Many members of British Columbia's business community had been quietly hoping for the Liberals to win.
Wary about the prospect of an NDP government, major business groups were reluctant to comment publicly due to their desire to appear open-minded about whichever party would form the next government. The Vancouver Board of Trade, for instance, declined to weigh in, noting the polls were still open when asked for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Karina Brino, president of the Mining Association of British Columbia, stressed that her group steered clear of favouring one party over another. “Our job is to make the interests of our industry well understood and represented,” she said.
One outspoken critic was already putting NDP Leader Adrian Dix on a short leash, but that was hours before the polls closed and the results showed a surprise victory for the Liberals.
Philip Hochstein, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C., said large and small contractors have been worried that the New Democrats would harm the province’s economy, if they were to rise to power.
Mr. Hochstein said he supports the Liberals because they represent the views of advocates of free enterprise. He criticized Mr. Dix for opposing Kinder Morgan Canada Inc.’s plans to increase West Coast tanker traffic, a key element of the company’s proposal to expand the Trans Mountain oil pipeline system. Mr. Hochstein said he wishes business leaders who had kept low profiles in recent weeks would have been candid about their concerns over the NDP’s reputation for producing “big government.”
Mr. Dix, who became NDP Leader in 2011, tried to sound a conciliatory tone with the corporate crowd during the 2013 election campaign.
The New Democrats last won a B.C. general election in 1996, when Glen Clark led his party to a narrow victory over Gordon Campbell’s Liberals. “This would be the New Democrats’ first go at it for some time,” said Helmut Pastrick, the Vancouver-based chief economist at Central 1 Credit Union. In the end, the NDP got outmanoeuvred by the Liberals.
Over the past four weeks, the Liberals warned that their opponents would create an economic mess. The NDP said it would hike the general corporate tax rate to 12 per cent – the Liberals already raised that rate on April 1 to 11 per cent from 10 per cent.
Combined, the increased red tape and higher corporate tax rate could have led to less investment and slower economic growth. “That’s what economic theory would tell us,” Mr. Pastrick said.