THE NEXT B.C. PROVINCIAL general election is Oct. 16, 2021. That is just over one year and nine months away.
That may seem a long ways away, but campaigning is well underway. At least for the BC Liberals.
In November, the BC Liberals opened nominations for 11 key ridings they are targeting to win in the 2021 election. These include Vancouver Fairview, New Westminster, and Courtenay-Comox. All 11 of the ridings are in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island: areas that are strongholds of the BC New Democrats and BC Greens.
Last week (Jan. 10, 2020), the BC Liberals announced their candidate for one of those 11 ridings. Former city councillor Cheryl Ashlie has received the nomination for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows. That riding is currently held by BC NDP Lisa Beare, who won it in a tight race in 2017.
The BC Liberals have made it a priority to have candidates in place well before the 2021 elections in these 11 “battle ground ridings.”
Thinking back to the 2017 election, that strategy would have helped the BC NDP. In many ridings, the NDP’s nomination process wasn’t complete until almost election time. For example, in the riding of Fraser-Nicola, the nomination process for BC NDP candidate Harry Lali wasn’t complete until March 18, 2017, less than two months before the May 9, 2017 B.C. general election.
That seat is no different than the 11 “battle ground” seats the BC Liberals are targeting. Fraser-Nicola has gone back and forth between the two parties many times over the years. In 2017, Lali, who had held the seat previously, went down to defeat to incumbent Jackie Tegart. Two months doesn’t give even a seasoned candidate much time to mount a strong campaign.
A strength of the BC NDP is that they work hard at getting a diverse slate of candidates, as is seen in their current elected MLAs. But in terms of getting candidates nominated early, BC Liberals have them beat.
It’s not just that the BC Liberals are getting out in front in terms of nominating candidates. For months now, the BC Liberals have been out door knocking. Door knocking is something usually reserved for elections.
So why are the Liberals out knocking so early? First, they want to expand their base. They know that they can’t win relying only on their loyal followers. They need to identify as many new or potential supporters as possible well before the election. Come election day, they will be working hard to get those supporters out to vote.
Second, they need to be seen to be doing something. The BC NDP has been doing an outstanding job of governing. Some will argue that point. But they have delivered on programs including eliminating MSP fees, $10/day child care, expanded urgent care medical centres, and building new schools. They tackled the casino money laundry issue head on. They made decisive decisions on contentious issues such as Site C and the KGHM mine. They have consistently delivered on the platform they campaigned on in the last election.
It is not that everyone will agree with what they have done, but they have delivered on what they promised.
Meanwhile, the BC Liberals have been ineffective as the official oppositions. As an example, BC Liberal MLA Peter Milobar is the environment and climate change critic. There has been resounding silence from him on this portfolio. There’s not much to be heard from BC Liberal MLA Todd Stone either on his portfolio as transportation critic. Across the board, except for a few talking points, the BC Liberals have walked away from their role of holding the government to account, and coming up with alternative solutions to difficult problems.
Rather than be the Official Opposition, it appears that the BC Liberals are putting all of their energy into the next election. Nominating candidates, knocking on doors, and, likely, raising funds.
The BC NDP should take note. There has been more than one political party who governed well, but went down in defeat. They should take a page from the BC Liberals’ play book. It’s time for them to nominate their own candidates and get out on the doorstep.
Oct. 16, 2021 is coming.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.