New Democrat Leader Lorraine Michael seemed to be trying to stay modest about the latest poll that puts her ahead of Premier Kathy Dunderdale.
But Michael also made it clear that people should start looking at the NDP as a potential alternative government to the Tories.
“We are a force to be reckoned with,” Michael said. “We do know issues. We know how to deal with issues.”
The latest quarterly poll by Corporate Research Associates (CRA) puts the NDP in first place with 39 per cent of decided voters.
The PC Party is one point behind with 38 per cent, and the Liberals have 22 per cent support among decided voters. Twenty six per cent of voters are undecided according to the poll.
The poll results were awash with bad news for Dunderdale and her government.
Support for the PC Party has been steadily dropping for the past year, and Dunderale’s personal popularity as premier is going down as well.
Worse still, for the first time in recent memory, more people say they’re unhappy with the government’s performance.
“In February of last year, only 21 per cent of the population was dissatisfied with this government. Now it’s 52 per cent,” said Don Mills, CEO of CRA.
“That is significant. We rarely have seen that level of dissatisfaction built over such a short period of time.”
Mills said that with 2 1/2 years before the next scheduled election, a lot can change, but at the moment, the NDP should be seen as a “government in waiting” and the main alternative to Dunderdale and the Tories.
“They’ve been slowly building up their support among the public. Their leader is now seen to be a reasonable alternative. It’s rare that an opposition leader is as popular as a premier, and we’re at a situation where they’re at least equally popular,” Mills said. “The conditions are in place for the NDP to make a significant breakthrough in the next election.”
Dunderdale brushed off the poll results. She said it’s not what she likes to see, but in the past few months her government has been making some un-popular decisions because it believes it’s the right thing to do.
“We have a history in this province where we see governments didn’t do that. They tried to buy people’s votes. They tried to be popular by doing all kinds of things that at the end of the day we couldn’t afford,” she said. “There’s solidarity within our party. We understand what it is we’re doing and where we’re going. We understand the impact of having to make difficult decisions and what that’s going to do. We have confidence in what we’re doing.”
The poll wasn’t especially good news for Liberal Leader Dwight Ball either; his party has been stuck in third place, hovering around 20 per cent of decided voters’ support.
Despite the fact that Ball’s party is substantially behind either of the other two parties, he insisted that politically, the province is in a three-way race right now.
“As we go around the province (what we hear) consistently is that people are ready for change, and I think the poll today certainly demonstrates that,” he said. “This is certainly a three-party race right now. For us, right now, we’ve been in the rebuilding mode.”
Ball said he hopes that the NDP’s lead in the polls will encourage voters to scrutinize the New Democrats more closely, and really understand what sort of government policies they’re calling for.
“There’s a lot of questions that need to be asked in terms of policy,” he said. “I encourage people to take a look at where an NDP government would actually take the province.”
The CRA poll surveyed 400 Newfoundland and Labrador residents between Feb. 11 and March 8. It is considered accurate within a margin of error of 4.5 per cent 19 times out of 20.