Who loses the B.C. election could be almost as interesting as who wins

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      Premier Christy Clark and NDP Leader John Horgan already know that their jobs are on the line on May 9.

      That's because whoever's party loses is very likely going to be in the market for a new leader.

      So let's start by taking a look at the possibilities if the B.C. Liberals are defeated and Clark steps down or is forced out as leader.

      Over the past four years, I would suggest that the four most influential cabinet ministers have been Mike de Jong, Peter Fassbender, Rich Coleman, and Shirley Bond. As much as any of them might like to be premier, they're probably all too long in the tooth to go for a job that's, at the very least, an eight-year commitment.

      In the second tier of B.C. Liberal cabinet ministers with influence, I would include Todd Stone, Suzanne Anton, Andrew Wilkinson, Mary Polak, and Terry Lake.

      Of those, Stone, Wilkinson, and Polak are possible contenders for the leadership. But Stone might have trouble keeping his seat if the B.C. Liberals are trounced on May 9, which might knock him out of the race.

      Lake has already decided that he's not going to seek reelection and he's probably too progressive for a right-wing party like the B.C. Liberals.

      The runner-up in the last B.C. Liberal leadership race, Kevin Falcon, is waiting in the wings. But he's probably not going to be able to generate nearly the same buzz this time, having been out of politics for four years. Besides, he's made a big deal about wanting to spend more time with his family. 

      Former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts has hurt her chances of ever becoming a B.C. Liberal leader by hitching her wagon to the federal Conservatives.

      Mary Polak has already overseen some challenging cabinet portfolios, so she wouldn't need much on-the-job training were she to become leader of the B.C. Liberals.

      Two municipal options, District of North Vancouver mayor Richard Walton and Richmond mayor Malcolm Brodie, have probably passed their best-before date. Had first-term MLAs Darryl Plecas or Jordan Sturdy been appointed to cabinet, they could have been possibilities. But they may be still too low-profile as backbenchers.

      Each has an everyday-guy aura, which would help address the perception among many voters that their party can't be trusted. It probably helps that neither represents a Vancouver constituency.

      Among the new B.C. Liberal candidates, former Global BC reporter Jas Johal could be a possible contender. He's already well known. Having grown up in Williams Lake, he understands the Lower Mainland and the Interior of the province. And with his work at the B.C. LNG Alliance, he's going to be trusted by the fossil-fuel industry, which has been a big supporter of the B.C. Liberals.

      The B.C. Liberals are comprised of federal Liberals and federal Conservatives. The party is also divided between the downtown Vancouver corporate types and small businesspeople in the 250 area code who hate the NDP. Then there are divisions between the Gordon Campbell faction and those who've joined the party since Clark became premier.

      Would Jas Johal have any interest in becoming leader of the B.C. Liberals? First, he would have to get elected as an MLA.
      Charlie Smith

      Wilkinson, a cerebral former Vancouver corporate lawyer, is the darling of the Campbell faction and the downtown business establishment. Polak could win support from federal Conservatives, a preponderance of female members of the party, and a large number of B.C. Liberals in Surrey, Langley, and other parts of the Fraser Valley. And should Johal choose to enter, he might attract a great deal of votes from B.C. Interior residents, the politically active Sikh community, and younger members of the party.

      That's not to say that Plecas, Bond, Stone, or Falcon won't contest the leadership should the B.C. Liberals be defeated. But a Wilkinson-Polak-Johal contest might be enough to ignite the imagination of party members.

      Who might succeed John Horgan?

      Nathan Cullen (foreground in front of John Horgan) would be a front runner should he decide to run for the leadership of the B.C. NDP.
      Stephen Hui

      On the NDP side, many in the media already see David Eby as the heir apparent to Horgan should the B.C. NDP be defeated.

      However, if the party loses badly on May 9, there's a slim chance that Eby won't be re-elected, which could damage his chances. He's won one out of two contests in a constituency that voted B.C. Liberal in four previous elections.

      Should Eby be defeated (which seems like a longshot at the moment), he might decide instead to run for city council in 2018, where he would be a shoo-in. Then he could bide his time for four years until Gregor Robertson retires, likely in 2022, and become mayor of Vancouver. Or he could run federally for the NDP in 2019 and have a decent shot of winning a seat, given how unpopular the federal Liberals are in Vancouver over their approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

      Were Eby to run for B.C. NDP leader, he might not enjoy much support from the party's private sector labour unions. He could also face competition from a candidate popular with the party's very active women's and antipoverty wings. They might feel more comfortable supporting one of the younger MLAs, like Melanie Mark or Michelle Mungall, as the next leader.

      MLA Michelle Mungall might be asked to run for leader should the B.C. NDP lose badly on May 9.

      One of the wild cards in the next B.C. NDP leadership race is Nathan Cullen, the 44-year-old NDP MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley. He's popular with environmentalists and First Nations. His sprawling federal riding crosses over several B.C. constituencies, offering ripe opportunities to win delegates. 

      Cullen would be seen as a new face in B.C. politics and would immediately be considered one of the front runners.

      Three municipal possibilities are Vancouver city councillors Andrea Reimer and Raymond Louie and City of North Vancouver mayor Darrell Mussatto.

      Were Cullen to enter the race, I doubt Reimer would put her name forward because they're two birds of a feather, politically. Louie, however, might attract a great deal of support from the labour movement.

      One thing that might hold Louie back could be any aspirations he has to run federally. He's already been president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, a position that served as a stepping stone into federal politics for Jack Layton.

      Raymond Louie (seen with former B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair) would garner a great deal of support from the unions.
      Charlie Smith

      Mussatto might position himself as a Mike Harcourt-like candidate: strong environmentally, politically pragmatic, and able to win support from voters who might ordinarily vote for other parties. Mussatto is a former paramedic and could get a boost from some in the labour movement.

      Another potential candidate who would attract a lot of labour support is Don Davies, the MP for Vancouver Kingsway. He's given no indication that he's interested in switching jobs, but you never know how things might unfold should a leadership vacancy arise.

      A third NDP MP with potential to lead the party is Fin Donnelly, who has stellar environmental credentials. He also a track record of winning big in the Tri-Cities, which has elected many Liberals and Conservatives municipally, provincially, and federally.

      MLA Mable Elmore has demonstrated that she's an exceptional political organizer.

      I would also keep an eye on MLAs Mable Elmore, Rob Fleming, or Harry Bains as potential candidates for the NDP leadership. Each has the organizational skills and experience to attract a great deal of support. If they didn't win, they could still play kingmaker or queenmaker at a party convention, ensuring continued influence in a future NDP government. 

      And you never know: maybe Mike Farnworth, who came second to Adrian Dix in the 2011 leadership race, just might decide to give it another try. 

      As for the B.C. Greens, don't expect Andrew Weaver to remain leader going into the 2021 election should he be the only Green MLA elected this year. He's already said that if his caucus doesn't get any larger than one, he's not going to do this again.

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