The British Columbia Liberals’ stunning come-from-behind victory in the province’s general election on Tuesday carries an essential message for all Canadian politicians: Voters want growth, and the strong economy that comes with it.
Liberal leader Christy Clark and her party were 20-point underdogs, the polls said. The NDP under Adrian Dix were the runaway favourites, selling the electorate on the idea of change. But change from what? The 12 previous years of Liberal rule had their share of controversies but the governing party took the province into the election with a balanced budget, an unemployment rate below the national average, and an economy that came through the 2008 recession in reasonable condition.
B.C. voters are a wise and strategic bunch. They re-elected the party best-suited to continue the growth that will keep their province at the head of Canada’s economic class, while reminding Ms. Clark, who lost her Vancouver-area seat over concerns about tankers in the harbour, that a little humility is in order.
Mr. Dix presented himself as a moderate wishing to strike a balance between supporting resource development and staying faithful to his party’s environmentalist and pro-union bent. His fatal error, though, may have been his outright opposition to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
He underestimated voters’ desire to elect the party it was most comfortable with when it comes to creating jobs and increasing provincial revenues from resource development. Ms. Clark, who was cagey about her position on the Trans Mountain project, should now take an objective look at the proposal, let go of her populist, B.C.-first rhetoric, and ensure that her government is an open-minded partner with Alberta in its bid to get its oil to tidewaters for export.
Christy Clark should heed the messages of the electorate. She will have to keep her eye on jobs and growth while at the same time ensuring that the environment is protected and that First Nations’ voices are heard every step of the way. She needs to find herself a seat in the legislature as soon as possible, and show that she and her party continue to be worthy of the voters’ confidence.