Ujjal Dosanjh has been where Christy Clark is now: A new premier taking over at the helm of a B.C. government at the decade mark.
The experience between 2000 and 2001, which ended with the obliteration at the polls of his NDP government, leads Mr. Dosanjh to offer advice to Ms. Clark on the timing of the next provincial election.
That is to call it no later than the end of 2011.
September would be good.
"She has increased the support for the Liberal party," Mr. Dosanjh, who has politically reinvented himself as a Liberal MP, said this week from Ottawa while preparing his bid to hold on to his Vancouver-South riding in an expected federal election.
"As time passes, sometimes support goes up and sometimes it goes down. She should consolidate the gains she has made and go as soon as possible."
Mr. Dosanjh, who emphasized that he is non-partisan in provincial political matters and was speaking strictly based on his experiences, added: "If she wants to maintain her advantage, it's better to go sooner."
It's a high-stakes risk for Ms. Clark.
Go to the polls soon and she could lose and end up a short-term premier. Waiting until the currently scheduled election date of May, 2013, would give her two years on the job.
But if she runs soon and wins, she gains a mandate of her own, which she has said she wants, effectively consigning the Gordon Campbell era to history. A campaign experience could also strengthen her bonds with BC Liberal MLAs and party members. She could also try to recruit candidates who are committed to enacting her change agenda.
The idea of a fall B.C. election seems to be firming up among many observers and insiders. Ms. Clark has been vague on the point. She has talked about running in a by-election to get her own seat, probably Mr. Campbell's Vancouver-Point Grey riding, but has been vague enough that many believe she could actually be thinking of making the point moot by calling a general election.
But the big issue now is the federal election, likely to be under way by the weekend.
Would that that campaign, which will occupy the energies of the federal Liberals and federal Tories who are part of the BC Liberal coalition, limit Ms. Clark's options?
Mr. Dosanjh, for one, dismissed the complication, at least in terms of fatigue among the party members who would help fight both campaigns. Those troops would have time to recover from a May election, he said.
A senior Liberal Party worker who helped run the campaign of one of Ms. Clark's leadership rivals, said the issue of party-worker fatigue would not factor into Ms. Clark's calculations.
"There will absolutely be operative fatigue. [They will be]grumpy and not as willing to volunteer much of their time because their spouses are looking at them sideways and their kids don't recognize mommy or daddy anymore," said the party member, an operative who will work in both the federal and provincial Liberal campaigns.
"You have to take that into consideration. Whether or not it would be a game changer or a deal breaker is going to be based on what you're hearing from your folks."
If the harmonized sales tax survives a referendum expected in June, the provincial government might want to ride that momentum into a fall election, said the operative.
The federal campaign may be vicious and nasty, with people who work together in the BC Liberal coalition on opposing sides, but it won't leave hard feelings, he said.
The 2004 federal campaign was "vicious and rough," he said. "By 2005, we were all singing Kumbaya, and working hard together to get Gordon Campbell re-elected."
Veteran federal Tory MP John Reynolds, who also served in the B.C. legislature, agreed. "It's the free-enterprise coalition versus the socialists, and we can't afford the socialists. I don't think one election has anything to do with the other," he said.
He laughed off the possibility of operative fatigue. "Call an election and fatigue disappears in politics. Political guys are junkies. They love it," he said. "Politics is the business of people who love elections."
Dawn Black, interim leader of the B.C. New Democrats, said she believes voters and party members will see a B.C. vote as distinct from federal and municipal elections. "It would not surprise me at all if we had a fall election," she said. "I don't think [voters]will tune out on the B.C. election scene."
Pollster Evi Mustel said voter fatigue is a risk.
"But I can certainly see from the perspective of the Liberal Party that there's a honeymoon period with a new leader, and over time, any missteps can start adding up and start to erode support.
"I can certainly see why they would be anxious to have the election sooner than later."
British Columbia may, or may not, have a provincial election this fall. But such votes are a done deal on the political agendas in other provinces and territories:
-Prince Edward Island - Oct. 3
-Northwest Territories - Oct. 3
-Manitoba - Oct. 4
-Ontario - Oct. 6
-Newfoundland - Oct. 11
-Saskatchewan - Nov. 7