Hearts and minds solidifying against BC Liberals
By Bruce A Stewart
British Columbians have just about made up their minds. That’s not good news for the governing BC Liberals.
From here on in, there’s no action left for them to take turn this around. Only a significant event — either a major policy mistake by their opponents or a major event outside their control — will shift the attitudes of the voters of BC.
They’re ready to wreak vengeance. Just like 2001.
By 2000, BC was hard in its attitudes, too. Nothing the post-Glen Clark NDP governments of Dan Miller or Ujjal Dosanjh did made a difference. The outcome was NDP, party of two, and the BC Liberals swept into power with all the rest of the seats.
It probably won’t be quite so bad this time. The BC Liberals should manage to keep official party status under the Legislature’s rules. But it could easily be a near run thing, since the BC Conservatives are polling ahead of the Liberals in a majority of the interior and northern ridings.
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It’s beyond leadership. The province is tired of the lot of them, not just Premier Christy Clark. Too many years of the same voices on the radio, the same faces in the newspapers and on television — and too many years of watching the province decay.
Pipelines? Irrelevant to her future.
If you live in the Interior, or in the northern Gulf Islands, chances are good that the last eleven years under the BC Liberals has seen your local mill close. Oh, there’s still lots of logging going on — but the work goes elsewhere now.
Fisheries? In trouble — and the BC Liberals’ pet solution, industrial-grade salmon farming, seems behind the independents not making a living any longer.
For a long time, on the South Coast and in the Okanagan, real estate made up the difference. But the Parksvilles and Qualicum Beaches, Sechelts and Salt Springs, Sookes and Saaniches, Kelownas, Vernons and so on are at the point where you don’t bother putting up a for sale sign any longer. It’s all for sale at the right price — and no one wants to pay enough to pay off the mortgage now that the bubble has burst.
Don’t ask about condos in Greater Victoria or Greater Vancouver. “Glut on the market” doesn’t begin to tell the story. And the story’s still near the beginning, not near the end. The Real Estate Boards continue to try and put a great spin on things, but the wealth engine is broken.
Meanwhile, British Columbians pay higher than average prices for food and fuel. They may not show up in the Consumer Price Index, but they certainly show up when you try and balance the family budget.
Technology start-ups were supposed to build a new economy. But it’s been the same old story: the good ones end up getting acquired and control moves away (and, often, the whole company goes). Ten years of a strategy to build up sectors, and there’s little to nothing to show for it.
The same in mining: any company with halfway decent holdings is cannon fodder. Head office jobs leave Vancouver for elsewhere, whether it’s big moves like Barrick buying Placer Dome a few years back, or smaller ones like Poland’s KGHM buying up Quadra FNX, jobs leave BC.
Hospital closures, long term care shortages, schools decaying, issues with the ferries: any government ends up carrying the can for making decisions about public services. Simple “time for a change” sentiments mean that after three full terms a party may serve a term in opposition normally and naturally.
But the promise was a vital BC economy — and it’s worse now in BC than it was under the NDP in the 1990s, down on the ground where people live, raise families, try to survive. Instead the jobs have gone, and so too has the retirement plan from the bubble.
Add the débàcle of the HST, and you have a perfect storm facing the BC Liberals.