© — Telegram file photo
The best news for Premier Kathy Dunderdale Thursday seemed to be that at least things aren’t getting any worse.
According to new poll numbers from Halifax-based Corporate Research Associates, the Tories can count on 26 per cent of decided voters’ support — that’s seven percentage points behind the NDP and 15 points behind the Liberals, who have the support of 41 per cent of decided voters.
After two years of steadily dropping poll numbers, the new results are roughly the same as CRA’s previous poll released in June.
But with only 31 per cent of respondents satisfied with the provincial government — compared to 64 per cent dissatisfied — the situation is looking bleak for Dunderdale and her party.
“In all of our years of polling, we’ve never seen a government re-elected when their satisfaction numbers drop below 50 per cent,” said Margaret Brigley, chief operating officer with CRA. “If they continue to languish, there will be great pressure on the leadership for sure.”
As for the other two parties, Brigley said the Liberals are seeing a bit of a bump due to heavy media coverage of the party’s leadership campaign. The NDP essentially held steady from June’s poll.
The poll surveyed 400 Newfoundland and Labrador residents between Aug. 8-31. It has a margin of error of 4.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
With the Liberals in first place for the first time in a decade, interim Liberal Leader Eddie Joyce was jovial while speaking to The Telegram.
Joyce said that during the next two years the party needs to establish itself as a firm alternative to the PC party.
“What we need to do is put forward a viable option,” he said. “When the new leader takes over, as a caucus and as a Liberal government in waiting, we need to put forward viable options that people can gravitate to.”
Next month marks the halfway point in the government’s mandate, and NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said that she’s not too worried about her party no longer being No. 1 in the polls.
She said she sees the position as stable, and the job now is to steer the party towards the next election.
“I think in the next two years, we continue doing a lot of what we’ve been doing. No. 1 is really listening to the voice of the people and to keep representing the issues they raise,” she said. “Right now, halfway through, you become much more election-driven. At this point in time everything we’re doing, I have to look at how does this affect 2015?”
Dunderdale issued a statement about the poll, saying her party needs to stay true to its principles, but listen to what the public is saying.
“Our foundation is built on values and principles. We will ensure the values that we pride ourselves on are clearly visible to all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians as we move forward,” the emailed statement from Dunderdale said. “There is a message in this for all of us. We are listening to our people. Our government spent the summer months on the ground in communities hearing directly from residents. That was an important process and we will continue to focus on what Newfoundlanders and Labradorians identify as priority areas.”
But within Newfoundland and Labrador political circles, many observers are drawing a different message from the poll numbers: it’s time for Dunderdale to go.
Memorial University associate professor Kelly Blidook said with two years until the next election, there’s definitely time for Dunderdale to turn things around.
However, he said, depending on what Tory politicians are hearing from their constituents, replacing the leader may be a better option.
“The people who actually have to go back and talk to constituents, they’re the ones who probably really have a sense of how they’re really doing and how things are looking,” Blidook said. “And I would think that would be where the MHAs would have a much better sense than what the polls can tell us.”
Blidook said the tough fiscal measures the PCs took last spring — slashing spending and laying off almost 1,000 workers — may be paving the way for a turnaround in the next couple years.
“Sometimes what you do is you overcompensate to a certain degree early, so hopefully it really rights the ship,” he said. “I think, presumably, the PCs are going to be trying to get to a point where they can make some budgets now that look like election budgets.”
But at the same time, Blidook said, if the Tories decide Dunderdale needs to be replaced, then two years isn’t a lot of time to do it.
“I would tend to think that somewhere in the next six months or so, something has got to give or they’ve made their decision (to stick with Dunderdale,)” he said. “Probably their issue comes down to, is there some policy they want to pursue that is different, or do they want to perhaps try with a different leader?”