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Majority oppose $789-million museum rebuild, says pollster

69 per cent oppose the multi-year museum-replacement project and 22 per cent support it, says a poll by Angus Reid Institute
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A new Angus Reid poll says 69 per cent oppose the $789-million project while one in five, or 22 per cent, support it. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

A majority of British Columbians oppose the $789-million rebuild of the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria announced by the provincial government last month, says pollster Angus Reid Institute.

A new poll says 69 per cent oppose the project while 22 per cent support it.

“If there was ever a museum of political gaffes built in British Columbia, the roll-out of the Royal B.C. Museum’s rebuild could occupy a gallery of its own,” said the pollster.

The pushback on the replacement of the museum — one of the province’s top tourist attractions, housing seven million artifacts — comes amid concern about inflation and cost of living increases, says the pollster.

Presented with the five options the government said it explored for the museum, 62 per cent would have maintained the status quo and not undertaken a rebuild as announced. Only 18 per cent agree with the plan.

Premier John Horgan and and Culture Minister Melanie Mark have been under fire for a lack of consultation since announcing the 10-year museum project, which they say was motivated by seismic risks, hazardous materials and a lack of space in the existing building, which opened in 1968.

The plan includes closing the museum on Sept. 6 for construction of a new building set to open in 2030. B.C. Archives services would remain open at the downtown site until it moves to its new permanent home in Colwood in 2025. IMAX Victoria, the museum gift shop and food trucks would stay open through early 2023.

A week after announcing the plan on May 13, Horgan expressed profound regret that it landed with such “a thud” and said he understands the enormous pressures on taxpayers amid record-high gas prices and inflation. A week later, the government announced the business case for the rebuild, saying repairing the current building would cost more.

While the preservation of B.C.’s historical artifacts and displays resonated with some, others said staff shortages in health care and cost of living pressures are higher concerns.

Asked to identify top priorities, those polled ranked cost of living first at 61 per cent, followed by health care at 47 per cent, housing affordability at 43 per cent and the environment and climate change at 34 per cent. Interest in the province’s COVID response was at six per cent in mid June, down from 44 per cent in March.

Seven in 10 say the government is performing poorly when it comes to each of these top three issues, with 87 per cent saying the B.C. NDP are doing a poor job on housing affordability.

Despite this, the B.C. NDP holds an 11-point advantage in how those polled say they intend to vote — with 42 per cent support versus 31 for the opposition B.C. Liberals. The B.C. Green Party is supported by 15 per cent of would-be voters, said the pollster.

B.C. Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon is viewed favourably by 23 per cent of British Columbians and unfavourably by 44 per cent, and 32 per cent are uncertain.

The Angus Reid Institute conducted the online survey June 7-13, among a representative randomized sample of 615 B.C. adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. The polling sample size comes with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by Angus Reid Institute.

Horgan’s approval rating dropped seven points this quarter to 48 per cent in a recent poll. That’s down from 55 per cent in March and a high of 71 per cent in May 2020.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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