Editorial: All in this together until it gets nasty

If opinion polls are any indication, the New Democrats will soon have a clear majority in the legislature, the Greens will be adjusting to their new, irrelevant status, and the shattered B.C. Liberals will be looking for a new leader.

That’s a big “if,” of course; in 2013, the NDP was cruising to a guaranteed victory until the voting started.

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Only one poll matters in the end, and that is the one run by Elections B.C.

No matter what happens, this election will serve as a textbook reminder of how Machiavellian provincial politics can be.

There were reasons why John Horgan should been more vulnerable than he appears to be. The Liberals could have ­— should have — got more traction by hammering Horgan on a “he can’t be trusted” theme.

Horgan called the election in a pandemic, rather than the date next year he had set for it. He reneged on a deal with the Greens, the very deal which gave him the keys to the premier’s office.

The election comes at a time when we need the government governing, not treading water as the campaign plays out.

That Horgan appears to be coasting to an easy victory should cause the opposition parties to question their tactics. Clearly, their messages are not resonating, and they cannot blame the NDP for that. Their problems are internal.

For a start, they fell for the “we’re all in this together” line. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson and the Green leaders — Adam Olsen and then Sonia Furstenau — agreed that in a pandemic, all parties should work together for the good of the province.

To be fair, if the Liberals and Greens had done anything to undermine the health and economic measures that were implemented, they would have lost ground with the electorate.

But Horgan saw an opportunity and took advantage of it. The Greens and the Liberals stayed with the “in this together” belief even as storm clouds were building — even as an election call seemed more and more imminent. Did they honestly believe that Horgan would not break his promise? Apparently so.

Both of the major parties have stumbled here and there, and both have tried to make a lot of fuss about the failings of their opponents. “The NDP only has white candidates on the south Island,” the Liberals cry. “The Liberals do not have any female candidates in Vancouver,” the NDP responds.

Candidates for all the parties have said things they should not have said, and again, their opponents have taken full advantage. That has created more grief for Wilkinson than for Horgan, with the Liberal making things worse by being slow to stamp out the fires.

It’s a basic rule of business, and of politics: Deal with personnel issues quickly, do not let them fester. The damage one rogue can do could undercut the entire message.

From the start, this election has been Horgan’s to lose. He has not committed any serious errors, and has been able to sit back and watch the Liberals stumble and fumble.

Furstenau has been reasonably impressive, but will that bring the Greens more seats? Here on Vancouver Island, we sometimes forget how little presence they have elsewhere in the province. Will they even be able to match the three they won in 2017? And what if they do — if the NDP has a large majority, a small Green caucus will not be heard.

The party that will need to do the most soul-searching might be the Liberals, who gave us a weak campaign with one major promise: A tax cut so reckless it cannot be taken seriously.

The only real issue in this campaign is the government’s response to the pandemic. Despite all the chatter, we have not heard viable plans to get us out of this hole; all we hear are plans to dig a bit deeper into it.

The Liberals have only a few days left to present themselves as a serious alternative. They could show that they have learned from the mistakes they made while in government. They could provide evidence that they are charting a new course.

Polls indicate that the Liberals might already be out of time — and that Horgan has this unnecessary election in the bag.

But as Adrian Dix, who lost to Christy Clark in 2013, learned the hard way, it’s not over until it’s over.

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