ME THINKS: Will BC Liberals choose former Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts to lead them? (updated with another poll)

The biggest drawback of Mainstreet Research poll is that it LEAVES OUT Watts


WITH former finance minister Carole Taylor having decided not to enter the BC Liberal leadership race (as reported by The Province’s Mike Smyth on Tuesday), former Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts now seems to be the most likely candidate to be the head honcho.

In fact, a new Insights West poll – based on an online study from August 14 to 17 with a margin of error of 3.5% – shows that Watts has emerged as the only candidate that would place the opposition party in a privileged position.

Dianne Watts
Photo: Facebook

Of course, all that could change once the leadership race starts in real earnest and voters learn more about the various candidates.

Former solicitor general Kash Heed told The VOICE on Tuesday: “I think at the end of the day, you will have four or five legitimate candidates. They won’t declare for quite a while yet. The Liberal Party has not even determined what the leadership race rules will be.”

He pointed out that the party had changed the rules in the last leadership race. In November 2010, the party’s provincial executive decided to change the rules to not only give all members a vote in selecting the next party leader, but also give every region of the province an equal say.

Kash Heed
Photo by Chandra Bodalia

Heed said: “We don’t know if that’s going to hold true this time or not. So at the end of the day, it is really too early to speculate on who is the viable candidate to take over the BC Liberals.”

He added: “Now this causes the Liberals a little bit of concern given the fact that the NDP, in my opinion, will hold office probably for at least two years.”
Heed said that this gives the Liberals time to come up with a dynamic leader to take over the party that has the ability to get the Liberals a majority in the next election.

He noted: “So there is going to be a lot of talk, there’s going to be a lot of speculation.”


IN the Insights West survey, the prospective leadership contenders with the highest favourability ratings are Watts (39%), Sam Sullivan (30%), Mike de Jong (28%), Jas Johal (24%) and Kevin Falcon (23%).

Jas Johal
Photo by Chandra Bodalia

Johal – a former Global TV reporter who left journalism to become director of communications for the B.C. LNG Alliance and who defeated NDP’s Aman Singh by only 134 votes from Richmond-Queensborough – told Smyth that he has decided not to run for the leader’s post, because he felt “it’s just not the right time” for his family.

But Liberals says he is just a novice and will probably wait till the next time.

Insights West found that at least two-in-five residents do not know enough to provide an assessment of Todd Stone (39%), Mike Bernier (also 39%), Andrew Wilkinson (46%), James Moore (49%) and Michael Lee (56%).

When asked how they would vote if the BC Liberals were led by each one of these possible candidates, the BC NDP comes out ahead in match-ups against the opposition party led by Lee (25% to 15%), Wilkinson (26% to 17%), Bernier (also 26% to 17%), Moore (26% to 18%), Stone (26% to 19%), Johal (also 26% to 19%), Sullivan (26% to 20%) and Falcon (26% to 22%).

Mike de Jong 
Photo by Chandra Bodalia

Insights West found that De Jong would place the BC Liberals in a more competitive race (27% to 25% in favour of the BC NDP, or 42% to 38% in favour of the BC Liberals when undecided voters are removed). Watts is the only prospective leader to clearly outperform the governing party (30% to 25% in favour of the BC Liberals, or 44% to 37% when undecided voters are removed).

Mario Canseco, Vice President, Public Affairs, at Insights West, says: “When British Columbians ponder the possibility of Dianne Watts as leader of the BC Liberals, the party’s fortunes change dramatically when compared with other possible contenders. The Watts-led BC Liberals would enjoy a significantly higher level of support from voters aged 55 and over and residents of the Lower Mainland.”


INSIGHTS West also found:

* Across the province, slightly over half of residents (52%) approve of the performance of Premier and BC NDP leader John Horgan, while 31% disapprove.

* Almost half (48%) are satisfied with the performance of Green Party leader Andrew Weaver.

* The rating is significantly lower (28%) for interim BC Liberals leader Rich Coleman.

* The most important issue for British Columbians continues to be housing, homelessness and poverty (36%, +1 since an Insights West poll conducted in May), followed by health care (16%, -3), the economy and jobs (15%, -9) and the environment (12%, +7).

However, it remains to be seen if Watts will be able to garner enough support in the BC Liberal Party to win the leadership contest. Many think she is more hype than substance.

Watts has quite obviously been frustrated because she quit the Surrey mayor’s post to run for the Conservatives in the last federal election and was expected to be appointed a minister in then-prime minister Stephen Harper’s government. Watts was elected as MP from the safe Conservative seat of South Surrey-White Rock, but then Harper lost to Justin Trudeau.


ON Thursday, Free Enterprise B.C. released a survey by Mainstreet Research that it had commissioned that shows that De Jong is best positioned to win an election campaign against Horgan.
The poll, which has a margin of error of 2.18%, tested the names of five potential leadership candidates – Bernier, De Jong, Lee, Stone and Wilkinson – against the NDP and asked British Columbians who they would prefer as BC Liberal leader.

“If British Columbians could vote, Mike de Jong would win the BC Liberal Leadership Race,” said Quito Maggi, President of Mainstreet Research in his written conclusion. “De Jong performs better on the ballot due to his performance in the Lower Mainland. He outperforms the generic ballot and is the only candidate that was tested who outpolled John Horgan.”

However, the biggest drawback of the poll is that it LEAVES OUT Watts!

De Jong on Friday issued this statement: “I appreciate the number of people who have encouraged me to run as a B.C. Liberal leadership candidate. I am also grateful to my caucus colleagues who have reached out with their supportive advice as the party undertakes this important process of renewal.  At this point I am considering whether or not to enter the leadership race and I intend to make that decision in the coming weeks.”