In the 1996 election the BC Reform party managed to get 9.27% of the vote and elect two MLAs, can that result be a guide for how well the BC Conservatives will do in 2013? In my opinion the circumstances are not similar at all.
In 1994 BC Reform inherited most of the infrastructure that was Social Credit when the four MLAs crossed to become the BC Reform caucus. BC Reform was a party that did not need to build itself up from the ground in the way the BC Conservatives need to now.
BC Reform had two sitting MLAs running again in the 1996 election which gave them the advantage of incumbency. The other two Social Credit MLAs that joined BC Reform chose not to run again. BC Reform managed to win the two seats of the sitting MLAs, Peace River North comfortably well and they barely won in Peace River South.
The results for BC Reform in 1996 were 9.27% overall, but the party had dramatic variations around the province. In 17 urban ridings the party could not manage to get past 4% of the vote. In eight Interior and one Fraser Valley riding the party managed to get more than 20% of the vote. BC Reform had their vote concentrated enough in parts of the province that it could be competitive with less than 10% of the vote. The ten ridings with the most votes for the party accounted for 27.7% of the total vote for the party. If the party support had risen only a few percentage another seat or two may have been won by them.
Even with this concentration BC Reform only won the two seats of the sitting MLAs and did no better than third in any other ridings in the province.
The current BC Conservatives do not have any sitting MLAs. The lack of incumbents makes it harder to elect any MLAs. If John Van Dongen had remained as a BC Conservative I suspect he would likely be re-elected as one, but the break with him removed the best chance the party had of winning a seat.
I am also not getting the sense that there is any significant areas of where the support for the party is concentrated. It seems the party has some level or support and organization in the central Okanagan and in the mid Island. I do not see enough organization to believe the party can come second let alone win seats.
Finally, the BC Conservatives do not have access to the experience contacts and connections of another party like BC Reform had with Social Credit. The people in the strongest ridings for BC Reform in 1996 knew how to raise money, how to run a campaign, and how to get the vote. My sense is that few people in the BC Conservatives have these skills.
Without the concentration of support and sitting MLAs, the BC Conservatives will have trouble winning seats with less than 15% of the vote. The party has not seen levels of support like this since September of last year before the disastrous AGM of the party.