BC Liberals Leader Christy Clark, with just days left in her bid to become the first female premier to win re-election in Canada, is seeking to diffuse voter anger over the issues that have piled up in her six years in office.
After spending much of the campaign promising to create and protect jobs, Ms. Clark began a rally on Saturday night with a mea culpa: "Let's be honest, we haven't been perfect."
British Columbians go to the polls on May 9 and in the final critical days of the campaign, the leaders of the major parties have to be surgical in where they devote their time, and precise in what message they want to deliver.
For Ms. Clark, that meant spending much of Saturday in Liberal ridings where her party is in danger of losing ground.
In 2013, Ms. Clark was the fresh face that the governing Liberals offered up to voters who were angry about the imposition of the harmonized sales tax.
This time out, she has accumulated baggage, including concerns about the party stipend that topped up her premier's salary – which she has since given up – and alienation of voters who have lost ground as wealth inequality expands.
Ms. Clark acknowledged – and then sought to inoculate – that lingering anger: "We haven't been perfect, but British Columbia is in a way better place than anywhere else in the country." She did not elaborate on her failings but did point to the province's economic growth.
John Horgan's election campaign tour drove twice through Kelowna on Saturday without stopping, a reversal from a trip before the campaign began in which the NDP Leader said his team would compete for seats in the cradle of the provincial free-enterprise movement now represented by the BC Liberals.
Asked about the shift on Saturday, Mr. Horgan gamely said he had been there at least once around the start of the campaign. "We drove through it today and I saw a lot of orange signs," he said.
But left unsaid is the pressing reality for leaders of the three major parties – Mr. Horgan, Ms. Clark and Andrew Weaver of the BC Green Party – that will see them choosing their campaign stops based on where they can win new ground, or where they might be able to stave off losses.
Ms. Clark made three stops on Saturday in ridings that the Liberals won by less than 5 percentage points in 2013 – in what is expected to be a close contest on Tuesday, these seats will hold the key to victory.
During a campaign stop at a Burnaby bakery, Ms. Clark tried her hand at cupcake decorating. Looking at her less-than-perfect product, she remarked: "Hopefully I won't be looking for another job any time soon."
Ms. Clark detoured from her campaign earlier in the day to visit the flood-stricken community of Cache Creek in B.C.'s interior, but then returned to pick up the campaign starting in Port Moody-Coquitlam, a swing riding the NDP desperately needs to pick up if they are to defeat the Liberals on May 9.
The Liberal incumbent, Linda Reimer, won by just 437 votes in 2013. The riding has been Liberal territory since 1996, with the exception of the 2012 byelection won by a popular New Democrat, the former mayor of Port Moody. Ms. Clark has made repeated stops in this riding to combat the New Democrat push here.
Ms. Clark skipped the speeches and instead served up ice cream, alongside her son Hamish, at a Port Moody shop. Outside, her supporters cheered alongside a cluster of NDP supporters waving orange campaign signs for their candidate, Rick Glumac.
Although she has stuck to a consistent message about jobs and the economy throughout the campaign, in the final days of the four-week effort, she has emphasized the threats posed to the province's economic success. She has warned the NDP is planning stealth tax hikes, and she has played up the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber dispute as a risk to British Columbian jobs.
In another riding identified as a "must win" by the NDP, Burnaby North, Ms. Clark visited a string of bakeries, butcher shops and delicatessens. In this riding, Liberal Richard Lee had a margin of victory in 2013 of just 2.9 percentage points. He is running against the NDP's Janet Routledge for a second time.
The New Democrats have set their sights on suburban ridings such as this one as the path to victory, tapping into public frustration about the lack of affordable housing and the growing gap of wealth inequality.
But on the weekend, Mr. Horgan was in B.C.'s Interior. He skipped Kelowna, but the NDP Leader went to Summerland in the riding of Penticton, which the Liberals won by six percentage points in 2013, and Boundary-Similkameen, where the gap between the winning Liberals and the NDP was eight points.
Asked about the logic, Mr. Horgan told reporters that he was going into those ridings to do what he could to bolster NDP campaigns, given the 2013 results.
"That's the whole point, man," a beaming Mr. Horgan told a news conference in Vernon.
Mr. Horgan's Vernon presence in the campaign office of Vernon-Monashee New Democrat Barry Dorval was a less-easily explained measure.
In 2013, the Liberals won with 46 per cent of votes, to 34 per cent for the New Democrats.
As elsewhere, Mr. Horgan laid out an appeal to disaffected Liberals, undecideds and members of the BC Green Party. To the Greens, in particular, he said the New Democrats were on the same page. He has cited such issues as electoral reform and stopping the expansion of the Trans-Mountain pipeline between Alberta and the Lower Mainland.
During a Vancouver Island campaign stop in Nanaimo on Friday, a similar appeal brought Mr. Weaver to the NDP venue, and the Green Leader effectively denounced Mr. Horgan's bid for Green support.
Mr. Horgan was in Okanagan after a Friday spent on Vancouver Island, trying to rally and consolidate support in an area of B.C. that has been an NDP stronghold – one with seats the party will need in its tally as it makes a bid next week to win its first provincial election since 1996.