Everyone in B.C. knows the provincial election is on May 14, but the main party machines seem in no hurry to campaign in earnest. When fixed election dates became the law in British Columbia, pundits predicted that we would find ourselves in an American-style system, where campaigns begin months or years before polling day.
While a few candidates — mostly those who don’t yet hold a seat in the legislature — are out stumping for votes, election fever doesn’t seem to have seized our politicians.
New Democrat leader Adrian Dix has avoided issuing anything that looks like a campaign platform, letting the B.C. Liberals do all the proposing while he commits to nothing.
It’s frustrating the Liberals.
Premier Christy Clark told the Times Colonist editorial board last week: “We need a real competition of ideas, but you can’t do that on your own.”
Clark herself has not given voters a lot to chew over. The throne speech offered little to kindle popular interest beyond the far-off riches of liquefied natural gas. She admitted to the editorial board that the budget had no grand ideas — because they usually come with grand price tags.
The B.C. Liberals are also short of candidates. They have nominated seven in the Island’s 14 ridings, with an eighth to be picked next week in Saanich North and the Islands.
Clark told the editorial board she is taking time to recruit “the best and the brightest.” Her plan is to unveil them in stages, to get a better bang for her buck than she would if she announced them all at once. Asked if that means she is having trouble finding candidates, she points to high-profile people like paralympian Michelle Stilwell, the Liberal candidate in Parksville-Qualicum.
Although the Liberals haven’t done much traditional campaigning, they have been getting out some of their main points through controversial television ads. They are funded by tax dollars, but no one could mistake them for anything but Liberal self-promotion.
While the leaders of the main parties seem to be saving their energy for the big push, Conservative leader John Cummins released his fiscal plan this week.
And some candidates are already hustling. NDP MLA Lana Popham has done about 10 days of knocking on doors in her Saanich South riding over the last month, and says some of her caucus colleagues are doing the same.
In Oak Bay-Gordon Head, MLA Ida Chong of the B.C. Liberals says some of her opponents started campaigning as long as a year ago, and some of her colleagues who aren’t in cabinet have been getting into the swing recently. Until the writ is dropped, she and other cabinet ministers will only be able to squeeze in the odd Saturday of door-knocking between other duties.
Chong has found the move toward American-style long campaigns is true more of challengers than of sitting MLAs, who are often out at community events in the evenings and on weekends as part of their regular duties. For an MLA, showing up on doorsteps on a weekday when the house is in session is a no-no.
“What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be in the legislature?”
Candidates say one result of the recent furor over the Liberals’ ethnic-voting strategy has been to stir up interest in the coming vote. Even those voters who haven’t paid much attention are now full of questions.
Although we can be thankful we haven’t been swallowed by American-style endless campaigns, the days are ticking down to the election writ. British Columbians are primed and ready to make a choice. All we need now is to hear from the parties.
© Copyright 2013