Media and scholars will study for years to come how the BC Liberals defied the odds (and the polls) and won British Columbia’s 40th provincial election on May 14.
Liberal sources told me they were truly surprised at what happened. They would’ve been overjoyed with a minority government for Christy Clark, but were already resigned to hearing the words “Premier-designate, Adrian Dix.”
|Dix departs on day 1: flawed from the start.
I haven’t found any members of the so-called 801 Club, but I found sympathizers who vowed to stay home on election day. They would never vote NDP, but they said they couldn’t vote to keep Clark as premier.
Ultimately, it was the triumph of a fear-based advertising campaign. Fear and greed are the two most basic motivators of humans. The Liberals painted Dix as weak and voters were told time and again they should fear what he might do if given power. It was built on the premise that repetition can sometimes be perceived as reality, even if the message is false. The same spin doctors portrayed Clark as strong. It was laughable for her to claim fiscal responsibility, but more people bought it than bought the NDP narrative.
On the ground, the Liberals spent the last weekend promoting Green Party candidates in some swing ridings, hoping to split the NDP vote. On election day, Liberal candidates, such as Peter Fassbender, Suzanne Anton and Richard Lee, used social media to bash the NDP and/or get the vote out, despite the Elections Act’s ban on transmitting or publishing advertising messages on election day. They finally stopped and deleted their messages. Those weren’t the signs of a party confident of victory.
As much as Dix was delivering a bright, positive Barack Obama-inspired message of hope and change, his campaign was too little, too late in expressing criticism of the Liberal record. When the NDP became critical, the Liberals framed it as being negative. The NDP could have prevented this.
Re-using the Jack Layton playbook from the 2011 federal election was ill-conceived. Layton was not running to be Prime Minister, he was running to be the Opposition leader. Dix’s fatal error was not highlighting the 12-year Liberal record of incompetence and corruption on a daily basis. Showing how the Liberals wasted resources and grew government would have been simple. Simple, just-the-facts storytelling (with a dash of humour) would have done the job and reminded British Columbians that it was time for a change in government.
One practical step at a time? Dix should instead have been urging British Columbians to take a giant leap away from the Liberals.
How could he have done so? By revealing the incidents of Liberal mistakes and misconducts one-by-one throughout the campaign, in a daily advent calendar-style opening, complete with historical newspaper quotes and broadcast clips. The only problem would have been choosing which 28 issues and incidents to highlight and in which order. Quick Wins, Wood Innovation and Design Centre, Liquor Distribution Branch, BC Hydro smart meters… those are just the tip of the iceberg. The list is so long, as per Laila Yuile’s 100+ Reasons the Liberals Must Go
While the Liberals spent a year-and-a-half reminding voters of Dix’s 1999 backdated memo
, Dix and the NDP should have reminded voters of the boxes and boxes and boxes of documents hauled out of the Legislature on Dec. 28, 2003
by police officers investigating the corrupt procurement process around the sale of BC Rail. There were more than 25,000 pages entered as evidence in Dave Basi and Bob Virk’s bribery trial.
|Van Dongen’s BC Rail cookie. (Facebook)
Dix’s tour bus should have included trips to the former BC Rail terminus in Prince George and the recently demolished station in North Vancouver. It was not good enough to simply promise a two-year, $10 million judicial inquiry in the platform. The $6 million legal indemnity deal resonates with citizens but the NDP did little when the documents the government didn’t want you to see were finally revealed during the campaign by Global BC’s Jas Johal
. In fact, independent John van Dongen did more to highlight the issue than the NDP did by publishing a photo of a themed cookie
by an Abbotsford baker on Facebook and Twitter.
The May 2 poll release from Angus Reid Public Opinion
said the $6 million legal indemnity deal mattered a lot or somewhat to 67% of respondents — 1% more than the way the Harmonized Sales Tax was introduced in 2009 by the Liberals.
People are mad as hell and not tolerating corruption anymore. Since the global economic crisis of 2008, corruption has been top-of-mind around the world. Consider the troubles in India listed in this BBC report. Or how new Chinese president Li Xinping is battling corruption (and how there is a BC Liberal connection, according to the Globe and Mail!). Closer to home, B.C. taxpayers need to keep an eye on embattled Montreal engineering firm SNC-Lavalin; the Evergreen Line contractor was blacklisted by the World Bank and is facing corruption investigations on four continents.
It was also not good enough for the NDP platform to focus solely on a BC Rail inquiry. A top-to-bottom overhaul of government is necessary. The Office of the Auditor-General proposed whistleblower protection. The Information and Privacy Commissioner has offered ideas on increasing transparency and accountability, including a duty to document law. The NDP didn’t offer a new vision for openness and accountability. It was simply not confident in its ability to set and adhere to higher standards and deliver the good government that British Columbians truly desire.
The NDP needed a focussed plan to restore public trust. It didn’t. It failed British Columbians.