Prediction for 2013: the B.C. Liberals will not be destroyed
Many B.C. Liberals are probably heaving a sigh of relief as the curtain falls on 2012.
That's because it's looking increasingly likely that their party will still exist after the May 2013 provincial election, albeit in opposition.
This was not a sure thing a year ago when a Forum Research poll had the B.C. Conservatives in a dead heat with the B.C. Liberals with 23 percent support.
At the start of this year, there was a legitimate expectation that the B.C. Liberals might come third in spring by-elections in Chilliwack-Hope and Port Moody–Coquitlam, which would finish off the party.
By April, the B.C. Conservative candidate in Chilliwack-Hope, John Martin, was claiming that the B.C. Liberal carbon tax "is punitive to all economic activity and increases the cost of everything in the province".
"The Liberal government has failed the people of British Columbia and has squandered trust with the public on issues such as paying $6 million in legal fees for two convicted criminals (Basi and Virk) and the introduction of the HST shortly after the last election when they said it was not on the table," Martin wrote in an op-ed piece on this site.
When the B.C. Liberals came second in both by-elections, that let some of the air out of the Conservatives' tires. And in a remarkable about-face, Martin is now the B.C. Liberal candidate in Chilliwack.
The last Angus Reid poll shows the B.C. Liberals have the support of 29 percent of voters. That's a huge lead over the B.C. Conservatives, who are mired at 12 percent. The B.C. Greens are further back at nine percent.
The biggest danger facing the B.C. Liberals is if their supporters feel they have no chance. That's when there's no risk in tossing a vote at one of the fringe parties.
This is what finished off the B.C. NDP in 2001 and the federal Progressive Conservatives in 1993, when each was reduced from forming government to just two seats.
But if the B.C. Liberals can narrow the gap with the B.C. NDP—which has 47 percent support in the last Angus Reid poll—the governing party doesn't have to worry about being obliterated in less than five months' time.
Meanwhile, the B.C. Conservatives and B.C. Greens don't have nearly enough momentum, members, or money to supplant the B.C. Liberals as the party for most British Columbians who loathe the B.C. NDP.
I'm guessing that there will still be enough people willing to vote B.C. Liberal in 2013 to ensure the party becomes Official Opposition. Then it will live to fight another election around 2017.
However, things don't look nearly as bright for Premier Christy Clark. Given the weakness of the B.C. Greens and the popularity of David Eby, her NDP opponent in Vancouver–Point Grey, she's unlikely to keep her own seat.
If Clark loses, that would likely clear the way for a B.C. Liberal leadership race pitting former finance minister Kevin Falcon against some MLAs who survive the 2013 provincial election.
As for B.C. Conservative Leader John Cummins, my bet is he'll go down to defeat against Transportation Minister Mary Polak in Langley. And the B.C. NDP's Andrew Mercier should run a surprisingly strong third.
I also expect the B.C. Liberals' treatment of Abbotsford councillor Moe Gill to haunt them in Abbotsford South, where independent John van Dongen will probably hold onto his seat.