The much-anticipated by-election in Chilliwack and Port Moody this week were meant to be a litmus test for the future of BC, with some even suggesting that Premier McSparkles’ job might be on the line based on the results. Looking back, it occurs to me that the Premier might be the biggest winner out of these races.
Yes, the NDP won both races: one the expected trouncing of both parties by Port Moody’s inexplicably popular former Mayor, the other the shocking win by a radical European-style Socialist in the most definitively non-socialist Chilliwack. The first win was expected, and it was with roughly the same percentage of the popular vote that white-bread incumbent Liberal Iain Black took last election. Nothing too shocking here. The win in Chilliwack–Hope was indeed a breakthrough for the party, but not the kind of breakthrough they needed. Early on in the results, it looked like the NDP was going to get 50%, a true majority of the votes. Instead, with only 41% of the vote, a plurality that will be easily written off as a result of vote splitting at the right.
For the Conservatives, finishing third in both ridings is nothing short of a disaster. Third in Port Moody is probably not surprising (it is a rapidly urbanizing community, lots of young families, and Grampa Cummings has little to offer that demographic). Third place in Chilliwack-Hope, which should be a conservative stronghold, is a sign that Gramps is not effectively reaching even his base. Had they won that riding, and finished second in Port Moody, they could be legitimately seen as the natural replacement for the BC Liberals. It might not have been long before three or more BC Liberal MLAs threatened to cross the floor (to get into the Blue Wave at the ground floor), bringing an end to the Liberal majority (they have 46 seats now, and need 43 for a majority) and changing the dynamic of election timing.
Instead, the BC Liberals managed to hold onto second in both ridings. More importantly, they can legitimately claim that vote splitting in Chilliwack cost them the seat, and they are the only party that can really keep the “free enterprise” (ugh) dream alive. read: with all their faults, they are still better than the Conservatives. Expect them to ramp up the “a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for Adrian Dix” narrative even more now, and watch it start to stick.
For the first time since she squeaked out her own by-election win, the Premier has reason to smile.