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BC Politics

Goldilocks Voters Decided Clark Not To Their Taste

Lessons for all three parties from election results.

Dermod Travis 19 May

Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC.

It was a pretty safe bet going into election night that four words from Premier Christy Clark’s 2013 victory speech would be left unsaid this year — “Well, that was easy.”

There were other telling differences between Clark’s two election night speeches.

In 2013, it fell on then-NDP leader Adrian Dix to deliver that line often cited by political runner-ups: “Elections belong to the voters and the voters decided.”

This time it was Clark’s turn as she acknowledged the verdict: “Voters always know best.”

Pending a massive shift from the absentee ballots, Clark’s BC Liberal Party may have scored its lowest share of the popular vote since 1991, at 40.9 per cent. Even when the Liberals lost to the NDP in 1996, they captured 41.8 per cent of the vote.

The NDP has won 1,414 more votes than in 2013, and the gains will increase as the final votes are counted by May 24. It’s still not clear if NDP support will top 40 per cent, a feat the party hasn’t achieved since 2009.

The Green Party doubled its vote count and share of the popular vote.

The tallies give you a sense that there was a slice of the electorate 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, the results may be ideal — rebuke Clark, give the NDP a chance to prove their mettle before handing over the keys and ensure a strong third party voice in the legislature to keep an eye on everyone.

This campaign didn’t come with a single game-changing moment or issue. A litany of issues and events reached a tipping point for some voters. The ones who decide elections.

The three main parties all had their forced and unforced errors.

The New Democrats likely regret 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’ late night tweeting rarely ends well.

And the BC Liberals might wish to think about self-inflicted wounds.

Maclean’s magazine summed up the campaign in a 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,” came up short with the Goldilocks voters.

When she brushed off an actual voter who hadn’t been pre-screened by campaign organizers, the resulting #IamLinda hashtag created buzz on the campaign trail.

But it wasn’t the more telling moment. That came during the leaders debate when Clark tried to deflect the moderator's question on controversies and scandals surrounding her government by talking about jobs. Even Clark must have realized her pivot was too far off point and meekly acknowledged the issue before swiftly replaying 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 leader Andrew Weaver and was in third place, still at 14 per cent.

The Liberal party may want to consider that “trust thing” as it conducts its campaign postmortem.

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.”  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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