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When B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark walks out of Government House in Victoria on Tuesday, she sets in motion a 28-day campaign that she frames this way: Vote for my party if you want the economy to grow. Vote for the other guy – Adrian Dix and his B.C. NDP – if you want government to grow.
In a province that almost always divides its votes between two parties, Ms. Clark is offering up the expected script for the party on the right of the political spectrum.
But the subplot is less predictable.
Ms. Clark's party has been in power for 12 years, and she became premier only two years ago. The Liberal brand was in the tank because of the introduction of the harmonized sales tax, and she was the party's choice to revive their fortunes. But the current polls suggest the leadership change hasn't helped: the public mood favours a change in government.
Which has sparked talk in some Liberal circles: What happens to the Liberal party after the polls close at 8 p.m. on May 14?
It is treasonous talk, and not out in the open. But if the governing party is reduced to a rump – a fate many within the party seemed resigned to – then their focus is on saving seats and resources to rebuild in the aftermath of the election.
Liberal party headquarters is cooking up ways to win back voters. But those pessimists in the party who don't see that succeeding are already trying to identify the likely survivors to decide who would best lead the coalition so that the NDP victory doesn't last more than a single term.
It is a reason that some candidates in the B.C. Liberal campaign seem to have distanced themselves from Ms. Clark. If her name appears at all on campaign signs, it is in small print.
While Ms. Clark is focused on a comeback strategy, some in her party are running a parallel campaign: A comeback in 2017.
Justine Hunter covers the B.C. legislature in Victoria.