Christy Clark has been premier since March 14th 2011, that is almost 22 months. Many people have taken over as premier of a province to serve out the term of the party in power but only did this for a short time. Some of them have been successful in recovering the fortunes of the party - Bill Vander Zalm for Social Credit in 1986 or Glen Clark for the NDP in 1996. More often than winning, the new leaders have been been unable to turn around the fortunes of an unpopular government - John Turner for the federal Liberals in 1984, Rita Johnson for Social Credit in 1991, Kim Campbell for the PCs in 1993 and Ujjal Dosanjh for the NDP in 2001.
The difference for Christy Clark is that she took power with more than half the term of the government to go. Christy Clark came into power with the Liberals in a serious popularity decline but she also has had a lot more time to turn it around then typical for a change of leader of a government. The problem is that the current government has not come forth with a clear and consistent program. The governance has been lackluster.
A new leader should bring in a new program and should excite people but this has not been happening in BC. Without some excitement, some way to enthuse people, the BC Liberals are going to have trouble getting a lot of the public to care enough to vote for them. The BC Liberals are going to lose because few people are going to have the passion to want to vote for them.
There are no end of interesting and innovative policies the government could have introduced but they did not. When you are miles down in the polls trying something radical that you would normally not try because of the fear of how it would impact you in a close election makes sense. There are many possible ideas and here are only a few to consider, and yes they are ones that appeal to me:
- A reform of how the legislature operates by empowering the committees and return limits within in the BC Constitution on the size of the cabinet
- Give local governments more powers and make them a recognized third level of constitutional government in BC
- Give transit to local government but make all policing provincial
- Sell the liquor stores
- Rename the province
- Increase field staff for all the dirt ministries and make sure they are all in rural areas
- End all government advertising other than which is legally required
- Turn over all the small ferry routes to either the regional districts or Ministry of Transportation
- Increase the number of campsites in BC parks dramatically
You can come up with your own centre right list of ideas, there really is no shortage of them. What has been lacking is a government willing to try bold new ideas. Without new substantive ideas and policies there is little reason for people to vote for the BC Liberals. Most centre right people are not going to vote for the NDP or the BC Conservatives but without a reason to vote for the BC Liberals they are in a quandary What is likely to happen is that many BC Liberal voters from the past are just going to sit out this election.
The BC Liberals have focused too much energy on rubbishing John Cummins and Adrian Dix which is not getting them any votes. 90% of the public votes in some elections, but only 1/3 vote in every election, the negative messaging is not reaching the sometime voters.
The biggest impact on the outcome of the 2013 BC election is going to come from the centre right voters that decide not to vote. The NDP will win seats in 2013 that it lost in 2009 not because their vote increased, though it will likely rise a bit. The NDP will win seats because the BC Liberal voters from the last election are going to stay home. If one in five 2009 BC Liberal voters stays home in 2013 and nothing else changes, the NDP gains 12 seats, enough to form a majority government. If one in ten more of the 2009 BC Liberal supporters vote for another party, the NDP gains 20 seats without one extra vote.
The NDP almost does not even enter into the equation of how the election will play out. I hate the idea that we are less than six months out from an election and the NDP has more or less no significant policies, for that reason alone I could not vote for them. On the other hand, if the government is in trouble why risk anything by telling anyone what you would do?
Can the BC Liberals save themselves? I doubt it at this point there is much that can be done because it is really too late to bring the bold new policies needed to recover. The only thing that might change something would be some form of huge error on the part of the NDP, but Adiran Dix is too smart of a political player to allow for this to happen.
The NDP only needs to get more than 650,000 votes to win a majority in the next election. In 2009 they managed 692,000 and in 2005 732,000. They go into the election with a comfortable margin.