We've heard a lot about the potential splitting of the center-right or "free enterprise" vote in next May's B.C. election. How it would ultimately seal the fate of the B.C. Liberals and hand the election to the NDP. Think again.
First, let's look at the other party, the B.C. Conservatives. Their leader, John Cummins, survived as leader this past Saturday winning a vote against a leadership review 71 per cent to 29 per cent. Although the Conservative leader was relieved to remain in power, he lost his only MLA John Van Dongen as he left the party citing Cummins' inability to lead the party.
It should be remembered that van Dongen left the B.C. Liberals to sit with the Conservatives. Recent poll numbers show that the fragmenting party is losing any gains they had. They have dropped 11 percent since March of this year. Those who are voting centre-right in the coming election, will realize that the Conservative party are not a legitimate challenge to the B.C. Liberals. They'll come to the realization by May of next year that if they want to prevent the NDP from gaining power, they'll have to settle with the familiar Liberals.
The past two elections have seen the B.C. Liberals receive roughly 45 per cent of the popular vote. The NDP have similarly received around 42 per cent. The real threat to a vote split may come against the NDP from the Green Party.
Unlike the Conservatives, the Greens are a legitimately organized group who have received 10 per cent of the vote in the past two elections. They have a leader who the party has confidence in. Luckily for the NDP, the Greens are polling around six to eight per cent right now. But ultimately if the Greens are consistent with their previous three elections receiving over 100,000 votes, the NDP will be in some trouble.
A smart move by the Greens would be to come out with a tough stance on Enbridge. Both the Liberals and NDP have been wishy-washy in their plans, so a stable decision may influence voters.
Historically, many have felt the NDP have not been popular with businesses. What has often been perceived as "socialist" values have scared away influential voters. Frankly, the NDP aren't as "socialist" as they're made out to be, and to counter that the Liberals aren't as "free enterprise" as they make out to be. But, that's irrelevant. Because over the next few months a lot of what we'll hear is scare tactics that the NDP will implement socialist values that will benefit big unions. In order to win the election the NDP will have to prove they're not. No one has seen their platform yet. A lot can change between that moment and the election.
The last election saw the Liberals win 35 ridings by a margin of 2,000 votes or more. Regardless of what polls say, if the NDP is going to take over leadership of the province they'll need to mobilize their base to a great extent. They can't rely on a vote split to favor them in the next election, because frankly, there will not be a vote split.
The big challenge for the Liberals is having to introduce 14 new candidates, some who will be replacing extremely popular and respected officials like Kevin Falcon and George Abbott. Some might also see this as a "breaking" from the party since a lot of those leaving were heavily involved in the implementation of the unpopular HST, like former finance minister Colin Hansen.
Regardless, the Liberals have a tough task in legitimizing to their base that they are capable of running the province for another four years. Christy Clark needs to prove that she is the right leader for this province. If not, Adrian Dix is in the shadows waiting.