Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Could we have an early election in BC?

There is speculation now that there could be an early election in BC even though we have a law setting the date of the next election.   Most of the people that are raising this issue are long time political pundits that never liked the idea of the law and generally too cynical.   I thought I walk through some thoughts on an early election day.

Since the Liberals have a majority in the legislature, the premier can not call an early election unless the fixed election date act is repealed by the legislature.   The only other way for an early election date is for the house to vote non-confidence in the government, no one is going to make some of their MLAs vote against them.    Without repealing the act it is not an easy task for an early election to be called.   Harper managed it in Ottawa because he had a minority and had a clear message from the opposition they were not on board with him.

Now to look at timing.

First off, there is no benefit to the government in holding an election before the HST referendum, there is no way the Liberals could do well in that situation.  Given that the word is out there of moving the referendum date to June this means there is no chance to hold an election till the fall of 2011.   

By the fall of 2011 both the Liberals and the NDP will have new leaders.   Any honeymoon the new premier would get will be lessened by the honeymoon of the new NDP leader.   Given that any of the people I can see winning an NDP leadership would be dramatically more popular than Carole James I do not see how the NDP does not lead in the polls in the fall of 2011.   No government is going to go early if they know they are going to lose.

All this talk of a split NDP is in my opinion bullshit.   The core people around Carole James are bitter and whining that this will harm the NDP for ages. They are hoping the NDP loses to show that dumping her was an error and therefore talking up division.   This crowd is small, very small, and his little functional influence over the party.   The leadership race will bring enough new people to completely swamp the few James loyalists.   The NDP will be very competitive as soon as there is a new leader and it will be someone that was loyal to Carole James.

In the spring of 2012, if there had been some good polling for the Liberals, the premier might move to repeal the fixed election date.   I can not see them doing that without agreement from the NDP otherwise the move will lose them populist votes.   A smart NDP will say no and point to government hypocrisy.  Unless the act is repealed in the spring of 2012, there is not point in trying to go early at all.

I would only expect a Liberal government to push for the a spring 2012 election if they had six or more months of at least a five point lead over the NDP at the polls.   Even then, this would not be a strong sign that running makes sense.

The one alternative would be to change the fixed election date to the fall, where I think it should have been from the start, and have the election in late October of 2012, only about seven months early.  Hardly going to the polls early.

I honestly do think anyone in the Liberals is going to rush to the polls when the odds are very much against them winning.   There is one final factor to consider, governments do better in good economic times, by the spring of 2013 the BC economy should be looking good.


cosmicsync said...

I don't know, Bernard. This all assumes there will be an HST referendum. Christy Clark is now on record saying she prefers scrapping the referendum and holding a free vote in the legislature.

I'm quoting this from the Straight, and I heard her say words to this effect when she announced her leadership aspirations this morning:

'If MLAs decide to reverse the tax, she said, the federal government should be immediately notified and negotiations should start for the province to back out of the agreement that established the HST, a blend of the provincial sales tax and the GST.

Clark claimed the HST could be “behind us” by the end of March 2011.'

What she says now and does in March may be two different things, but the new Liberal leader will have a lot of momentum - not to mention the BC Liberal cheer-leading squad at CKNW and the Vancouver Sun running daily editorials extolling the fresh new direction of the BC Liberal party.

The new Liberal premier would say (s)he needs a fresh mandate from the voting public, and the NDP would look self-serving if they argued against it.

The window of opportunity will be small, but I think it's there. A snap election in the spring after a free vote in the house on the HST - while the NDP will likely still be bickering and in-fighting - would be the Liberals best (and maybe only) hope of winning a fourth term.

Bernard said...

The legislature still has to repeal the fixed election date act. Doing that is going to cause weeks of bad press that will depress the government support.

Meanwhile the NDP will have a new leader that will much more popular and skilled than Carole James. I do not see the polls moving dramatically in favour of the government.

I am also not factoring in the impact of the BC Conservatives, and they will be a factor in the next election. They are better prepared for an election than I think anyone gives them credit for. They have money in the bank and more and more organize riding associations

Taking-It-Seriously said...

"Three justices unanimously ruled that the federal fixed-election law did not preclude Prime Minister Stephen Harper from calling a snap election in 2008.

According to the Ottawa-based public-interest group Democracy Watch, which lost the case, the ruling “effectively cancelled” B.C.’s fixed-election law and similar laws in other provinces."

Read the rest of the story at:

Anonymous said...

You would be bitter too if you were forced to take a $100,000 year pay cut. Let's face it: there generally isn't a great demand in upper echelons of the private sector willing to take former NDP premiers (with the exception of Clark iof course) and especially NDP staff (ask Dix and Horgan). For many of James inner circle, this was the highest paying job they will ever have.

People oftern neglect the role a salary plays in driving their MLA's decisions. MLAs are no different than any other workplace, despite espousing high ideals.