Edited by Yi Fang
Elections are a battle of salesmanship. Political figures are selling concepts and politics. Buyers (in this case voters) very seldomly examine the product in detail before making a purchase decision. They often watch the commercials, compare between their choices, and use their prior experience and the brands’ reputations before making a choice. Most voters would not perpetually pay attention to the news. They often start paying attention as voting day inches closer. Most voters are not policy experts in anything. However, they use their own bias and even feelings to make their electoral decisions. The outcome of this election in British Columbia would depend on how each party brand themselves and sudden events during the writ period.
What kind of imaginations can politicians give voters? Which party leaders look more like premier material? Can all the party brand themselves in a simple yet create dependability for voters? Those are key questions the parties have to answer if they want to make gains in the legislature and win the election. Given how voters are now consuming information in sound bytes, pitching the policy ideas like academics is unlikely to win the election. The key lies in the ability to motivate the emotion to vote.
Let’s use some statistical common sense. Right now out of a total of 85 seats in the legislature, the BC LIberals hold 48 seats, BC NDP holds 35, Green Party holds 1, and there’s another independent member. The new legislature will have 87 seats, so winning the majority requires 44 seats. In other words, if the BC NDP were to win the majority, they have to hold all the seats they currently have, on top of winning 9 new seats. The BC Liberals only have to lose no more than 4 seats in order to hold onto their majority. Furthermore, this election is not a head-to-head battle between two parties. There’s also a spoiler factor of vote splitting by the BC Green Party – which could decide which party wins the majority.
Within the battleground ridings, three of them involve Chinese-Canadian candidates.
- Burnaby- Lougheed: In 2013, the BC NDP won the seat with 8,945 votes, BC Liberal has 8,205 votes, and BC Green Party has 1,665 votes. In 2017, the BC NDP is running with Katrina Chen, who’s currently a school trustee in Burnaby. She’s going up against former Global TV anchor Steve Darling from the BC Liberals.
- Burnaby- Deerlake: In 2013, the BC NDP won with 8,189 votes, BC Liberals had 7,286 votes, BC Green Party with 1,417. In 2017, the incumbent Kathy Corrigan (also the wife of Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan) is no longer running. The BC NDP has nominated current Burnaby city councillor Anne Kang to replace Corrigan. She’s going up against Karen Wang from the BC Liberals. The battle between Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese is creating tensions among Chinese voters in that riding. The BC Liberals didn’t even lose by 1000 votes in the last election, so the question is whether they could motivate the Mainland Chinese votes within the riding (and for them)? Would Mainland Chinese immigrants only vote for candidates from Mainland China? How many votes could the BC Green Party siphon from the BC NDP? All these could be factors deciding the final results.
- Vancouver-Fraserview: In 2013, the BC Liberals won with 10,118 votes, BC NDP got 9,648, and the BC Green Party received 1,230 votes. The results for this riding could effectively predict which party the province wants to elect. Suzanne Anton would seek re-election under the Liberal banner, and she will be going up against former two-term Vancouver city councillor George Chow from the BC NDP. How the voters evaluate the sitting government would decide who wins the seat here.
We can break down some key voting factors for this election:
- The public recognition of the BC Liberal’s economic performance
- The BC NDP’s perceived reputation on handling the economy
- Housing affordability crisis
- The level of public trust with the BC Liberals given the campaign financing scandals
- The balance between the economy and the environment
- How well will the Greens perform?
We have sampled some predictions among our access to many Chinese WeChat groups within Metro Vancouver.
Stanley Lee (from Hong Kong, an editor of Neway Opinion):
The BC Liberals have a huge advantage given their deep pockets, and the fact that the BC NDP still hasn’t paid off their campaign debt in 2013 by this point. The BC Liberals have simpler to understand slogans, and have a stronger electioneering experience than the BC NDP, especially at dodging political landmines from the press and opposition. In normal circumstances, the BC Liberals should be dead men walking given their campaign financing scandals, but given the weakness of the BC NDP’s attacks even on this opportunity, they may be able to get away relatively unscathed especially among the public apathy. Even though I think the BC Liberals would lose a few seats in the legislature, I still think this election is essentially BC Liberal’s to lose rather than BC NDP’s to win.
Francis Chin (from Taiwan, young political observer who previously contributed to Neway Opinion):
We can sense the urn for change within the public. However, the question is how badly the public want the change. For the BC NDP, the key is whether they can persuade the voters that they are good apples, especially on economic topics with their known ideologies and positions. If the BC NDP cannot showcase its ability and get stuck at criticizing the opposition, many voters may end up choosing not to vote or voting for the incumbent. The level of incompetence and corruption with the BC Liberals is predictable. But given the unpredictability of the BC NDP, many voters couldn’t summon themselves to vote for the New Democrats. Older voters are more reliable to draw out to the polls, and they tend to vote conservative. So the key is whether the BC NDP can motivate young voters to cast their ballots.
