Thursday, March 4, 2010

2013 BC Election - Another Watershed Election?

It is not even a year since the last BC election, but it is my sense that the political mood in BC has changed and that in the next election we are likely to see dramatic changes. There are several factors that I suspect will lead to a major change in the composition in the legislature.


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The NDP as a party is more populist than it has been in some time with its anti-tax messages. In the HST and the Carbon Tax they sound more like the Reform party than anything else. The NDP is gaining new allies and look and feel like they are speaking for the people.

I like populist parties but I also recognize their limits. Populism can be used to oppress minorities and it is often used to attack good ideas that represent change from the status quo. The HST is clearly of significant economic benefit to BC as a whole and replaces a tax that penalizes retailers and the poorest quintile the most. But it is unpopular and the NDP is riding that wave.

While there is still no strong sentiment from anyone that Carole James could make a good premier, the NDP is finally showing some strength from their bench. Bruce Ralston, Adrian Dix, Mike Franworth, Lana Popham, John Horgan, Rob Fleming, Bob Simpson, and Michael Sather is enough to form the nucleus of a capable of cabinet.

The Liberals feel more and more disconnected from the public.

Often the government has decided to do things but not built up the social capital in BC for the change. As an example the HST. It is a very good economic idea, but the way the government introduced it was not done well. Just from the cost of tax collection BC is ahead by $200 million I believe (do not quote me on that number as I am not taking the time to look it up at the moment). The HST was just suddenly dropped on the public shortly after the election. No matter how it came about, it looks bad because people believe it was planned before the election.

There are various small programs that have seen cuts. These cuts annoy people and get more media coverage than they deserve but lead to a lingering unhappiness with the government. The cuts to gaming grants saved only a small amount, but has pissed off huge numbers of people, more of them Liberal supporters than NDP supporters. Many of them the sort of people that volunteer in their community and work on elections.

The government is also looking bad with respect to the budget last year. There is no way that the government can avoid the sense of bait and switch with the budget before and after the 2009 election. It makes it harder for people that are supporters of the Liberals to come out and be vocally in support of the government.

The Liberals are not so much driving people to the NDP, but they are alienated their own supporters. They could very likely see a dramatic drop in donations and volunteers in the 2013 election.

Another factor in BC is the rise of the Conservative party. Conservatives in BC have never been at home as part of a big tent Liberal party. I know that the people on the left see Gordon Campbell as some sort of conservative, but there is no evidence for this. The BC Liberals have the same type of policies as the Federal Liberal party. The biggest difference.

In 1996 they had BC Reform to support and did so in rural BC. In 2001 and 2005 there was not really any place for people on the right to go other than holding their nose and voting for the BC Liberals. In 2009 this started to change.

The BC Conservative party ran 24 candidates and average about 7.5% where they ran. In the bigger picture of the whole election, the votes for the Conservatives were no a huge amount, but it points to a desire of people to vote for a party to the right of the Liberals.

In 2009 independent Vicki Huntingdon was elected for Delta South, she has been traditionally to the right of the Liberals. David Marley in West Van was also a right wing independent. Taking the two of them together with the 24 Conservatives and applying that support province wide would indicate the Conservatives are at the same level of support as the Greens.

Federal Conservative MP John Cummins has weighed into BC politics and has said there is a need for a strong BC Conservative party. He was speaking about this at a breakfast meeting of Victoria area Conservatives last Friday. He was also the keynote speaker at the BC Conservatives AGM last September. If the Conservatives manage to run candidates in all 85 ridings, chose a credible leader and have a few serious politicians run, they could have a major impact on the election.

The Green Party will remain a bystander in the next election, I do not see how they will manage to get enough votes to have the break through they need to be able to win any seats. I still see them taking 10% of the vote in the election.

The polls over the fall
were certainly positive for the NDP and not great for the Liberals, but that is the mood at the moment and not in 2013. All the polls do show that there is support to some extent for the Conservatives.

What Could Happen?

So I have set up what I see as where the parties are at, what might happen in the election in 2013?

Most likely, an NDP majority government. I see the NDP vote rising to 750,000 votes. I see the Liberal vote falling to 600,000 with that being concentrated in the suburbs. The Greens at 180,000 and the Conservatives at 250,000.
  • NDP - 49
  • Liberals -29
  • Conservatives - 6
  • Ind - 1

Second most likely - a hung parliament. Given how the votes split in the last election, support for parties strengthened in ridings they held, and a serious Conservative party
  • NDP 40 - 700,000
  • Liberals - 40 - 700,000
  • Conservatives - 4 - 200,000
  • Ind - 1 - 10,000
  • Green - 0 - 180.000

Third most likely - Liberals squeak a win.
  • Liberals - 43 - 750.000
  • NDP - 40 - 700,000
  • Conservatives - 1 - 150,000
  • Ind - 1 - 10,000
  • Greens - 0 - 180,000
The fourth and least likely - a Wildrose situation. This assumes the Conservatives choose a good leader and they make big inroads with the public. I see a collapse in the Liberal vote and strong surge to the Conservatives. This could be the sort of watershed election in BC that resets who the players are in the province.

  • NDP - 45 - 700,000
  • Conservatives - 25 - 350,000
  • Liberals - 14 - 400,000
  • Ind - 1 - 10,000
  • Greens - 0 - 180,000

My current take on the political scene in BC is that in May 2013 the NDP will win the election and most likely have a majority.

Looking more than three years into the future is a guess, it is nothing more. There are 101 one things that could happen that could change everything, a change of leaders, scandals, disasters, economic conditions and who knows what else. All I can do is to try and make an educated guess based on my knowledge of BC politics.
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