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HomeMiscellanyExclusive: Watts’ internal polling indicates optimism, with two months to go

Exclusive: Watts’ internal polling indicates optimism, with two months to go


Bob Mackin

If internal polling can be believed, one former mayor has a chance to win the BC Liberal leadership race and another one doesn’t. 

Watts in happier times during campaign launch in September (

Dianne Watts’ pollster, Innovative Research Group, surveyed BC Liberal members on the final weekend of November, and claims 30% prefer the former Surrey Mayor on the first ballot. 

The one-page summary leaked to theBreaker contains no details about the polling methodology. Internal polls are not always the most-reliable barometer, because they are not independent and sometimes used strategically to rally volunteers and donors. 

Innovative claims Watts’ closest challenger is Mike de Jong, with 14% first ballot preference, followed by Todd Stone (11%), Andrew Wilkinson (9%), Michael Lee (5%) and ex-Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan (4%). 

But a whopping 27% are in the “don’t know/none of the above” column, which covers those who are undecided or not happy with any of the six candidates. 

The poll was performed after the Nanaimo leadership debate when, the one-page summary says, “Dianne’s performance was mixed. People in the poll did not feel she performed well. However, in spite of that debate, and subsequent negative media commentary, it had no impact on her standing as the leader in the race.” 

On Nov. 27, Watts gathered her campaign team at headquarters in Surrey and read them the riot act: “If any of you are not completely on board with saving this party and this province, then feel free to get out now.”

Watts performed substantially better in the Dec. 2 Kelowna debate, sparring with other candidates in a way she didn’t during previous debates. The other five candidates ran under Christy Clark in the 2017 election and won their seats. Lee is the only rookie MLA, but his backroom includes Clark Clique bigwigs such as Clark’s ex-husband Mark Marissen and Clark’s brother Bruce Clark. 

The summary claims Watts leads with both men and women and is ahead in each region. 

Among those who are “very interested” in the leadership race, Watts leads with 38%. Nearest is Stone at 18%. 

The summary claims Watts has double-digit leads over other candidates in the all-important category of best able to beat the NDP. 

Watts and the other five candidates have, in varying degrees, targeted the NDP and Green push for a referendum on proportional representation in fall 2018. Yet the BC Liberal leadership vote on the first weekend of February will be conducted under a weighted, preferential ballot, with each riding association allotted 100 points, rather than the pure first past the post system. 

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