Roy Ruan (from Taiwan, former reporter for the World Journal in both Canada and United States):
The election theme is around who each party is working for. In 2013, the NDP was the favorite to win before BC Liberal came away with the upset. Things changed drastically in the past 4 years. The polls predict that the voters are not as sick with the BC Liberals as they were 4 years ago given the HST scandal, but then again, the polls could be wrong again this time around, so I think the BC Liberals still have a chance to win.
Yuan-Kai Xiao （from Mainland China，media veteran, writer，Chief-Writer of Rise Weekly magazine):
This election has more unknown, given the election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States and Brexit referendum. Populism is rising throughout the elections in Europe, so with respect to its effect on Canada, I think center-right parties (BC Liberals) are more favorable. The NDP still has cards to play, especially with donategate and the real situation with the economy. The campaigning staff for the NDP is more experienced than those 4 years ago when Adrian Dix was the party leader. However, the NDP cannot afford to wait for the Liberals to make their mistakes; they need to be proactive if they want to win.
Tony Zhu (from Mainland China，Vice-President of Teo Chew Society of Vancouver Canada，Vice-Chairman of Chao Shan Chairitable Society of Canada):
I live in Coquitlam, and I’m a business owner. As a business owner, I pay the most attention to economic policy. I’m not favoring any party, the key is everybody coming out to vote, even if it’s a blank ballot. When the voter turnout improves, the government would have to start paying attention to our concerns and numbers.
James Wu （from Mainland China, Secretary-General of Canadian Chinese City Friendship Assotiation):
I feel the BC Liberals were able to make the provincial economy to perform the best within Canada among with the lowest unemployment rate. I have immigrated to Canada 20 years ago. I feel there are more employment opportunities in recent years, so as a voter, I’m not looking for too many changes, and I’m not necessarily looking for a change in government. Granted, the BC Liberals have been governing for more than a decade, so any party would run into problems after governing for this long. However, the problems are not so severe that warrants a regime change, since we want the economy to keep growing.
Meena Wong (from Mainland China and Hong Kong, former mayoral candidate for the City of Vancouver):
I think the BC NDP would get elected. The BC Liberals have been in government for 16 years, corruption problems showing up persistently, repeatedly being investigated by the RCMP, so I think it’s time for a change of governing party. I pay attention to the environment, the economy, and affordable housing.
Sunny Chiu (from Hong Kong, law school student, former journalist for the Sing Tao Daily and Omni TV):
I predict is a small BC Liberal win. There was an environment for change, but now there’s a reverse wave for stability. In private conversations, we knew that there are more young people joining conservative parties to stop the lunatics from becoming the party leaders. There were problems with how the BC Liberals initially implemented the property transfer tax, but now they’ve already made the adjustments, as well as making tactical adjustments electioneering within the Chinese community, like how they’ve repealed racist legislations. So I think the BC Liberals can pull out a small victory.
Frank Huang (from Mainland China, media veteran, currently the editor for Canada Today, former NDP candidate for Richmond-Center in 2013):
All the predictions are coming out too early. Whether it’s Donald Trump, the federal election, the election in Alberta, or the BC election in 2013, the final results were shocking. The polls are becoming less accurate, so it’s much more difficult to predict. A party could have done a lot of work on the policies, but if they don’t know how to campaign, they will lose. Donald Trump practically doesn’t know anything with government, but he knows how to campaign quite well, therefore he won. Right now, the BC Liberals are dominating the BC NDP with respect to campaigning ability. Therefore the BC Liberals have a better chance to win. I’m not saying the BC NDP doesn’t have a chance. If they can adjust their strategies well enough, and leverage the populist environment, they have a chance.
Edward Liu (from Mainland China, currently operating a wine business):
I haven’t thought about who to cast my ballot for. However, I will definitely vote. The BC Liberals apparently advocate more for upper class families while the BC NDP appears to advocate for the working class. I’ll give the BC Liberal government 50% for their performance. They haven’t completely failed, but they haven’t performed out of the water either. I agree that the general climate isn’t great, so the deciding factor is which party can put me the most at ease with respect to economic policies. The government can provide more funding to small businesses, given how hard we’re struggling, often with sales and demanding physical labor at the same time. With respect to my sector, we can produce great wine, but the government can help us out more with promoting our products.
Anonymous （wechat group – Chinese Canadian Political Participation):
Economy! Economy! Economy! Recently there are more business closures, so many of these problems would have to be resolved sooner or later. Many election policy hasn’t even discussed economic growth! I think this is problematic. Whoever has a better economic policy would be able to grow the economy, and then grow employment and government revenue would follow suit with ability to pay for the social services.
Anonymous （wechat group – Chinese Canadian Political Participation):
Public safety, equality, housing affordability. The economy is the overarching problem, and can’t be solved by the province alone. The slow global economy is probably going to be held hostage by the Trump administration anyway.