A fool’s errand? Of course.. but step by step, just like a real pundit, I’m going to tell you what will happen in the last three days of the campaign today….Okay I lied. I’ll do no such thing… But I’ll tell you some themes which will develop, some I think will but won’t, and some that definitely should develop to influence the vote. Who will win? I won’t tell you that. You will decide it.
Who will be influencing the vote among media, political parties and activist interest groups (including unions and business groups led by people like John Winter)? How will they try to accomplish the election of a government that favours their interests?
You’ll decide the next government whether you vote or not. Hint: It’s better all round if you vote. And there’s a second thing I hope you’ll do. I hope you will engage in issues that make you feel passion, research responsibly, and engage your friends, family and co-workers.
First of all, walk down the street of your city or town, look at the faces of the commuters and shopkeepers. Realize many of them, almost certainly more than half, have not paid nearly enough attention to the last 4 years of BC governance. These good hearted people are happy to have it all explained to them in late April and early May. I’m not knocking the average Joe here… To obsess, as political junkies do, with things you only get to influence once every four years? It’s madness unless you can make a living and get your son through college on the proceeds.
Think of BC as a gigantic Mariposa, the town Stephen Leacock fictionally portrayed during an early 20th century campaign in Ontario.. The mayor, the judge, the banker, and the barkeeper are “in the know” (to one degree or another). They “know people”. They are “influential”, respected, and perhaps feared. What these few people say, including the newspaper editor, can become incontrovertible public opinion regardless of actual merit.
(I promise I’m getting to the meat of things…Soon)
There’s a cost to disengagement between elections. Governments are keenly aware that they can get away with anything if the electorate either doesn’t notice, forgets by election day, or doesn’t care.
Predictions, then what each party needs to do to achieve its goals:
Narratives have been nurtured by the three main parties over the last four years. Media are vulnerable and/or complicit in aiding those narratives. Easy access to ministers and unfettered access to millions in government and party advertising dollars matter, subtly or explicitly. Equally, advertising dollars from industry matter to the narrative spun by those who depend on that income (realty? New Car Dealers? Kinder Morgan?). To complain about that is futile, but to be blind to it is worse.
Some narratives nurtured by the governing BCLiberals and a portion of the media are:
The NDP can’t get it together. Nobody knows who John Horgan is. Horgan needs to solve the divide between the green and the pro-union factions of his caucus. Horgan can be hot-headed. Horgan is a flipflopper on Kinder Morgan (a complete fabrication. I say this because there is no record of Horgan ever expressing support for the Kinder Morgan proposal that’s in front of us, or the process that got us here). And of course the big one: “Party of No”.
Still with the Liberals.. “Isn’t Andrew Weaver great? The Greens under his leadership are so constructive as they oppose everything we do at least as forcefully as the NDP.”
Clark proved in the last campaign she was willing to not only vocally support the Greens in the mission to erode the NDP vote, she would commit BCLiberal donation $ to buy advertising for them. I think she will do that again.
The above narratives are manipulations. They are effective because they are neither supported by evidence, nor do they require evidence to filter into public consciousness. They are repeated by members of media and punditry in a lazy and jaded fashion..
The positive narrative the BCLiberals advance will be similar to the one that worked so well last time. The BCLiberals are the party of job creation (nearly last in secure full time jobs, and the growth is outside their interior base in Vancouver and Victoria but never mind). GDP is strong. We have balanced 4 budgets in a row. The operating deficit is nearly eliminated (never mind tens of billions added in long term debt and contractual obligations). Where we promised LNG jobs and none came , this time around we will instead promise tech growth ( and retool education to support it, just as we didn’t quite for trades). Whatever, it works.
There are individuals in media who betray a bias or wish for an NDP win in May but they are few. So it’s up to the NDP to advance its own narratives successfully and province-wide. Those narratives are:
The negatives : The BCLiberals can’t be trusted. They care for their donors, not for ordinary people. Wages have stagnated while tax revenues from industry decline and export volumes and values soar. On real estate and on per pupil funding (see rural school funds) the BCLiberals are great at reacting when polls go south. They deny and deny problems that affect people’s ability to live until the evidence I overwhelming, and the public outcry so loud they can’t stand it.
Only when Vancouver property has driven everyone out of even dreaming of home ownership who isn’t already in the game, do we get a flawed Foreign Buyer’s Tax, which now needs to be revised to include a couple of NDP amendments they rejected at the outset.
Only when the Supreme Court of Canada ends a fifteen year battle in fifteen minutes do the BCLiberal suddenly agree class composition and size need to be priorities in public schools (and hire back 1000+ teachers).
Transparency: From Triple Delete, to the Rod MacIsaac suicide, to Quickwins, to campaign funding, the BCLiberals are the party of cover-ups and naked political scheming. (Personal note: Until we know who fired the health researchers and why 4 years ago, I would not shake the hand of a single BCLiberal MLA. By this time, every one of them bears responsibility for the bullying, the lies, and the cover up and the suicide by not insisting their own government come clean. )
The positives: The NDP needs to get out a positive message that resonates in a way they didn’t last time. That’s clear. I don’t know if it’s enough, but here’s what I see so far.
