B.C. Premier Christy Clark sought Monday to convince about 1,800 supporters at a key fundraising dinner that the B.C. Liberals still have a shot at winning the provincial election despite running far behind the NDP in the polls.
Observers said that was the key goal for Ms. Clark in the last annual premier’s dinner before campaigning begins next week for the May 14 provincial election.
The candidates the Liberals will be running across the province took to the stage in a ballroom of the Vancouver Convention Centre, forming a backdrop behind Ms. Clark as she touted her team, and then proceeded to take a series of election-style shots at NDP Leader Adrian Dix.
But the key message was that the polls are wrong. Ms. Clark told her audience she was confident of a turnaround win as voters focused on making a choice between the NDP and the Liberals.
“When free enterprisers have something worth fighting for, we win,” Ms. Clark said. “I have never been more ready for anything in my life.”
But Ms. Clark, heading into her first election since winning the B.C. Liberal leadership in 2011, said she would need the help of her supporters – who paid $350 per plate – to score that win.
“We need to band together to make this happen,” she said near the end of a speech capped by a standing ovation from the audience of MLAs past and present, business leaders and other supporters.
The fundraiser was co-chaired by Christine Day, CEO of Lululemon, Cactus Restaurants founder Richard Jaffray and condo marketer Bob Rennie.
Cultural Development Minister Bill Bennett said the situation is especially dire for the Liberals this year because of the perception that the NDP could actually win power next month, attaining government for the first time since 2001.
“In the three elections, I have fought, I don’t think the NDP was expected to win,” he said after the speech. “The NDP are, in a lot of cases, expected to win this time.”
He said members of the audience had to leave believing the Liberals could actually win a fourth term, defying polls that include an Angus-Reid survey that has the New Democrats running 20 points ahead of the Liberals.. “This crowd has to believe we can win so they’ll get involved in our campaigns and donate and vote,” he said.
He said he thought Ms. Clark had done that.
Former Tory MP John Reynolds, who co-chaired the 2012 premier’s dinner as part of an effort to bolster the Liberals and heal a split in the centre-right vote between the Liberals and B.C. Conservatives, said Ms. Clark left the audience motivated.
“She had to show them she’s ready to fight an election,” he said after the speech.
The point, he said, was for those present to go out and tell their friends and associates as much. “This is about getting votes,” he said.