Good morning. It’s Wendy Cox in Vancouver.
Voters in the riding of North Vancouver-Seymour haven’t elected a New Democrat since 1972.
They did last Saturday.
B.C. Liberal incumbent Jane Thornthwaite lost after she became the lead character in an incident that now appears to be a rich illustration of the reason why her party was so soundly thrashed. It also provides some lessons for the future. Ms. Thornthwaite was caught on video offering a sexualized and belittling reference to a female NDP MLA in an online sendoff to retiring MLA Ralph Sultan.
As Justine Hunter and Ian Bailey report this weekend, the videotape of the conversation – which featured Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson chuckling along – was leaked to media on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
It wasn’t until the following Tuesday, after three days of social-media furor that included rebukes by some of Ms. Thornthwaite’s fellow caucus members – and after a decision by the central campaign advising Mr. Wilkinson not to apologize – that he did.
Justine and Ian discovered that Ms. Thornthwaite wanted to offer an apology, but the central campaign advised her not to, as well. Ms. Thornthwaite did anyway.
The central campaign had deliberated furiously about whether to apologize. The decision was made not to.
“The decision was made in the war room and there was consensus on that one. And right or wrong, it was a decision that was made,” said campaign co-chair Sarah Weddell.
In the end, the Thornthwaite debacle overshadowed Mr. Wilkinson’s performance in the televised debate that Tuesday and eclipsed the rollout of the Liberals' platform.
Justine and Ian interviewed more than 20 current and former Liberals throughout the week to find out what went wrong, both before and during the campaign, and to get a sense of what’s ahead.
They encountered a consensus that Mr. Wilkinson, whose academic and professional experiences are impressive, had missed opportunities to renew the Liberals and offer a socially progressive, inclusive and fiscally responsible vision for British Columbia.
One Liberal assessed the party as pale, male and stale.
Young professionals who had been drawn to and energized by the party while Christy Clark was leading it say their expertise appeared unwelcome.
Jillian Stead, a director with NATIONAL Public Relations, was a senior communications adviser for the party until Ms. Clark quit. Mr. Wilkinson asked her to help when he was considering a bid for the leadership. But after helping him win, Ms. Stead said, the phone calls stopped. She was a designer of the party’s digital-membership database, but that project appeared to wither.
Stephen Smart, general manager of Hill+Knowlton Strategies in Vancouver, was, like Ms. Stead, a well-regarded Liberal strategist who was not asked to help this time around.
He dismissed the snap election as an excuse not to have a strong, fresh and diverse slate to offer voters. It was a minority government and the parties had to be ready for an election at any time.
But while the Liberals Justine and Ian spoke to appeared saddened by the loss of the election and the opportunity, they weren’t talking about quitting in disgust.
Instead, defeated MLAs such as Jas Johal and Alexa Loo say the Liberals now need to start the renewal process they should have begun four years ago.
“We need to get together and decide who we are, and what is the face of that,” Ms. Loo said.
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here.
AROUND THE WEST
COVID-19 IN MANITOBA: The Manitoba government is ordering many businesses to close, limiting hospital visits, and capping attendance at religious services after a record daily increase in COVID-19 cases. The province reported 480 new infections Friday. It’s more than double the previous daily record, although health officials said many of the cases were delayed data collection from earlier in the week. Also of concern were intensive-care units running at or near capacity and a rising percentage of people testing positive – more than eight per cent in recent days, almost quadruple the national average.
Starting Monday, bars and restaurants in the Winnipeg region will be allowed to offer only takeout and delivery. Most retail stores will be limited to 25-per-cent capacity. Movie theatres will have to close and sports and recreation programming will be suspended. In the rest of the province, restaurants, bars and stores will be limited to half capacity. Non-urgent and elective surgeries are being cancelled in the Winnipeg region. Hospital visits across Manitoba are also off except for people visiting patients receiving end-of-life care.
COVID-19 IN ALBERTA: COVID-19 cases have been surging in several provinces, and some of the highest rates have been in Alberta and Ontario. But the two provinces – both led by conservative premiers – have taken dramatically different approaches, with Ontario recently ordering restaurants and bars closed in some areas, and Alberta pressing ahead in the belief that widespread shutdowns are too harmful to the economy to consider. Laura Stone and James Keller looked at what is driving the two premiers’ world views when it comes to the pandemic, and the potential pitfalls if Alberta continues on its current path.
SASKATCHEWAN ELECTION: Two Saskatchewan Party candidates have conceded their close election races to the NDP, bumping the Opposition party’s seat count to 13 from 11. Former advanced education minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor posted on Facebook congratulating New Democrat Aleana Young on winning the constituency of Regina University. The pair were locked in a tight race after Monday’s election in which several urban seats were too close to call. Elections Saskatchewan says the counting of mail-in ballots gave Ms. Young a lead of more than 200 votes over Ms. Beaudry-Mellor, who ends up being the only member of Premier Scott Moe’s cabinet to lose a seat. Saskatoon lawyer Rylund Hunter also took to Facebook to congratulate his opponent, NDP Leader Ryan Meili, for holding his seat in Saskatoon Meewasin. Mr. Meili declared himself the winner late Wednesday, based on information from NDP scrutineers watching the mail-in ballot count. Elections Saskatchewan shows Mr. Meili with a lead of more than 200 votes with a count of late mail-in ballots pending on Nov. 7.