Horgan has embraced a number of policies which have wide public support.
The first act of his government, if he wins, will be a ban on union and corporate donations. Public support in the high 80’s. The impact of this is enormous: we can anticipate an end to wondering if the operators of Mt. Polley got off easy because Murray Edwards gave big to the BCLiberals. We can stop suspecting the fix was in for Kinder Morgan by virtue of some $700,000 in party funding lapped up by Clark from KM (not even a BC Company) and associated contractors.
Horgan embraces a ban on trophy hunting of grizzly bears..
Horgan embraces $10/day childcare.
Add these: Adoption of the UNDRIP recommendations in relation to First Nations and the word and spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. A move toward a $15 minimum wage. The elimination of regressive MSP premiums over time (rolling this cost back into the general tax system where it belongs).
I think John Horgan has made the case that public education is a priority for his team in a way it never has been for the Campbell Clark crew. Parents of school age children who want their kids to succeed without paying for smaller classes in publicly subsidized private schools should rejoice.
Lastly, an issue that I think should be much more important than it will be to the voter (sadly) … The NDP will get the $45/ year buspass back in the hands of the disabled who need it.
On to the Green narratives, positive and negative:
We are the only party to have actually banned union and corporate donations already, and in real time. How effective this is in the end is related to how many buy the idea that Weaver can form government. I’ll leave that to you. Otherwise you can vote for a ban by voting NDP or vote for the Wild West we have by voting for Clark.
Greens engage on issues. We don’t subscribe to “gotcha” politics. We will work constructively for positive change no matter who is in power. Greens think outside the box.
Neither Clark nor Horgan can be trusted on anything.
The Greens have more credibility than anyone else by leaps and bounds on the environment and climate change. We have actual scientists.
The Greens have a policy against whipped votes.. No longer will your MLA be forced to vote against his/her conscience or be banished from the island.
Greens have great candidates. Expect to see a lot of Sonja Furstenau. Her battle against the Shawnigan waste dump and the fraud perpetrated on the Environmental Appeal Board are now legend, and she deserves every bit of leverage she can get out of her success there. The other candidates will have to convince the voters they are, well, great.
Personal note: I don’t want to dismiss the Greens. I think their mission is 4-5 seats. My belief that it’s a high bar for them shouldn’t diminish their contribution to our discourse.
So last points – What each party needs to do to achieve what it wants to achieve:
BCLiberals: In policy terms they have been visibly flailing and trying to maneuver the ship to safety. From transgender rights to taxing foreign RE buyers, to public education funding and many of its parts, the BCLiberals have been reversing themselves on long standing strongly held positions.
Their key flaw is arrogance. When you reverse positions you held arrogantly , and then hold the new position just as arrogantly, it’s a problem. I believe the only solution they can put into practice is some public humility… With issues like the health firings scandal, it goes beyond a brief apology and a continued unwillingness to make public the answers they know exist. A good dose of publicly stating “we were horribly horribly wrong and it won’t happen again” would be beneficial
But they’ve won four times by being exactly the overconfident people they are. Don’t hold your breath.
The BCNDP: John Horgan needs to talk past the media directly to people. The challenge is huge to hold Clark accountable forcefully and factually without being nasty, while at the same time making the case that life will be demonstrably better under an NDP regime. The media won’t make the case that the NDP plan for jobs with a renewed commitment to climate change may be more successful than what the Liberals are peddling. Horgan has to make that case himself, convincingly.
Similarly, on some issues which are admittedly huge, like Site C, the NDP must accept that some voters think the promise to send it to BC Utilities Commission review is too weak. Personally I think it’s the right position politically, and here’s why: There is a large pool of swing voters who don’t know what’s right or wrong about Site C. They are likely to be skeptical of Horgan rejecting it out of hand after all the bafflegab they’ve been fed about future needs for the energy. If Site C is to be shut down, they’ll be far more convinced by arguments from the BCUC than from any politician of any stripe
But the point is, on KM, on Site C, on LNG, at this point in the cycle the NDP must stick to its guns knowing it will lose each argument with some voters on either side.
The Greens: Andrew Weaver, as much as I respect him, needs to stop being petulant and hypercritical and hypersensitive on social media. He needs to admit that on some issues, his natural enemy is Clark and not Horgan. The essays Weaver puts out on issues on the Green website are well worth reading. He does have good people attracted to running for his party, but in order to get very many of them elected he needs to be careful not to offend those who disagree, or agree but hang naturally under a different party banner.
Thanks for reading.. looking forward to your comments on my sins of commission and omission in this highly individual and utterly unreliable piece of analysis. If you’re wandering the streets of Mariposa looking for someone who is “in the know”, who can tell you what to think, keep looking.