Can Christy Clark survive politically after B.C. Liberals suffer severe losses across Metro Vancouver?

    1 of 5 2 of 5

      It was a disastrous election night for Christy Clark, even if she somehow manages to remain premier.

      Her party captured 40.84 percent of the vote, compared to the NDP's 39.8 percent and the Greens' 16.75 percent. So Clark could claim that she won the popular vote.

      And she ended the evening with a two-seat lead over the NDP. This was not enough to form a majority government and could conceivably vanish after absentee ballots are counted.

      That's because New Democrat Jodie Wickens lost by just 180 votes in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain.

      NDP candidates Ronna-Rae Leonard and Bob D'Eith only won by nine votes in Courtenay-Comox and 120 votes in Maple Ridge-Mission, respectively.

      If either of these two results are overturned by the absentee vote, then Clark could even gain a majority.

      But it's still a dreadful result for the B.C. Liberals and far worse than anything endured in the Lower Mainland under Gordon Campbell's leadership.

      The B.C. Liberals' only incumbent of South Asian ancestry, Amrik Virk, was among the party's casualties.

      Christy Clark's caucus lacks diversity 

      This B.C. Liberal leader has become a severe political liability in much of Metro Vancouver.

      And the B.C. Liberal caucus is even less diverse this morning than it was before the writ was dropped, leaving the party less equipped to fight the next campaign in the region with the most seats.

      Clark's party looks much whiter and older, and has a tiny number of MLAs who speak the languages of many new Canadians.

      Prior to the election, the NDP had no candidates of Chinese ancestry whereas the B.C. Liberals had four.

      Last night, four New Democrats of Chinese ancestry, including two who were born in Taiwan, were elected.

      George Chow, who won in Vancouver-Fraserview, is a respected member of the Cantonese-speaking community. Katrina Chen (Burnaby-Lougheed), Anne Kang (Burnaby-Deer Lake), and Bowinn Ma (North Vancouver-Lonsdale) all speak Mandarin. It will give the NDP a commanding presence in the Chinese-speaking media.

      The B.C. Liberals managed to reelect Teresa Wat and John Yap in Richmond constituencies, but Doug Bing and veteran Richard Lee were defeated.

      The results were even more depressing for the B.C. Liberals when it came to South Asian candidates.

      In 2013, Clark did phenomenally well with South Asian voters, accounting for her victories in some Surrey constituencies and in Vancouver-Fraserview in that election.

      The reverse occurred last night as the only South Asian in her caucus, Amrik Virk, was defeated.

      His loss was offset by political rookie Jas Johal winning by 263 votes over the NDP's Aman Singh in Richmond-Queensborough. This has left the B.C. Liberals with a single MLA who traces his roots back to India.

      Clark is no doubt hoping that there aren't a large number of absentee votes for the NDP in Richmond-Queensborough. But even Johal's victory won't necessarily help the party in Surrey, given that he has very little connection to B.C.'s fastest growing city.

      Meanwhile, the NDP elected the following candidates of South Asian ancestry: Harry Bains, Jagrup Brar, Raj Chouhan, Ravi Kahlon, Jinny Sims, and Rachna Singh. It gives the New Democrats a large group of MLAs who can continue strengthening the party's profile in one of the region's largest and most politically active communities.

      The NDP also has the only MLA of Philippine ancestry: Mable Elmore. And the NDP's Melanie Mark helps her party win support in the growing Metro Vancouver indigenous community.

      John Horgan (seen at the Vancouver Vaisakhi celebration) will have a large and diverse caucus alongside him in Victoria.
      Charlie Smith

      Affordability doomed B.C. Liberals in Lower Mainland

      In fact, Clark's B.C. Liberals were thumped virtually everywhere in the Lower Mainland where the high cost of living is an issue.

      Sure, she won in Richmond, Tsawwassen and Ladner, southwest Vancouver, South Surrey and White Rock, and across much of the North Shore—areas mostly occupied by higher-income single-family homeowners.

      But almost everywhere else, the B.C. Liberals had a rotten night. Metro Vancouver has become too expensive, and the NDP played this up to the hilt.

      John Horgan's success is a testament to the growing number of people in the Lower Mainland who are feeling like have-nots under B.C. Liberal rule.

      These voters were comfortable with the idea of Horgan being premier. And in all but one of the most diverse constituencies, the B.C. Greens did not play a decisive factor.

      That exception was Vancouver-False Creek, where New Democrat Morgane Oger's loss could possibly be traced back to a Green candidate winning 3,448 votes. This enabled B.C. Liberal Sam Sullivan to capture the seat with just 42.57 percent of the vote.

      If Deputy Green Leader and MLA-elect Adam Olsen votes to keep Christy Clark as premier, he could face a backlash from voters in Saanich North and the Islands.

      B.C. Green MLAs will face pressure to support NDP

      That's not to say the B.C. Greens didn't influence the provincewide outcome.

      On Vancouver Island, the NDP lost two seats to the Greens. Had Cowichan Valley and Sannich North and the Islands remained NDP, Horgan would be sitting at 43 seats this morning, just one shy of a majority.

      Voters in these two constituencies overwhelmingly rejected the B.C. Liberals, who won 27.7 percent and 26.9 percent in each of them.

      New Green MLAs Sonia Fursteneau and Adam Olsen know in their hearts that if they prop up a B.C. Liberal minority government, they could pay a very high price with their own voters in the next election.

      In fact, they can expect people living in their constituencies to hold noisy demonstrations and possibly even launch recall campaigns if Fursteneau and Olsen choose to support retaining Clark as premier.

      Clark's other concern is if one of her MLAs gets sick or dies when the legislature is in session.

      If any B.C. Liberals aren't in their seats, it would be very easy for the NDP to seize on this to bring forward a vote of no-confidence, should Clark remain as premier.

      And if this were to happen and Fursteneau and Olsen were to vote to support the B.C. Liberals, that could mark the beginning of the end of their provincial careers.

      Would the B.C. Liberals' only Vancouver Island MLA-elect, Michelle Stilwell, have a better chance than Christy Clark of retaining the support of Vancouver Island Green MLAs?

      The premier is in a political pickle

      Clark is aware of all of this, as are many of her fellow B.C. Liberal MLAs.

      They need an exit strategy. And over the medium term, that will involve finding a new leader who is less repugnant to Lower Mainland voters and who won't be nearly as offensive to the voters of Cowichan Valley and Saanich North and the Islands.

      Todd Stone is one potential replacement. Andrew Wilkinson might be another. The only B.C. Liberal to win on Vancouver Island, Michelle Stilwell, is another option if the party wants to increase its hope of retaining Green support for any length of time.

      Adding to the B.C. Liberal woes is B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver's demand to take big money out of politics as the price for his party's support.

      Once the B.C. Liberals lose their large financial advantage, they'll far have more difficulty competing in future elections.

      British Columbians might be tempted to look at last night's seat count and conclude that the B.C. Liberals won that battle.

      But when you dig a little deeper, Christy Clark appears well on her way to losing the war.

      Don't be surprised if she tries to find a graceful way to exit within the next couple of years rather than facing the possibility of a party putsch.