Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Vancouver Point Grey By-election Results - preliminary results

I am actually surprised at how close this is, but Christy Clark is the first government member to be elected as an MLA in 30 years in BC.   There is a long history of government failure in by-elections in BC.

The margin of 595 votes is very small.   This will likely scare the crap out of the government.

Christy Clark    Liberal 7,371 48.92%
David Eby        NDP     6,776 44.97%
Francoise Raunet Green     511  3.39%
Danielle Alie    BC First  369  2.45%
William Gibbens  Ind        27  0.18%
Eddie Petrossian Ind        14  0.09%

I think ultimately it is the best result for province, for Christy Clark, for the Liberals, for the NDP and for Dave Eby.  A small margin win by the Liberals is just about the perfect result for everyone.

My first hope is that this will get this dumb idea people are talking about of a provincial election this fall.   BC has no need for an early election.   Changing the premier is not a reason for an election and saying we need one is a fundamental misunderstanding of our parliamentary process.   Holding an early election will only continue the trend to giving power and prominence to the executive over the legislative branch.

If Christy Clark had lost we would have been in a constitutional crisis.   While it is not a requirement that the premier be an elected MLA, the tradition and expectation is that the new premier will seek a seat in the legislature as soon as possible. Tradition and expectation are as important as written laws in our parliamentary system.  We still have the mace, we still have the facing seats, and we still do not allow for a member to be named in the house.   None of these are written into our constitution, they are simply parts of our traditions

A defeat in Vancouver Point Grey would have been a de-facto vote of non-confidence in Christy Clark as premier.   The Lieutenant Governor would have been in his right to ask for her resignation and ask for a new person to form government or to call a general election.  

The crisis comes because the LG suddenly has an actual decision to make or he has to endorse a major breach in parliamentary tradition.   Our tradition in Canada has evolved that the representative of the Crown should never have to make a decision ever.   Look at the problems that happened with Stephen Harper proroguing parliament.   The only way the crisis could have been avoided would have been for Christy Clark to resign as premier or ask a general election  The BC Constitution has not considered this eventuality and gives the LG clear instructions not to call another election, this is an implication of adding fixed election dates to the BC constitution.   The LG is expected to respect and follow the wishes expressed by the legislature in the laws they pass above the requests of his premier counselor.   Her win avoids this very messy situation.

I like Dave Eby and think he would make a great MLA, but I am not at all convinced that he could be a good MLA as part of the NDP.   The nature of how the NDP approaches the legislature is in a very unified public face which allows for no dissent.   This approach has its benefits in our parliamentary system, but it would seem to be at odds with the nature of David Eby.   I think he would make a good independent MLA that supported the NDP but was not in the caucus.   He is also well set up now to make a run for city council in Vancouver in the fall and eventually be mayor in 2014.   He and the NDP are both better off that he did not get elected.

I know that no one in the NDP will ever admit that a close loss was the best outcome for the party.   In politics you can never admit that losing is sometimes a better outcome, you have to leave that to pundits and others to say it.

Looking at the rest, well there really was no rest in this election, but bear with me as I look at the others.   

What I find interesting is the 14 votes for Eddie Petrossian.   This is one of the worst results of any candidate in any provincial general election or by-election since 1871.  14 votes, that is stunning, he should have done better than that through random accident!  He had a higher profile going into the election than the other independent, William Gibbens, but he placed behind him.  

The new BC First party seems to have had no traction at all.  369 is honestly a very bad result given all the resources they had access to and put into the race.   I am not sure she even managed to sweep her immediate friends.    Given that they supposedly came out of the anti-HST movement and seem to really want to defeat the Liberals, this really is pathetic.   

The voter turn out was lower than the general election, but still there were a lot of right wing people that were anti-HST as well as virulently anti-Liberal and anti-NDP.  They did not show up to vote.   There have to to be at least 2,000 people like that in Vancouver Point Grey but BC First is not what they will support.

The BC Conservatives were smart in not running.  They avoided looking stupid if they had had a very low result like BC First.

The results for the Greens are almost as dismal as for BC First.   Actually, who am I kidding, they are worse even though they managed to get more votes.   The party should have done much better, but it seems the Federal Green collapse has hung over into provincial politics.   This election result should be a wake up call to Jane Sterk and she had better prepare to get as many Greens elected to local councils in the fall but at the same time be ready to run a strong province wide campaign as soon as possible.

The percentage the Greens achieved in this by-election is lower than 83 of 85 ridings in the 2009 election.  Only in Delta South, where everyone against the Liberals voted for Vicki Huntingdon, and Kootenay East did the Greens drop to lower than 3.39% in 2009.  Vancouver Point Grey is also a riding in which they had an actual organized campaign on the ground in 2005.   It is a riding where they should have had lists of people that would volunteer and vote for them.   The result is a failure of the Green organization in BC.


Patrick Brabazon said...

Interesting, but I must respectfully disagree with your reference to a "constitutional crisis." While I agree that this would a crisis for Ms Clark, it would not immediately be one for BC. I assume that she would exercise one of her three options: seek to replace one of her MLAs in another by-election, ask the LG to dissolve the legislature [!], or resign. Only if she attempted to remain as premier without seeking a seat would we have a crisis. I also think that the political cost of that approach would be more that certain ministers would be willing to tolerate.

I am reminded of Prime Minister King who twice lost his seat while in office, and twice chose the first of the three options.

Bernard said...

The crisis comes about because there is an issue of discretion on the part of the Crown and however it is exercised it will be seen by someone as political interference on behalf of the Crown.

As to King, the 1925 loss ends up being lost within the King/Byng affair because of what King and Byng agreed to after the 1925 election.

The 1945 situation is closer, but still feels different as he had been PM and had just lead his party to another majority government