British Columbia’s election: and so we continue

Walmart under construction, Abbotsford, April 2012

Walmart under construction, Abbotsford, April 2012

In December 2012, Fraseropolis presented a seat-by-seat projection from showing a massive New Democratic Party lead in British Columbia opinion polls. Surveys continued to give the NDP up to a 10-point lead on the weekend before the May 14, 2013 provincial election.

To the astonishment of many people, including myself, and subject to the counting of some mail-in ballots, it appears our new legislature has 50 Liberals, 33 New Democrats, and 2 others. The Liberals enjoyed a five-point edge in the popular vote. Surrey, the North Fraser and B.C.’s southern Interior all showed surprising strength for the Liberals.

There have been countless partial explanations offered for the Liberal victory. But it’s clear, overall, that the New Democrats failed to motivate undecided voters, previous supporters and even party members. The NDP chose a “let’s cut the engines and coast to the dock” strategy, avoiding controversy, and promising to bring about change only in small, convenient increments. The local campaign office near my Maple Ridge home remained locked and dark for weeks after it was rented, and only opened up after the official start of the campaign. On May 15, New Westminster Member of Parliament Peter Julian expressed shock at the weakness of the election day operation.

Premier Christy Clark ran a fearless campaign, ignoring the predictions, stressing the need for low taxes, industrial development and strong leadership. As for the implications of her win for the Lower Mainland, Georgia Straight columnist Charlie Smith pointed out that the Liberal centre of gravity has shifted away from the City of Vancouver into the suburbs. Two senior surburban municipal politicians, Marvin Hunt of Surrey and Peter  Fassbender of Langley, are likely to sit in cabinet. The Premier lost her Point Grey seat, and may well seek a suburban seat in a quick byelection.

Mr. Smith suggests that this shift might speed the development of rapid transit in Surrey, and delay the proposed line through Vancouver to UBC. It seems more likely that the deadlock over who should pay for public transit will continue, making it hard to imagine how any major new transit projects will get done. Premier Christy Clark tackled the issue in a speech on April 19, appearing to reject road pricing as a funding mechanism, and confirming a plan to hold a Metro Vancouver referendum on transit funding in which voters may have the option of choosing “none of the above.” This poses an interesting challenge for Surrey’s Mayor Dianne Watts, also fearless in her campaign style, a rising power, and to this point undefeated in her political career.

3 responses

  1. There’s both good news and bad news with a liberal victory for cities. The bad side is that the liberal have traditionally been car centric, focusing on building record breaking bridges and replacing working tunnels. The liberals have played the divide and conquer game with transit investment. The good news is that there are multiple Civic politicians who will give a good voice for cities: Sullivan, Anton and Fassbender just to name a few.

    About the reason for the outcome: Many people have generated theories about the Liberal victory. It was actually more a NDP collapse. Here are just two reasons: 1) NDP failed to show off their leader 2) The NDP motto of Change divided voters between those who wanted change and did not. The NDP motto encouraged those who did not want change to vote Liberal. Full analysis here:

    • Thanks, Kyle, and I hope you keep blogging. There’s a funny contradiction out there in the world of public opinion: people spend a lot of time complaining about the way things are, but they are equally vocal in opposing change. It struck me during that campaign that the NDP slogan of “Change for the Better” was probably a mistake: they should have chosen the slogan, “Improvement Without Change.”

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