COLUMN: Freefalling, fumbling for parachute

WRIGHT TURN: Lies, damn lies and statistics. And polls.

Lies, damn lies and statistics. And polls.

The above phrase, minus the insertion of polls, refers to the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the ability to twist or cherry-pick statistics to support whatever argument one might choose.

The addition of polls seems a natural fit, since despite pollsters’ assertions regarding the accuracy of their work, polls, especially political polls ahead of an election, are so often inaccurate.

The latest political poll for B.C. would have the B.C. Liberals all but annihilated, if a general election were held today.

It would be an oddly flip-flopped mirror image of the 2001 election (was it really 11 years ago?) when the NDP were crushed by Gordon Campbell and reduced to two seats.

The entire Island would again be an NDP stronghold, with the current four Liberal-held ridings usurped.

Maybe it’s a carry-over from the federal NDP’s Orange Crush, which pushed them into official Opposition status in Ottawa last spring or the same party’s recent leadership campaign, or perchance it’s a result of former MP now B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins making provincial political hay.

Cummins, whose surprising upstart party got a jolt of additional legitimacy when veteran politician and former Liberal cabinet minister John van Dongen jumped ship to give the Conservatives its first and only member sitting in the legislature in Victoria.

Cummins’s party is now in a dead-heat with Christy Clark’s Liberals for second place, with the Adrian Dix-led NDP well out in front and widening the gap.

Whatever is behind the latest numbers, it doesn’t mean much, despite what so many other media outlets, writers, talk-show blabbers and pundits would have you believe.

It’s just one poll more than a year from the next (if the scheduled election law holds up) provincewide vote. As with any polling done this far ahead of the only one that matters, it’s just fodder for the media and political junkies to have something to talk about.

Granted, there is a measure of truth within the results – but there are another 13 months (again, provided we stick to the fixed election date) to see just how much truth.

For now, the Liberals, one year in Clark’s premiership, are bleeding popular support like a stuck pig.

And regardless of what they do – change the leader, change the chief of staff, change the press secretary, roll out new spending, reannounce old spending, bring in Preston Manning for a pep talk, launch attack ads on the primary opponent – the Liberals can’t catch a break.

There are some obvious correlations to past situations.

Flashing back even further than the decimation of the New Democrats in 2001, the current political reality is more reminiscent of the period leading up to the 36th B.C. general election.

Following the 1996 vote, which put Mike Harcourt successor Glen Clark (no relation to Christy, despite the apparent political correlation) in the driver’s seat with a narrow majority, Clark quickly drove his party’s popularity into the ground.

Regardless what was done, the party could not right the ship (the B.C. Ferries FastCat debacle, a Clark pet project, certainly didn’t help) and recover.

The result was Campbell’s easy walk to victory.

So here we sit again, more than a year from the fixed election date, with a government apparently in a popularity free-fall and scrambling for a parachute that actually deploys properly and brings the party to a safe, secure landing on its feet.

Rather than declaring the Liberals dead while they’re still plummeting, perhaps we should wait and see if they bounce, either before or after they hit bottom.

At the very least, we the voters should be considering the alternatives available if they don’t.

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