Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Low turnout makes farce of B.C. election

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VICTORIA -- The B.C. election came as a shock to pollsters and smug pro-NDP factions who gleefully, if prematurely, celebrated Premier Christy Clark's ousting.

In the weeks ahead the professional prognosticators will attempt to explain how they could have made such a grievous blunder by, in effect, declaring: "Dewey Defeats Truman."

The union bosses who spat pails of poison at Clark's Liberals will now need to find some sugar to sweeten the venom. And many dissatisfied British Columbians will be asking themselves how they could have re-elected such an unpopular government with a majority.

But the truth for many of those British Columbians is they did not re-elect the government. Forty-eight per cent of eligible B.C. voters decided not to decide; left the governance of their province and its people to those who could find 15 to 30 minutes in their day -- time many employers would gladly grant -- to visit their local school gymnasium to mark an "x" for their candidate. While not the worst turnout in B.C. history, it certainly demonstrates elections here are becoming a farce. It's almost to the point where we might as well let a handful of well-paid bureaucrats govern -- it would certainly save the printing of all those wasted ballots.

While provincial politics can be scandalously boring in other parts of Canada, in B.C. they seldom are.

Although our telegenic premier was not necessarily besmirched by her predecessor's disastrous HST debacle or the suspect sale of some major Crown assets by his government, her own popularity was so wanting she lost in her home riding of Point Grey on election night.

During the campaign, Clark drove through a stop light with a reporter in the car, because her child asked her to, and mistakenly spoiled her own ballot during a photo-op. More seriously, Clark has had a difficult time maintaining control over her divided caucus and has made enemies among some of the province's most influential business leaders.

But the government's primary opponent, the NDP, did its best to take all the zing out of the campaign and keep its supporters at home. Leader Adrian Dix -- or Mr. Nix as he came to be called for his tendency to say no to just about any economic project -- vowed to run a clean, minimalistic campaign. Whether this was a novel attempt to demonstrate fiscal restraint, a quality completely lacking in the rest of his policy, or because he just could not be bothered to hammer the Liberals for their faults, only he and his possibly permanently unemployed strategists know for sure.

In any case, Dix was boring to a fault, a quality voting British Columbians -- unlike Manitobans -- are apparently unwilling to overlook.

The promise of a new direction and a desire for change that left-leaning British Columbians longed for so desperately disappeared quite unexpectedly on election night.

But there is one valuable lesson for the NDP and British Columbia's uninterested and disaffected electorate: If you sit back and let the pollsters count you down to victory, you, and your hope, might just suffer another unhappy full term on the drafty side of the legislature.

 

Former Winnipegger Ryan Kinrade is a member of the disgruntled electorate in Victoria, B.C.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 17, 2013 A13

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