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HomeNewsReporter’s notebook: Clark loses majority, for now

Reporter’s notebook: Clark loses majority, for now

Bob Mackin

It’s the morning after the night before and British Columbia’s political future hangs in the balance. 

The BC Liberals under Christy Clark lost their majority. For now. Maybe forever. 

Recounts and absentee ballots could give her the magic 44 seats in the next 87-seat Legislature. Or not. 

Her best hope to stay in power may be doing a deal with the B.C. Greens, who have three seats. That’s one shy of official party status that leader Andrew Weaver wanted. 

But, think of this: Why would the conservative wing of the BC Liberal coalition bite its tongue as their dyed-in-the-wool federal Liberal leader does a deal with a “party of no”? The Greens are opposed to more things than the NDP. Weaver is anti-Kinder Morgan pipeline twinning, anti-LNG and anti-Site C. 

For Weaver, he  would risk alienating his base if he took a turn for the right, into the Liberal caucus, as queen maker. If he played kingmaker instead to help John Horgan become premier, it would be better off for the Greens in the long run. The NDP is the only other party that could form government, is ready and willing to ban corporate and union donations, and the only party that favours proportional representation. Greens share more similarities with the NDP than with Liberals.  

Clark promised to appoint a panel to help shape a campaign finance reform policy. She is really in no hurry to change. Nor does she want to. As it stands, the Liberals have at least $5.2 million in donations raised in 2017. That’s enough to fight the next election, whether it’s in 2021 or sooner. 

The Liberals’ regional marketing failed. Of the 14 so-called “Island Champions,” only incumbent Michele Stilwell (a Paralympic champion) won in Parksville. In Vancouver, the 11 candidates who posed for a photo on the Georgia Straight produced three winners (Langara’s Michael Lee, Quilchena’s Andrew Wilkinson and False Creek’s Sam Sullivan), which could be reduced to two if there is a recount in Vancouver False Creek. 

The Liberals lost 60,000 votes since 2013. Where did they go? Some to the Greens, some to the NDP and some stayed home? In a growing province, this is a stain on the Liberal campaign. 

The NDP held around 716,000. The Greens doubled to 301,000. The April 26 debate mattered in heightening Weaver’s profile. In 2013, the Jane Sterk Greens ran 61 candidates. This time 83, four shy of a full complement. 

Advance voting was record-breaking, but that was out of convenience more than anything. It looks like a 57% turnout, which is just about 2% better than 2013. Maybe Trevor Linden, president of the last place in the west Vancouver Canucks, isn’t such a hot commodity as a celebrity endorser while the Canucks are on the golf course instead of the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

The defeat of star candidate Steve Darling in Burnaby and Surrey’s Puneet Sandhar was also a defeat for back roomer Patrick Kinsella, who had a hand in recruiting them and staffing their campaigns. 

The loss of cabinet ministers Suzanne Anton, Amrik Virk and Peter Fassbender hurts Clark’s bench-strength. Particularly Fassbender, the minister of taxis and transit and local government. Analysis of Fassbender’s calendar shows that he was among the hardest-working cabinet ministers. He was tasked as education minister to oversee negotiations with teachers in 2014. He later became transit and taxis minister after the failed TransLink tax plebiscite. Transport minister Todd Stone was not capable, for reasons of geography (he’s in Kamloops) and shaky political stick handling. Fassbender was the first to open a campaign office, last September, fearing that the redrawn Surrey Fleetwood boundaries would favour the NDP. He was right. 

The defeat of junior minister Naomi Yamamoto in North Vancouver to rookie Bowinn Ma was inevitable. The NDP focussed its North Shore campaigns in one riding where Yamamoto was viewed as weak. Her demise was only hastened by Clark’s mainstreaming snub of Sunshine Coast visitor Linda Higgins at a grocery store. Standing beside Clark when that happened was Yamamoto, who gave Higgins the stinkeye. Yamamoto had spent substantial time cozying up to the search and rescue community on the North Shore. She even located her campaign office in an area near the North Shore Rescue headquarters, in the second floor of an office building near the North Shore Auto Mall.

Ma, meanwhile, was centred in a retail storefront near 13th and Lonsdale and she took to campaigning at Lonsdale Quay and on the SeaBus itself. If the NDP does form government, Ma is cabinet material. Ma’s campaign drew volunteers from off the North Shore and volunteers who had been loyal Liberals. Sources said she had about 200 volunteers.