The February 2, 2106 by-election results in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant and Coquitlam-Burke Mountain have shown that there is a continued overt expression of dissatisfaction with the performance of the governing BC Liberals.
While it was widely accepted that the NDP would win the Vancouver-Mount Pleasant riding with a savvy female First Nations candidate who pushed all the right emotional buttons for a voter base interested in sending a social democratic message to Victoria, the biggest surprise was perhaps the relative strength of the Green Party candidate who finished a distant second with more than 26% popular support.
The governing Liberals garnered a mere 11% of the popular vote while the BC Conservative Party was MIA (missing in action).
The Coquitlam-Burke Mountain riding was perhaps a different story. This was a riding held by the BC Liberals – a so-called ‘safe’ riding. Of course, you can ask the incumbent Premier Christy Clark just how safe former BC safe ridings can be – as she was decisively defeated in her own home riding of choice at the 2013 election.
The vote went to the NDP candidate with a comfortable victory margin. The Libs finished second with the Green Party steadfastly maintaining its single agenda support with 13.5% of the final ballots cast in their favour. Again, the BC Conservative Party was missing in action.
What is the relevance and what do these results forecast going into the 2017 BC provincial election? Probably not a lot. There is typically a concern and a dissatisfaction between scheduled election dates and it is not uncommon to have the ruling party of the day receive a mild rebuke from voters – but there is plenty of time for the BC Liberals to figure out a clever way to reverse the perceived current fortunes of the NDP.
Is there a wild card that may be played in 2017 to change the anticipated outcome?
Possibly. That wild card may, in fact, be the BC Conservative Party that currently languishes at the effective bottom of the barrel as perceived currently by BC voters in opinion polls.
With the somewhat acerbic John Cummin at the helm, the BC Conservative Party polled as high as 23% prior to the 2013 provincial election. After electing no MLA’s in 2013 and after an election campaign that was generously described as ‘disastrous’ by some pundits, Cummins resigned amidst a bitter party divide that continues to this day.
Why does this matter to BC politics? Perhaps it does not. There is, however, a dim and distant light on the horizon and a prospect, albeit faint, that the BC Conservative Party can restore some legitimacy and some credibility to BC voters heading into the 2017 election year.
The source of the possible revitalization and resurrection is the AGM scheduled for February 20, 2016 in Richmond. While most of the activity concerning this AGM is internal and indicates a political party still divided over issues of leadership, finances and unresolved lawsuits, the interest from the general public and the media has been essentially – none.
So why should this change? There is always a chance for rebuilding, for reconciliation and to change the status quo. While the BC Conservative Party is currently the unforgotten child in the BC political scene, the future is always brighter when there are prospects.
If the BC Conservative Party can put together a competent, savvy leadership team at the Board of Directors level and find itself a credible, media friendly energetic Leader heading into the 2017 election campaign, anything is possible.
Are voters tired of the rhetoric and the same old tired politics from the two front running parties? Is the small ‘c’ conservative voter ready to turn aside from the questionable ethical practices of the Liberals and embrace an alternative that has its roots in BC since 1905?
Can the BC Conservative Party rise up from the ashes like the proverbial Phoenix? The results from February 20, 2016 in Richmond will tell the tale.