MORTGAGES: Alberta has the highest rates of mortgage deferrals in the country, raising alarm about the potential impact on the housing market and homeowners if a large proportion of them can’t pay their bills. Economists and policy makers are concerned that Alberta’s oil-focused economy was already weak before COVID-19 hit, and the province’s higher rate of mortgage deferrals this year could be a sign of both housing market and personal financial pain to come.
VANCOUVER’S BBTV HOLDINGS: Vancouver’s BBTV Holdings Inc. had a rough start on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday, overshadowing its milestone of completing Canada’s largest initial public offering of a company led by a sole female founder. Subordinated voting shares of BBTV, the parent of online video platform BroadbandTV, traded down all day and closed at $15, or 6.3-per-cent off its $16 issue price, as stocks fell broadly on North American markets. BBTV raised $172.4-million in the IPO.
BBTV chief executive officer Shahrzad Rafati shook off the debut, saying in an interview Wednesday, “I’m not at all [worried] Day 1 may not be the way we wanted it to be. Markets can be sometimes tough. We’re in it for the long game. We definitely want to get traction today but we’re building a very strong business.” Ms. Rafati, who holds 83-per-cent voting control after the IPO, said the offering is “breaking important new ground and paving the way for countless women and girls who envision a future with more potential to be leaders.”
BroadbandTV helps video creators make more money from advertising that runs with their content on YouTube, Facebook and other online channels than if they posted it themselves. With the collective heft of its platform, BroadbandTV – the second-largest online video purveyor behind Google – sells aggregated content to advertisers in packages, which helps increase views and revenue for creators. BroadbandTV videos had 439 billion views in the past year.
OILPATCH LOSSES: Some of Canada’s largest oil producers have posted quarterly losses as the industry suffers from low prices and collapsed demand related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including Cenovus Energy Inc., Husky Energy Inc. and Suncor Energy Inc.
VANCOUVER’S CLIMATE PLAN: Vancouver can only meet its 2030 climate targets if it embraces new regulations such as a road toll for the metro core, parking permits for every resident car on the street and building upgrades to reduce the use of natural gas, a new climate-action report from staff says. It won’t work to just continue with current policies or to do nothing more than offer incentives and encouragement, says Matt Horne, Vancouver’s climate policy manager. Vancouver’s current goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 50 per cent from 2007 levels by 2030. At the moment, Vancouver has only reduced its emissions by 9 per cent from 2007 levels. Staff estimated that 54 per cent of emissions come from natural gas and 39 per cent from gas and diesel vehicles.
PETROCHEMICALS: The Alberta government is in talks with a private Saudi Arabian company to open a $5-billion petrochemical facility in the province. The province’s associate minister of natural gas confirmed the negotiations at a time when the United Conservative Party government has repeatedly criticized the country as a dictatorship whose state-owned energy company has dumped oil into the North American market. Associate minister Dale Nally argues that a MIddle Eastern company that wants to set up shop in Alberta, where there are strict environmental laws, is different than a state-owned company producing oil in Saudi Arabia.
GROUP OF SEVEN: Vancouver artist Georgia Youngs was lying in her bed, panicking. It was early in March, and the COVID-19 crisis had shut down the classes she taught to more than 80 students. The 75-year-old painter, who lives alone in a bungalow in the west side of the city, didn’t know what she was going to do with herself in self-isolation. Then an idea that had first jumped into her mind in January resurfaced: a project that would pay tribute to the Group of Seven, who had their first formal exhibition 100 years ago. As an artist, she’d long admired the group – they’d been an inspiration to her as a young painter – and she wanted to recreate their iconic Canadian landscapes as a way of honouring their legacy. Ms. Youngs thought of the project as an artistic exercise that would keep her busy and focused during challenging times, but she discovered something else over the months that followed – that in a way she might never have predicted, the Group of Seven have plenty to say about living through a pandemic.
Kelly Cryderman on COVID-19 in Alberta: “Even beyond the rising COVID-19 case numbers and the possibility of more emergency measures, it’s striking that the necessary and good divisions between political leaders and levels of governments are making it more and more difficult for people to figure out what to do.”
Gary Mason on the BC Liberals: “While this motley collection of federal Conservatives and Liberals flourished as the so-called free-enterprise option to the ‘socialist’ New Democrats, it rankled conservatives they had to exist under the Liberal banner. It bothered conservative-minded voters as well, but there was no other realistic option. So here we are now.”
Gary Mason on Jason Kenney’s fight with health unions: “What many have taken exception to is Mr. Kenney’s approach. And it’s clear the Premier has rejected any notion of civil diplomacy, of trying to reach his objectives through calm, rational reasoning, favouring instead a more belligerent, combative posture. He may ultimately reach his goal, but it’s sure going to be ugly getting there.”