The pollsters, pundits and the self-styled rebels of the B.C. Liberal Party were struggling for answers as their conventional wisdom went out the window on election night.
In came the B.C. Liberals and Christy Clark for a fourth term, with a 50-seat majority that is stronger than the one they took into the 2013 election.
“Welcome to the club,” Alberta Premier Alison Redford wrote on Twitter on election night, referring to Redford’s own win in the face of a wall of polls and pontificators saying she was done.
Here’s the next thing to ignore from the media experts who rub shoulders with those pollsters and political strategists. It’s all about the negative ads, they will say, and NDP leader Adrian Dix’s big mistake was to run a “positive” campaign.
Rubbish. Was their long fight against the harmonized sales tax a positive campaign? Is piling on sham environmental reviews for the express purpose of killing industrial projects a positive idea?
“Clearly our message didn’t get out the way we wanted it to get out,” Dix said after watching one of the biggest comebacks in Canadian political history.
That’s rubbish too. He got his message out just fine, serving it up in bite-sized pieces in a classic front-runner’s campaign that cynically put off the most difficult choices. He was going to expand government, and restrict industrial development to appease urban voters.
Dix’s most dramatic policy shift contributed to his undoing. Mid-campaign, in a decision that surprised even his platform co-chairs, Dix turned against the proposal to twin the TransMountain oil pipeline that winds across B.C. from Alberta to Burnaby. Well, not the pipeline itself, but the prospect of more oil tankers in and out of Vancouver harbour.
At least now, more people will understand that Vancouver has been an oil port for nearly a century, and that Canada’s future includes energy development. More people should also appreciate that environmental assessment is not a political game.
Andrew Weaver made history as B.C.’s first Green Party MLA. He came out swinging against Clark’s economic holy grail, development of liquefied natural gas exports from the North Coast.
Weaver calls LNG a “pipe dream” that will never materialize. It will be interesting to watch him as he is proved wrong on that, and then as he grapples with gas as a transition fuel that can be used to develop clean energy infrastructure.
B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins ran a distant third in his Langley constituency, and his goal of a breakthrough didn’t materialize anywhere. His idea of scrapping the carbon tax on fossil fuels didn’t impress many people, despite his focus on rural and northern B.C.
Clark should heed the NDP on at least one thing. Dix promised to move B.C. election dates to the fall, starting in 2017. The idea of giving his anticipated government an extra six months to govern the province was uncontroversial when Dix proposed it in his party’s election platform, so Clark will probably proceed with it.
Another NDP idea Clark should adopt is getting the corporate and union money out of election campaigns. She likely won’t, because her party’s financial advantage is too great, but the time has come for this important reform.
The B.C. Liberals’ much-discussed “balanced” budget will now be put to the test over the next few months. The legislature must be convened by September to debate that budget.
This should be the last vote based on an untested budget, and the first of many scheduled fall legislature sessions.
Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com