ALBERON -- The P.E.I. Progressive Conservative Party’s interim leader, Steven Myers and provincial tourism minister Robert Henderson agree the latest Corporate Research Associates polling numbers reflect a degree of dissatisfaction with the governing Liberals.
And, while Myers says the Liberals deserved to take a beating in the public opinion poll, Henderson suggests the numbers are a response to some of the tough decisions his party has had to make.
The two most startling numbers in the poll are the Liberals’ 10 per cent drop in support among decided voters, slipping to 42 per cent, and the 11 per cent gain for the Island New Democrats to sit at 32 per cent, its best showing ever.
The Tories actually went up a point to 23 per cent level of support, but the NDP’s gain has sent the PCs to third place.
“They deserve to come down 10 points,” Myers said of the governing Liberals. “They are not exactly doing a bang-up job.”
“I think people are kind of just showing their discontent a little bit and putting the support on to the NDP at this point,” Henderson suggested. He said Islanders still have not seen the benefits of tough Liberal decisions, like the implementation of the harmonized sales tax (HST) and the health care reforms. He believes Islanders views will shift around once they see the additional tax revenue the HST brings in for the province and once the health reforms are fully implemented, such as the Collaborative Emergency Care model in Alberton and a new manor in Tyne Valley.
“Those are things we’ll see benefits from down the road, and hopefully our party and our government will reap the benefits of that in public opinion,” Henderson predicted.
Myers is unconcerned with his numbers which have him a distant third among party leaders with 13 per cent support. That’s actually up two points from three months ago, but NDP leader Mike Redmond jumped from 15 to 24 per cent during that same period and Premier Robert Ghiz slid seven points to 31 per cent support.
Myers said he has been very clear with his party and with voters that he does not plan to seek the party’s permanent leadership. “Whenever you’re being polled and asked the question, ‘Who would make the best premier?’ it’s pretty hard to pick a guy who says, ‘I’m not going to be the premier,’” he acknowledged.
He is, however, counting on the yet-to-be-scheduled Tory leadership convention giving his party a fresh start and a decided jump in public opinion.
“My job is to get the party ready for our new leader and that’s what I’m working on right now. Those numbers will never be reflected in the poll, but that’s okay, too,” Myers expressed.
“What we need to focus on is the long-term survival for this province,” assessed the interim leader. “We’re in a really tough financial situation that this government’s gotten us into. I think, when it becomes very clear the damage financially that these people have done, this current government, I think that will become the issue.”
Henderson, who comes from the only P.E.I. riding that has ever elected an NDP member, said he has not gotten a sense of resurgence of support for the NDP in his district of O’Leary-Inverness.
“It just shows that the public can make decisions, and they can vote any which way they so choose, but I think there are still factors that still come to bear, such as in the candidates and all of those things, even the scrutiny of the leaders. In Mike Redmond’s case, he really hasn’t been put under any microscope or any scrutiny whatsoever.”
He suggested the Liberals’ support will swing back around when Islanders take a close look at the parties’ policies, the leaders and the candidates.
“There are a lot of factors that would make it pretty speculative to say this poll is a reflection of what an election would be in 2015 or 2016,” Henderson insisted.