The Goldilocks Election
by Dermod Travis
It was a pretty safe bet going into election night that regardless of how the vote broke that there were four words from Premier Christy Clark’s 2013 victory speech which would be left unsaid this year: “Well, that was easy.”
Something else telling between Clark’s two speeches?
In 2013, it fell on then-NDP leader Adrian Dix to deliver that oft-cited line by political runner-ups: “Elections belong to the voters and the voters decided.”
This time it fell to Clark, as she acknowledged the verdict: “Voters always know best.”
Pending a massive shift among the absentee ballots, Clark’s B.C. Liberal party may have scored its lowest share of the popular vote since 1991.
The NDP’s vote has gone up by 1,414 so far, but they’ll add to that with the final count.
It remains to be seen whether they’ll crack the 40 per cent share of the popular vote, though, a feat the party hasn’t achieved since 2009.
The Green party doubled its vote count and its share of the vote.
The tallies give you a sense that there was a slice of the electorate that was less than thrilled with the choices before them.
Call them the Goldilocks voters.
Some found one party too hot, another party too cold and a few found one party just right.
For the non-hyper-partisans out there the results may be ideal: rebuke Clark, give the NDP a chance to prove their mettle before possibly handing over the keys and ensure a strong third-party voice in the legislature to keep an eye on everyone.
This was a campaign that didn’t come with a single game changer, but rather a litany of issues and events that reached a tipping point for some voters. The ones that decide elections.
The three main parties all had their forced and unforced errors.
The NDP likely regrets not playing along with Clark’s real time disclosure of political donations gambit back in January.
If they had the United Steelworkers’ donations would have been old news by April.
Sometimes it’s best to choose when to take your medicine.
The Green party may want to discuss Twitter privileges for the next campaign. Politicians tweeting after midnight rarely ends well.
The rebounds didn’t go Clark’s way in 2017 and there was no shortage of self-inflicted wounds.
Maclean’s magazine summed it up in one headline four days before the vote: “Will money and arrogance cost Christy Clark the B.C. election?”
Arrogance wasn’t in short supply in the Liberal camp.
As one of the campaign’s top communications strategists told Maclean’s: “the party literally [doesn’t] care what any [media] outlet says, with the possible exception of Global.” And their interest in the TV newscast, they added, was “marginal.”
Memo for the Liberal party war room: the public cares.
Clark – who once said “we all say things to get elected” – decided to prove it for the Goldilocks’ voters.
When Clark ran into an actual voter who hadn’t been previously pre-screened by campaign organizers, the resulting #IamLinda hashtag may have created more buzz on the campaign trail, but it wasn’t the more telling moment.
That moment came during the leaders debate when Clark tried to deflect the moderator’s question on various controversies and scandals surrounding her leadership.
Even Clark must have realized her pivot was too far off-point and meekly acknowledged the issue before swiftly skirting back to replay her jobs and economy reel.
When Ipsos-Reid asked voters at the start of the campaign “which of the three main party leaders do you think is best described by trustworthy,” Clark placed second at 14 per cent.
By its final survey on May 8, Clark had been overtaken by Green party leader Andrew Weaver and found herself in third place, still at 14 per cent.
The Liberals won just over 40 per cent of the popular vote.
The Liberal party may want to consider that ‘trust thing’ as it conducts its post-mortem.
Parties that won a slice of the Goldilocks vote would be well advised to heed the ending of the fairy tale: “Just then, Goldilocks woke up and saw the three bears. She screamed, “Help!”
And she jumped up and ran out of the room. Goldilocks ran down the stairs, opened the door, and ran away into the forest. And she never returned to the home of the three bears.”
Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC. www.integritybc.ca