Tuesday, September 3, 2013

We may see more by-elections in the 2013-17 BC Legislative term than in the past

It is a long time till the 2017 BC Election but are likely to see more by-elections in this term than we normally have seen.

In the last 30 years we have had 21 by-elections in BC, which is an average of one every 17 months.  We have already had one this legislative term but are likely to see two to three more or possibly as many as five to eight more.

What could bring about more by-elections?

Recall:  It has worked once, Liberal Paul Reitsma in 1998.  The efforts in the last term were to recall MLAs I think was not handled well and lead to a lot of failures for recall campaigns.   I think it was a huge mistake for the first major one to be against Ida Chong because she has a strong loyal following.

Recall can begin at the very end of 2014.   I have no idea how successful it will be.

Death: We have only had three deaths of MLAs in the last generation with the last one was Fred Gingell.  Death was a more common reason for by-elections,  In the term 1960-63 all three by-elections were due to deaths.   I refuse to estimate the chances of a by-election for this reason or who.

Looking for a new political job:   There are two possible directions for this, people stepping down in 2014 to run for municipal council and 2015 people running to be MPs.   Liberals Lorne Maynecourt, Gulzar Cheema, and Wilf Hurd resigned to run federally, New Democrat Gregor Robertson resigned to run for mayor of Vancouver.

I think there is a chance MLA Lana Popham may step down to run for mayor of Saanich.  When I asked about rumours related to this on the weekend she avoided denying it, in fact I would say her answers really were saying she was openly considering the idea.  There are others that might be open to running for mayor of a larger community in BC,

The increase in federal seats in BC means we will have more open seats than ever beofre.   With six new seats in BC for the 2015 federal election, five of them in the lower mainland, there are various one time opportunities for MLAs to run to become MPs.  

I can see NDP MLAs deciding to make a run federally because another term in opposition in BC is not what they expected, there is an extra seat on Vancouver Island that the NDP should be able to win.   The addition of a seat to the Burnaby area should also allow the NDP a decent chance to win.

I can also see the federal Liberals work hard to recruit some of the newer BC MLAs.   By sometime late in 2014 it will be clear to BC Liberal MLAs if being in the Clark government is where they want to be or not.   I would be a coup of the federal Liberals could recruit people like Todd Stone or Michelle Stilwell - I am not suggesting they would consider it.

The federal Conservatives could recruit a BC Liberal like Laurie Throness, once again I have no idea if he has any interest.   An upside of recruiting some BC Liberal MLAs as a federal Conservative is that will weaken the federal Liberals to some extent.

All in all I think we will see three to five MLAs resign to run either municipally or federally.

Taking a job:   I am not certain many New Democrats are likely to be on the short list for possible jobs, but president of a university is one possibility for some of them.   If the NDP win the federal general election in 2015 some New Democrats may have political and quango jobs available to them.

There are BC Liberals who need to think about their future and careers because politics is not nearly a certain enough career path for someone with a young family.  Barry Penner and Iain Black resigned for these reasons.   Much will depend on who the new NDP leader will be and how popular or not the government is.

Changing Political Moods:  There are BC Liberal MLAs that are clearly on the outs with the current government.   Depending on how the government functions, this could grow.   Why stick around if you are unhappy?

I do not know who the NDP leader will be, but the new leader could cause some people to want to get out of the legislature.  At a minimum I expect Adrian Dix to step down as MLA as soon as he is no longer the leader.  In my opinion only leaders that were elected by accident or were weak leaders tend to stay on once they are resign.   I can not see Dix staying around.

How many by-elections to come?
If we end up with five to eight more by-elections that will come close or break the record for the most by-elections in single parliament which is seven between 1945 and 1949.   I am not counting the by-elections that used to be held to allow someone to joint the executive council (aka cabinet).

Having a larger number of elections will make politics very interesting in BC.  There will likely be four instances of strong media focus on the campaigns.  Each government loss will be seen as a major failure if it was a government held seat.   For the BC Conservatives to be serious as a party they need their next leader to seriously try and win a seat.   The BC Greens need to run strong credible campaigns to retain and build on their position in BC politics.

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