All things considered, it's been a good year for B.C. Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon.
In the spring session, the B.C. Liberals pounded Premier John Horgan over his government's decision to provide a $789-million grant for a new Royal B.C. Museum. This came while B.C. residents were grappling with sky-high gas prices and raging inflation and museums in other parts of the province were lacking sufficient funding.
Along the way, Falcon recruited a high-profile candidate from the LGBT+ community, Elenore Sturko, as his candidate in the Surrey South by-election. That brought a lot of volunteers out to help with her campaign.
On Saturday (September 10), the former RCMP spokesperson in Surrey won in a landslide, capturing nearly 52 percent of the votes.
There mere presence of Sturko in the caucus will diminish NDP claims that the B.C. Liberals are a haven for social conservatives who want to dial back LGBT+ rights.
Keep in mind that Horgan became premier in part because of the NDP's strong showing in Surrey, which is B.C.'s second-largest city. But now Surrey appears to be up for grabs, given Falcon's long history as a Surrey MLA.
He's astutely exploited fears about the rising cost of living to the B.C. Liberals' advantage.
Falcon has also taken action to counter claims that his party really doesn't care about the climate crisis. He did this by punting the B.C. Liberals' most ardent supporter of more greenhouse-gas emissions, John Rustad, out of caucus.
The B.C. Liberal leader has sent a message to some of the others, including Skeena MLA Ellis Ross, that it's not good for their political careers if they continue to retweet messages from Patrick Moore, former chair of the CO2 Coalition.
The climate still remains one of Falcon's weaknesses. The NDP will repeatedly remind voters that he endorsed anthropogenic climate-change denier Max Bernier in the 2017 Conservative leadership race.
Falcon also eagerly replaced farmland with pavement when steering through the South Fraser Perimeter Road as B.C.'s minister of transportation. In the process, the province lost 90 hectares of prime agricultural properties.
But Falcon is trying to send a message that he's worried about the breakdown of predictable climate cycles—and in doing this, he might blunt the B.C. NDP's attacks regarding climate issues.
The B.C. NDP has hardly been a winner on this file anyway. Provincewide emissions increased in each of its first two full years in power before dropping somewhat in the third year as B.C. found itself in the midst of a pandemic.
In June, Falcon also received a break from the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering. The commissioner, Austin Cullen, concluded that there was no corruption by B.C. Liberals and that dirty money wasn't the main cause of higher housing prices.
Furstenau might make the difference
The best chance for Falcon to become B.C.'s next premier is if the B.C. Greens under Sonia Furstenau continue wooing traditional NDP voters.
This year, she made inroads by focusing a great deal of attention on the B.C. NDP government's response to the pandemic, a crumbling health-care system, and the overdose crisis, as well as its continued support for old-growth logging.
Furstenau has argued that if former B.C. NDP attorney general David Eby becomes the new premier, he'll represent the NDP status quo.
Traditionally, the B.C. NDP has done better than the B.C. Liberals with female voters. But the rise of Furstenau as the B.C. Green leader—and the issues she's focusing on—elevates the risk of more of them changing their allegiance in the next election.
For the most part, the B.C. NDP has ignored Furstenau, preferring to focus its attacks on the B.C. Liberals. But that could change if polls start showing that more progressive voters are swinging to the B.C. Greens.
Here's one of Falcon's trump cards. Former B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver had considerable appeal to anti-NDP voters who cared about the climate. As a result, Weaver could peel away votes from those who formerly supported the B.C. Liberals.
Furstenau, on the other hand, likely resonates more strongly with the NDP base than Weaver ever could, given his lack of class consciousness and his occasionally haughty demeanour.
All of this makes it more imperative for Falcon to convince former B.C. Liberal voters who switched to the Greens under Weaver to return to the B.C. Liberal tent.
This is the back story behind Falcon kicking Rustad out of caucus. And if Falcon succeeds with this gambit of trying to convince people that he actually cares about greenhouse gas emissions, it just might be enough to make him premier.