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B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark thanks supporters as she arrives on stage after winning the British Columbia provincial election, in Vancouver, May 14, 2013.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

Politics Insider delivers premium analysis and access to Canada's policymakers and politicians. Visit the Politics Insider homepage for insight available only to subscribers.

Others will – and should – dissect how every poll, every pundit, everyone period other than the most faithful of Liberal supporters got the B.C. election completely and utterly wrong.

Instead, let's assess the national import of Christy Clark's incredible upset victory. For Stephen Harper that victory is cause for an enormous sigh of relief.

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NDP Leader Adrian Dix, who was supposed to win convincingly, threatened to represent a potent new locus of opposition to the Conservatives – a progressive alternative situated right in the Tories' western heartland.

That threat was nowhere more evident than in the all-important issue of oil exports.

Mr. Dix came out against both the proposed Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan pipelines that should ship Alberta oil through B.C. to Pacific ports.

Ms. Clark has imposed conditions, some of them onerous, on provincial approval. But she refused to veto either proposal outright, and might be more receptive, now that B.C. voters appear to have emphatically rejected environmental and native-rights advocates who want no oil flowing across B.C. in any way, shape or form.

Mr. Dix had strong reservations about the patent protection provisions for pharmaceuticals in the forthcoming European Union free-trade agreement and could have been a champion of opposition to ratification. That's another bullet that the Conservatives have dodged.

On issues from health care to native rights, Mr. Dix would have been a powerful new progressive voice: smart, youthful, comfortable on the national stage, fluently bilingual, a major new force confronting the Conservatives. Except now he's not.

What is true is that new, dynamic opposition leaders in both Alberta and British Columbia completely failed to displace leaders of what were supposed to be terminally tired governments.

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Even more than in Alberta, polling firms completely failed to gauge the mood of the electorate on the eve of the vote, though they did detect strengthening support for the Liberals over the course of the campaign.

And Tuesday's result in B.C. raises interesting questions about change versus continuity, about the effectiveness of a tough, hard-hitting political strategy – which the Liberals employed in the campaign, and of which the federal Conservatives are masters – versus a more positive approach based on hope and change, which was the NDP approach in B.C and on which the federal Liberal approach is anchored.

Justin Trudeau can feel satisfied that a (at least nominally) Liberal government remains entrenched in Victoria. But to the extent his strategy against Stephen Harper mirrors Adrian Dix's against Christy Clark, last night's result should be disquieting.

As for polls showing the federals Liberals would form a majority government if an election were held tomorrow, and pundits who argue Stephen Harper should consider stepping down now as leader rather than face defeat at the hands of the Liberals – well, nothing more need be said.

There is more about this remarkable result that does need to be said, much more. But for now, we can only sit back and marvel at the implacable will of the voter.

Those voters, Ms. Clark observed during her victory speech, don't obsess the way some of us do on the minutiae of political ups and downs.

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But "when they do turn their mind to politics, they make our democracy work," she declared.

They make up their own minds. They stubbornly take their own council. They remind us that this democracy is based on their final choice. And that whatever the result, their choice is always wise.

John Ibbitson is the chief political writer in the Ottawa bureau.

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