By Malcolm Baxter
Barring a colossal blunder by the New Democrats between now and next May’s election, the Liberals are going to be tossed out of office.
Anticipating her candidates in the two recent byelections were going to get a drubbing, premier Christy Clark had prepared the ground by warning that a split right wing vote would let the socialist hordes in the door.
And, superficially, she was proved correct in the case of the Chilliwack-Hope result.
NDP candidate Gwen O’Mahony was elected with 41 per cent while the combined total for the Libs and BC Conservatives was 56 per cent.
However, saying the split cost the Liberals the seat assumes that those who voted Conservative would, in the absence of a candidate from that party, have voted Liberal. I would suggest that is a desperate fiction. The presence of a BC Conservative candidate did indeed give disaffected Libs the chancey to register their protest at the antics of the government.
But if that avenue of sending a message to the government had not been available, there is little doubt those who had voted Liberal last time around would likely have gone with the alternative: stay at home on polling day.
And in Port Moody-Coquitlam there was no such excuse: Joe Trasolini took a clear majority of the votes with 54 per cent – more than the Libs’ share in their 2009 victory.
Granted by-elections are notorious for voters giving the governing party a kick in the pants when they know it won’t change who is in power, then reverting to their roots when push comes to shove in a general election.
That isn’t going to happen this time. The wounds of the HST fiasco have not healed and the Liberals’ claim to be the great managers of the economy has been exposed as so much hokum.
All they have proved is they do a great job of running the province when the economy is booming and are every bit as powerless as anyone else when it is not – hence the desperate HST cash grab.
And then there is Clark herself. Unquestionably she has a radiant smile and wears a hard hat better than any politician I have ever met.
But once you look past that, you see a light weight who shoots from the lip and is therefore too often prone to blunders when she strays from the script.
A glaring example was the occasion I interviewed her shortly after she unveiled her vaunted Jobs Plan.
And, in all seriousness, held up truck driving as a career path for young British Columbians.
Now, I have known a number of truck drivers over the years and there was no question they were good people who did a tough and important job. But realistically, most parents have higher ambitions for their offspring as do their children themselves.
Frankly, the Jobs Plan was farcical – and desperate – from the outset as the premier tried to take credit for the potential LNG industry in Kitimat by boldly promising three plants being operational by 2020 when two were already well-advanced and there was a line-up forming of other potential developers.
Few were fooled. The spin was also not helped much when, mere months after Clark had winged her way northward to do the photo opp for the re-opening of the Kitwanga sawmill, the plant was closed.
The Liberals have lost their way and they know it. The by-elections were created by Liberal MLAs deciding they had better things to do, even finance minister Kevin Falcon is hemming and hawing about running again and a couple of members of the premier’s “team” recently announced they were abandoning ship to pursue “other opportunities”.
Clearly these people recognise they are on the political equivalent of the Titanic – and they know how that story ends.
But defeat could actually be a good thing for the Liberals. They’ll an opportunity to ditch the Queen of the Photo Opp, do some serious navel gazing and give them four years to rebuild the centre-right coalition – with particular emphasis on the centre.
Do all that and they will likely be in good shape to regain power in 2017.
Malcolm Baxter has recently retired from his position as editor of The Northern Sentinel in Kitimat.