of which have British Columbians appealing to the government for help.

“Cost of living is really usurping (the pandemic) as the number-one, top-of-mind issue,” Kurl said. As a result, unlike during the pandemic’s state-of-emergency phase, opposition parties are no longer restrained in their criticism of the government.

Many critics have pounced on the controversial $789-million plan to demolish and replace the Royal British Columbia Museum, claiming that government expenditure should be prioritized to address the doctor shortage and seismic upgrades to schools.

While the museum is unlikely to be the sole reason for Horgan’s lukewarm support, Kurl believes it is part of a “basket of issues” that has hardened public opinion. Kurl stated that Angus Reid is doing polling on the museum proposal, which will be announced later this week.

According to Stewart Prest, a political scientist at Simon Fraser University, the museum replacement price tag and the manner in which the project was publicised has proven to be a political nightmare for the government that shows no signs of abating.

Prest believes that growing displeasure with a government after five years in power is unavoidable, and that blaming the previous administration is no longer an effective strategy.

“We have an ongoing doctor shortage in B.C., there are some schools that haven’t been built that were promised,” Prest added, referring to news last week that the government is delaying previously pledged capital money for new schools or seismic upgrades of current schools. “The record that any government accumulates over time, there are going to be a growing list of frustrations for people.”

After Christy Clark’s Liberal government lost power in 2017, the NDP enjoyed a long honeymoon period, according to Kurl, but it looks that stage is coming to an end.

Horgan remains Canada’s third-most popular premier, after only Nova Scotia’s Tim Houston (62% approval rating) and Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe (51%).

“It’s not a crisis of Horgan’s leadership yet,” Kurl said. “No one should be hitting the panic button within the ranks of the NDP.”

The only provincial leaders to see an increase in popularity ratings were Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who was recently re-elected, and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who both witnessed a two-point increase to 45 percent and 32 percent, respectively.

Kenney said last month that he will resign as leader of the United Conservative Party after winning a confidence vote with 51 percent of the vote.

A representative randomised sample of 5,032 Canadians who are members of the Angus Reid Forum participated in an online survey conducted by the polling firm from June 7 to 13. The poll has a 19-times-out-of-20 margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.

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