We're going to polls on April 12th, 2011

In the US, presidential candidates are selected late in the race. Considering the importance of the post, people get a small window of about three months to know who they're voting for. In Canada, with the parliamentary system, party leaders get to audition and snipe daily before they get their chance to run for the big chair.
In BC, we're in a different situation from the Canadian standard: the governing BC Liberals are going to anoint a new leader in February. The state of Liberal flux was going to hand the NDP the government on the next go round. But Carole "Anti-Gordon Campbell" James got into a quandary: who is she if her defining characteristic disappears. Sensing an opportunity to ouster Carole James, her caucus closed in for the kill. Carole James, as NDP leader, has not brought her party to power two times. In good conscience, she needed to step down after the 2009 defeat to pave the way for a leader who could give the NDP a victory. She clung to power until her caucus forced her to step down.
Who will take over from James is a good question. No one has stepped up to claim the spot. Maybe Jenny Kwan, who nipped at James' heels, hopes to cash in on her hard work. If this had happened next year, a year out from the planned BC elections, then yellow scarfed mayor Dean Fortin could get closer to the end of his term and before his mismanagement of his civic politics came home to roost. But April would be too soon for Fortin. That said, you can probably look to the yellow scarf crowd for a candidate who will get James' blessing and be enough of a difference to satisfy the Kwan crowd.
In the Liberal race, they need a fresh face (sorry, Kevin Falcon-- you've lost The One Ring). They need someone who has charisma (sorry, Mike de Jong-- your fists can do the talking but they can't campaign). They need a known face (sorry, Moira something-or-other). That leaves George Abbott vs. Christy Clark. By most accounts, George Abbott is fair fighter and would make a decent leader and premier. He may even soften the Neo-Con edge that Gordon Campbell brought when he commandeered the party from the Liberal membership. All that said, he's missing one chief ingredient: the media won't pander to him because he isn't one of their own. Christy Clark did the smartest thing any politician could do in career building: she co-opted the media. In the last three years, Christy Clark has been a radio host and columnist. As such, she ended up in the same room with all of the Vancouver and BC media types. You can't help but get friendly with them as you're waiting for some event to happen. The Liberals have understood that by cozying up to media, they take the edge off of their vitriol. Heck, Gordon Campbell ended up in a Hawaiian jail because Fred Latrimo liquored him up and sent him on his way. The media is going to highlight one of their own. Clark is going to give them privileged access. She's going to shine vs. the reanimated, angry, nearly anonymous and frumpy competition.
Should Clark get elected, she has said she would make the HST vote happen in the Legislature and not let the people vote. Conversely, she also said she would call an general election soon after taking over. I know there is legislation that makes for fixed election dates. There was also legislation to enforce balanced budgets. Campbell swept that away as soon as it got in the way of his Olympic spend-a-thon. The fixed election dates are a hollow add-on to our parliamentary system, so Clark can ignored fixed election dates with a click of her heels.
She would have to call in the legislature as soon as taking office. If Colin Hansen emerges as a supporter of Christy Clark, then he would be of a mind to mobilize his ministry to do rushed budget full of promises and spending to carry the government over the end of the fiscal year (March 30th). Clark would have to carry out her role by remote control as she would be the premier, but not hold a seat in the Legislature. It makes sense she could inherit Campbell's seat (he's leaving, she's a Vancouverite coming in) as well as his job, but only after an election.
Why should she hope for a by-election when a general election could carry a lot more bang for your buck?
The leadership convention will be done by the Feb. 27th, 2011. On the Monday, Clark can recall the legislature. On that week, Hansen will be requested to deliver a budget (expect an 11% or 10% HST in the bill to make it sexy). Give it another week to be pushed through the house-- a budget that is so juicy that no one would want to vote against it.
On March 7th, Clark will ask the Lieutenant Governor to dissolve the house and call an election. The minimum amount of time to let a campaign run is 36 days. Tuesday, April 12th would follow closely after that date. It's a very important date: the date comes five days before the NDP decide on a new leader. The NDP cannot compress their leadership process by much, so they can't really hold a leadership contest before April. Imagine the campaigning chaos that would happen with the NDP if they have to hold a leadership race during an election.
Clark, with a dynamic team and a spitfire attitude, will run unopposed: she will be against Carole James in the last moments of James' leaderhip; or versus an interim NDP leader; or versus no one at all. In BC, we elect MLAs, we don't elect leaders. But we have this US Presidential mindset that a vote for a party is a vote for its leader. If Clark pulls a snap election, the Liberals will be up against an opposition even more poorly prepared than Stefan Dion was when he handed Harper the last federal election. In this much disarray, she will give her Liberal party something that seemed impossible to deliver a month ago: she will give the Liberal vessel four more years of power.


Tony D. said…
You really summed it up, Michael. This next 4 months is going to be the most exciting in BC politics that I can think of.

I'd get a real kick out of if Dana Larsen manages to win the NDP race while everybody is distracted with the Liberal situation.
Mike DeWolfe said…
If the Liberal do a pro-tem budget (like the one they are delivering today), the wheels of government can keep turning after March 31st until a new Liberal government comes into play. That means Christy Clark could drop the writ on Feb. 27th and snatch victory from the NDP disarray

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