Work has begun to create new party to replace tainted BC Liberals
The election in British Columbia isn’t for another nine weeks yet. Already, though, there are moves afoot to deal with the aftermath of it.
Assuming everyone and their brother hasn’t been lying to pollsters, the election is pretty much in the bag for the BC NDP. Not only is there strong “time for a change” momentum aiding the party, after three terms of the BC Liberals, but recent occasions where the Premier, Christy Clark, and her entourage only opened their mouths to change feet (e.g. “Ethnicgate”) have brought the prospects of a competitive election down sharply.
Clark’s road map for the election has never been good. As reported on Feb. 15 in your Beacon News, before the budget and Ethnicgate erupted, the absolute best case for the BC Liberals was 34 seats — a respectable loss. A roadmap today would see 25 or fewer seats if everything breaks their way.
At 25 or fewer seats, Christy Clark’s own seat of Vancouver-Point Grey is in question. But polls in the province (again, we’re waiting for the first comprehensive post-Ethnicgate poll to come out) suggest a shellacking is not out of the question — “Liberal, party of two” could well be in the offing.
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That’s the sort of outcome that destroys a political party.
Meanwhile, John Cummins’ BC Conservatives seem equally determined to destroy their party. The party, at the moment, is going into an election without any of its key officers: between purges run by the leader’s coterie and resignations in disgust, the party’s officers are missing in action. Riding associations are walking, as leader Cummins overrides their nominating selections to impose his own choice of candidates.
And, of course, the bloom is off the new party rose: the party has fallen back to around 10 per cent in the province-wide polls, and are likely to take no seats (with, oddly enough, their best chance to get one coming if the Liberals collapse completely).
That’s why individuals affiliated with both the BC Conservatives and the BC Liberals are starting to organize for a new party. The project is nicknamed “Free Enterprise Party 3.0″.
They remember that when Social Credit was crushed in 1991, it didn’t come back. (The Socreds came out of that election with seven seats.) They don’t expect the BC Liberals to come back from a single-digit seat count, either.
Better, in the minds of these folks, to start fresh: put a new team, a new set of players, and a distinct lack of history in front of the voters for the 2017 election.
The growth of the BC Conservatives last year, with floor crossings from the Liberals giving them a presence in the legislature and members of riding associations moving from one party to the other, has left a lot of bad blood lying around.
The self-immolation of the BC Conservatives, as they tried unsuccessfully to unseat John Cummins as their leader and as factions within the party turned on one another (the party has a history of doing that whenever it upticks in the polls) has more bad blood lying about, enough to probably keep the BC Conservatives as constituted from succeeding the BC Liberals as the NDP’s opposition-to-beat.
Growing a new party, goes the thinking, puts everyone on an even footing. Those key Liberals who retired rather than run again under Christy Clark’s banner might be enticed to shift over and play a role in building a new party. Riding associations would be built, with no one grandfathered in. The new party, in turn, would dump all the baggage of the past years in one fell swoop.
There’s evidently some interest from the moneyed who normally support the “anything-but-the-NDP” option in the province. They’ll top up the Liberal coffers for the election — but are looking to shift their focus after it if the BC Liberals are crushed.
Since the new party effort requires the BC Liberals to crash and burn (as opposed to just lose) there’s also a fair number of calls being placed and quiet conversations being held to try and weaken the efforts that will be put in on the Liberals’ behalf. (The Conservatives have weakening their own hand down to a science: no special “chats” need be held to help that along.)
The goal would be — as it was when Gordon Wilson turned the moribund Liberal brand into the successor to the Social Credit monolith back in 1991 — to make this as clean a break as possible. Much as with Gordon Campbell taking over the BC Liberals and leading them to power, new faces to front the new party would be sought that leave both Liberal and Conservative track records behind them.
Meanwhile, both of the existing “not-NDP” parties would likely be wrestling with a leadership race (they both have constitutions forcing a review on any leader who loses an election and, frankly, neither Cummins nor Clark are expected to stay on if they fail to return to the Legislature personally), allowing them to grind to oblivion gently (again, much as Social Credit did during the 1990s).
What all this means for Christy Clark’s re-election campaign is simple. There will be even more people sitting on their hands — or putting in at best a perfunctory effort — at a time when the only thing that will save the BC Liberals from the slippery slope to dissolution is intense and sustained effort.
You have to wonder if the Legislature is about to have a bill bringing in proportional representation in some form (as was done by the old Liberal-Conservative coalition of the 1940s to try and save its neck) will be jammed through sometime this month. (It worked, but it worked for the Social Credit movement — who repealed it once in power.)
Still, it’s about the only thing left to save the BC Liberals’ bacon.
Category: British Columbia