Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Economy trumps in B.C.

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There are several lessons to be learned from the Liberal upset in British Columbia. Polls are not the word of God, the economy matters most, and the environment is not a ticket to office.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark was supposed to lose the election to the NDP -- every pollster said so, right to the end -- but voters had a different opinion.

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Ms. Clark's victory was a huge defeat for the polling scientists, coming on the heels of another failure in the Alberta election, where Premier Alison Redford was also supposed to go down to defeat because, well, that's what the polls said, at least until the very last week of the campaign, when a shift began to emerge.

It's not clear if the polling fiasco was the result of the inability to garner reliable results because of the growing reliance on cellphones and the decline in land lines, or if it was more directly related to the five-week campaign itself.

In hindsight, NDP Leader Adrian Dix's fatal error was he believed the polling numbers and felt comfortable with a campaign that promised tax hikes, increased spending and bigger deficits.

He was going to govern for all the people, or so he believed.

Mr. Dix also pledged to kill several pipeline and energy projects, which might be popular with the environmental lobby, but which also happen to represent jobs and opportunity.

For her part, Ms. Clark promised balanced budgets and said her prime concerns were jobs and low taxes, precisely the issues about which people are most concerned.

As former U.S. president Bill Clinton wisely said: "It's the economy, stupid."

She also promised to wait for the results of an environmental review on a controversial pipeline project, leaving open the possibility of rejecting it if popular opinion is widely opposed.

Rather than opposing it outright, Ms. Clark straddled the middle, making it clear the project must produce net benefits for British Columbians while protecting the environment.

Mr. Dix would have killed plans for liquified natural gas plants, but Premier Clark said she would use the profits to clear the province's debt within 15 years.

Mr. Dix's so-called progressive agenda had a lot of appeal, but in the end, economic security trumped environmental righteousness and new social programs.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already benefited from the knowledge that Canadians want balanced government, but mostly they don't want to lose their homes, jobs and savings.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Gerald Flood, Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 16, 2013 A12

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