By Michael Geoghegan –
I recently had the opportunity to attend the BC Conservative Annual General meeting in Nanaimo. Joining me in observing the gathering of provincial Tories were long time political columnists Les Leyne of the Victoria Times-Colonist and Vaughn Palmer of the Vancouver Sun. Their presence spoke volumes about how after decades in the political wilderness the BC Conservatives seemed poised to make a historic come back.
The party’s new leader former federal M.P. John Cummins, has noted that they “are holding steady at 20% in the polls.” With such support a win by the BC NDP becomes extremely likely in 2013. This is because the NDP are likely to have at least 40% support while the Greens and other also ran parties collecting 10%. This would leave at most only 30% for the BC Liberals.
A non united right has always resulted in a BC NDP win. In 1972 when the non-socialist vote was split between Social Credit the Liberals and the Conservatives all three parties elected MLAs but the NDP with only 38% of the vote won a landslide majority. When the right re-coalesced under Social Credit the NDP was once again reduced to opposition status for the remainder of the 1970s and 80s.
In 1991 Social Credit which had imploded under the leadership of Bill Vander Zalm saw it go from government to just 7 MLAs. The NDP won a solid majority with 40% of the vote while an upstart Liberal party led by Gordon Wilson took the party to official opposition status.
In 1996 the BC NDP edged out the BC Liberals in part because the BC Reform Party took just enough votes to ensure an NDP win. Under the leadership of Gordon Campbell the BC Liberals were able to maintain the right wing coalition. But Campbell’s mishandling of the HST and the introduction of new carbon taxes had many wondering if the governing BC Liberals were any less tax and spend than the BC NDP.
Campbell resigned over the HST debacle and the party elected a new leader Christy Clark who is a federal Liberal. The federal Conservatives made no secret of the fact they would have preferred one of their own such as Kevin Falcon to have been the leader. But sour grapes aside, there is also a genuine desire by the Harper Conservatives to see the Liberals disappear as a viable political brand name in Canada.
During the recent federal election Stephen Harper was delighted to not only secure a majority government but seeing the Liberals (Canada’s naturally governing party of the 20th century) reduced to third party status. By facing an NDP opposition the Conservatives are in an ideal position to be Canada’s naturally governing party of the 21st century.
Contrary to popular belief a win by the BC NDP would not be that upsetting to them either. Every time the NDP have won power in BC provincially, support for the NDP has fallen in the next federal election. Some Conservative strategists are quite willing to see the NDP win the next provincial election in 2013 because they are confident that would result in the NDP losing seats to the Conservatives in the next federal election.
Finally a BC Liberal loss could potentially create a situation where the right re-coalesces under the BC Conservative banner, once again relegating the BC Liberals to the political wilderness.
So don’t be surprised if you see the BC Conservatives fielding a full slate of candidates in the next provincial election and Adrian Dix emerging as the next Premier of B.C. You read it here first.
Michael Geoghegan is a government relations consultant based in Victoria, BC