5 factors underlying the B.C. Liberal debacle in this provincial election

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      The B.C. Liberals have been slaughtered. And Andrew Wilkinson will not be leading his MLAs into another election.

      That's because the party that ruled B.C. from 2001 to 2017 has lost long-time strongholds on the North Shore and in Richmond, Langley, and Chilliwack.

      During the B.C. Liberals' years in power, it held every seat in these areas.

      Now, the party has been reduced to one seat on the North Shore, one seat in Richmond, and nothing in Langley and Chilliwack.

      As of this writing, former B.C. Liberal MLA turned independent Laurie Throness is behind in Chilliwack-Kent.

      The B.C. Liberal incumbent in Chilliwack, John Martin, lost to New Democrat Dan Coulter.

      Meanwhile, Wilkinson's tough-on-crime agenda failed to keep B.C. Liberal incumbents' seats in Surrey-Cloverdale and Vancouver–False Creek.

      In those constituencies, former Metro Vancouver chair Marvin Hunt and former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan were soundly defeated.

      And the B.C. Liberals were thumped in the Lower Mainland's northeast sector, losing both Coquitlam seats, Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge, and Maple Ridge-Mission.

      It was a debacle for Wilkinson—the party's worst performance since 1991.

      In addition, the B.C. Liberals were wiped off Vancouver Island. That came with Michelle Stilwell's defeat in Parksville-Qualicum, another long-time party stronghold.

      Yet despite this electoral disaster, Wilkinson did not concede defeat tonight, insisting he wanted to wait until the mail-in ballots are counted.

      So why did the B.C. Liberals fare so poorly? (They're only leading in 29 of 87 constituencies as of this writing.)

      There's a multitude of reasons, including the NDP's election-finance reforms and the challenge of competing in a snap election in the midst of a pandemic.

      But there are other factors that were entirely under their own control. Here are my top five:

      1. Andrew Wilkinson's woman problem

      The roast of former MLA Ralph Sultan, in which North Vancouver–Seymour candidate ended up insulting the NDP's Bowinn Ma, reinforced existing perceptions that the B.C. Liberals were sexist.

      By the time that video was released, the B.C. Liberals had only nominated one woman of the party's 20 candidates in the province's two largest cities, Vancouver and Surrey.

      Why couldn't Wilkinson recruit more women to run? Maybe, in part, because he had appointed a dinosaur like Throness as his critic for children and family development as a reward for supporting his leadership campaign.

      2. Climate madness

      Over the past three election campaigns, the B.C. Liberals have steadfastly refused to acknowledge—in a serious way—that they have any anxiety about the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the future of humanity on Earth.

      This time around, Wilkinson promised to fast-track future liquefied natural gas projects.

      Is it any wonder that the B.C. Green vote shot up in quite a few B.C. Liberal constituencies, costing incumbents like Jordan Sturdy and Stilwell their seats?

      The NDP, on the other hand, talks a good game on the climate and features images of some of its climate-conscious candidates on bicycles. This helped them on voting day even after the ruling party jacked up fossil-fuel subsidies.

      If the next B.C. Liberal leader doesn't change course on the climate, the party is likely to lose again.

      3. Diversity difficulties

      Once upon a time, the NDP was deemed the worst at recruiting diverse candidates in winnable constituencies. That changed in a big way when Adrian Dix became leader in advance of the 2013 election.

      Now, it's the B.C. Liberals that seem to miss the mark in reaching out to diasporas.

      This has occurred as the NDP has engaged in unprecedented efforts to bring people of South Asian, Chinese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Iranian, and Philippine ancestry, as well as the Jewish community, into its tent.

      This has enabled the NDP to lock up constituencies in Vancouver, Burnaby, Coquitlam, and Surrey that used to go to the B.C. Liberals. And in this election, the NDP appears to have finally penetrated the B.C. Liberal fortress in Richmond.

      4. Equal rights

      The B.C. Liberals still don't seem to understand that it's toxic to field candidates who demonstrate a lack of sympathy—or outright hostility—to equal rights for LGBT people. That should have been obvious after the 2019 federal election, when this hobbled the Conservative campaign.

      Throness gave ample evidence before the election that he was going to be a liability by running an advertisement in a publication that supported conversion therapy. Another B.C. Liberal candidate, Margaret Kunst, had voted against a rainbow crosswalk as a city councillor.

      This made it easy for the B.C. NDP to drive home an argument that Wilkinson was going to be bad news if he became premier. And they had enough respected LGBT candidates ready to drive home a message that the B.C. Liberals were okay with intolerance and bigotry.

      5. Appeal to average folks

      John Horgan is an ideal NDP leader in one key respect—he helps the party appeal to male voters in ways that Dix and Carole James never did. Hockey fans, football fans, rugby fans, and, yes, lacrosse fans often feel comfortable with Horgan.

      During the Gordon Campbell era, men usually skewed quite heavily toward the B.C. Liberals. Horgan eats into that part of the B.C. Liberal base. He's a happy political warrior.

      The sometimes dour Wilkinson, on the other hand, didn't appeal to any part of the NDP base. Not blue-collar workers. Not women. Not renters. And not large numbers in the South Asian, Taiwanese, or Iranian communities, in particular. This is something that the B.C. Liberals will have to fix before the next election, likely in 2024.

      More

      Comments