The unofficial campaign to form the next British Columbia government began shortly after Christmas, with private groups spending millions for attack ads on the leaders of both major parties.
The tone never improved.
Hamish Telford, an associate professor of political science at the University of the Fraser Valley, said this year's contest was much nastier than the previous one. The New Democrats abandoned their 2013 policy against negative campaigning.
"They've waged a much more vigorous campaign [this election], shall we say, and the Liberals are hitting right back and, arguably, even harder," he said.
Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver said on Monday his party withstood "hatred and abuse" from the other parties that brought the millennial volunteers on his team to tears.
Liberal Leader Christy Clark maintained she had one focus:
"I have spent every day of this campaign talking about jobs," she said.
For NDP Leader John Horgan, the emphasis was on "real people problems."
"I think my appeal to voters as an individual is I understand their lives," he said. "I understand what it's like to live in poverty. I understand what it's like to put a hard hat on every day to go to work, not just to get my picture taken."
The reference was a swipe at Ms. Clark's ever-present headgear, although Mr. Horgan had his own share of such photo opportunities.
Early voter turnout was up more than 60 per cent from the last election, but experts say that's likely because Elections BC promoted this option and offered more ways to vote rather than any party energizing the electorate.
Norman Ruff, an associate professor emeritus at the University of Victoria who has studied B.C. politics since 1968, says this campaign has reminded him of the 1996 election where the Liberals got two per cent more of the popular vote but the New Democrats won 52 per cent of the seats and formed government.
"There seems to be indecision about the choice between the Liberals and the NDP and the leaders of both parties," Mr. Ruff said on Monday. "History doesn't always repeat itself, but it's a caution about where we might be headed."
HIGHS AND LOWS
High: Softwood feud with Trump
About halfway through the campaign, Ms. Clark vowed to lead B.C. in a fight against the protectionist administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. Ms. Clark seized on U.S. criticism of her threats to retaliate for U.S. trade measures on softwood lumber as a validation of her tactics. "We are going to protect B.C. jobs," she said. "I am not going to be a sucker for Donald Trump."
Ms. Clark was thrown off her message for several days after cutting off a woman who was unhappy over the cost of housing. The incident gave some Liberal Party critics a tangible hook for their concerns. Six days later, the BC Liberals said they "stand corrected" after falsely calling the woman, a retired civil servant, an NDP plant.
High: Protecting renters
About half of the residents of some Metro Vancouver communities rent their homes, and see no way into the housing market that has been so lucrative for others. The NDP proposed a $400 subsidy per rental household to help to those struggling with skyrocketing rents. Mr. Horgan said the Liberal government treated those voters like "second-class citizens." This strategy was in direct juxtaposition to a the Liberals' offering of more support to first-time home buyers.
Low: "Don't touch me please"
During the first leaders debate, Mr. Horgan complained that moderator Bill Good was giving Ms. Clark more time than him to speak. Ms. Clark patted the NDP Leader on the arm and said, "Calm down, John." Mr. Horgan snapped: "Don't touch me again, please." During the same debate, Mr. Horgan also suggested Ms. Clark liked to be the centre of media attention, and told her: "I'll just watch you because I know you like that." The New Democrats contended his aggression was justified and rallied their base, while critics said it showed an angry side that could be a liability.
High: Strong performance during TV debate
To many voters, the leader of B.C.'s third party looked handled himself like a capable politician with strong criticisms of the governing party and the opposition. One of his memorable lines included: "Ms. Clark, prior to the last election, you promised 100,000 jobs, a $100-billion prosperity fund, a $1-trillion increase to the GDP – frankly, a unicorn in each and every one of our backyards from LNG – yet you've failed to deliver. Why should British Columbians trust you to deliver on your promises this time?"
Low: One-man band Mr. Weaver has garnered considerable support in his Oak Bay-Gordon Head riding and across the province for his principled views on the environment, economy and his party's refusal to accept corporate or union donations. He has faced criticism over the party's inability to raise the visibility of its other candidates. During an editorial board meeting with the Vancouver Sun, Mr. Weaver struggled to name a single colleague when asked who he would put in cabinet.
Missed opportunities: These issued were touched on at different times throughout the campaign, but no party's platform or leader spent considerable time or effort delineating solutions: an opioid overdose epidemic that has killed hundreds of people in the past year; the death of children in government care; reconciling resource development with the rights of First Nations; and the oncoming legalization of cannabis.
With reports from Justine Hunter in Vancouver and The Canadian Press