edited by Stanley Lee
According to a recent Mainstreet poll after the election, 57% of the voters want to see an NDP government working with the Greens, and 58% of the voters want to see the BC Greens work through legislation issue by issue. Buyer’s remorse appears to be brewing well. However, even though the BC NDP has run the strongest campaign in a long time given the odds, we still think they blew their opportunity this year in the following ways…
Another Lackluster Budget
British Columbians don’t trust the BC NDP on the economy given their experience in the 1990s or the BC Liberals’ depiction of it. They must have been aware of this after losing four straight provincial elections. That said, their perception management of the budget in this election doesn’t make them appear to have learned from past mistakes.
Given the commitment on building affordable housing, subsidized childcare, and eliminating road tolls, voters are naturally skeptical about the ability to pay for all these treats. It’s one thing for the party leader to scream “the budget will be balanced”, but it’s another thing to look through the details, which were thin in the platform. If they were able to put more details in the platform, it would’ve been much better for the party leader then to point out the details in an actual press conference – way more convincing than yelling “the budget will be balanced”, assuming the electorate lacks the sophistication to dig through the details.
This largely explains why (1) the polls have tightened in the last two weeks of the campaign after the BC NDP led by as much as 10 points in the polls, and (2) why some non-traditional NDP voters in this election may end up voting for the BC Liberals in the next election after a branding change following the eventual ouster of Christy Clark as party leader.
Lack of Adaptability
The attack ads between the BC Liberals and BC NDP during this election campaign was predictable. However, the Donald Trump administration throwing a ratchet into the softwood lumber deal between Canada and the United States was a surprise. This gave Christy Clark an opportunity to divert attention away from John Horgan’s attack on her, as well as showcasing her as a guardian for the province against Donald Trump. The BC NDP’s lack of aggression to counter this situation was one of the reasons why the polls tighten. Speaking of which…
Passivism on Housing Affordability and Corruption
The BC Liberals love to paint BC NDP leader John Horgan as “angry John”. If anything, we think Mr. Horgan didn’t appear aggressive enough from the standpoint of motivating progressive voters to turn out and vote for his party’s candidates. Even facing a resource disadvantage, they could’ve brought down the BC Liberal government given the gravity of corruption. In most cases, perceived corruption would’ve brought down an incumbent government, so the BC Liberals really dodged a bullet despite of losing a majority government.
Granted, they mentioned it aggressively in their advertising campaigns. However, Mr. Horgan appeared quite passive on this topic during the debates and press conferences. More dramatization could’ve motivated their base even more to vote, making up the difference in a number of ridings that could’ve won them a majority.
Giving BC Greens Legitimacy
The BC NDP’s fears of vote splitting with the BC Green Party is understandable. That being said, their advertising campaign in Vancouver Island warning voters against voting for the Greens is head scratching at best. Why would you want to spend your limited resources promoting the party you don’t want progressives to cast a ballot for?!! Whose idea is this? The psychology of the effect is well-studied. They are much better served directing their energy drumming up the emotion for their base and independent voters to vote for them rather than worrying about this, leading the Greens to win three seats as a result.
Furthermore, their projection of not losing seats to the BC Greens is naive at best. So is the projection of not losing any incumbent seats as they pursue new seats, which leads us to…
Their strategy beyond Metro Vancouver is puzzling. Granted, this strategy worked well within Metro Vancouver, and their warchest is understandably limited. That said, the election is a contest to win the most seats within the province, not Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island. We don’t know what happened, but they ended up losing Skeena, Fraser-Nicola, and Columbia-Revelstoke to the BC Liberals, as well as losing Saanich North and the Islands, and Cowichan Valley to the BC Greens. Perhaps this will serve as a reminder for the BC NDP to provide more support to the rural Liberal ridings where the margins have tightened.