Buyers’ remorse over Trump, Brexit could sway B.C. voters

Just two days before British Columbians go to the polls on May 9 to elect their next provincial government, comes exhilarating news from France. Thirty-nine-year-old pro-business president-elect Emmanuel Macron, once an underdog for France’s highest office, served up a stunning defeat to his extremist opponent Marine Le Pen.

It was yet another example where voters in Europe chose a path more practical to their self-interests, and eschewed the politics of anger and division.

It also could be a bellwether of how B.C. will vote in this election.

In recent months, extremist candidates peddling discriminatory policies and threatening the solidarity within European Union were soundly trounced in elections in the Netherlands, Austria, and now France.

Where many predicted that anti-establishment political movements in the spirit of Brexit and the Trump campaign would swell, the opposite appears to be happening. Voters abroad are turning their backs on political upheaval in exchange for more certain choices.

As Election Day approaches here, B.C. voters are similarly inundated with a message that the system has failed them. Despite objective analysis that shows the relative strength of our provincial economy, we are being told to believe that Clark’s BC Liberal Party is not working for you and me.

As with similar narratives in the U.S.A. and across Europe, the goal is to sow seeds of mistrust. Rest assured, many swing voters are being convinced by this message. Whether there are enough votes to end Clark’s time in the Premier’s office remains to be seen.

It is more likely, however, that the majority of British Columbians will vote with their wallets.

B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark makes phone calls from her campaign headquarters in West Kelowna, B.C., Tuesday, May 9, 2017. The British Columbia election will be held on Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Last fall, the independent Economic Forecast Council issued a report that says B.C.’s economy will outperform all other provinces.

British Columbia is, in fact, the envy of the rest of the country, with the strongest job growth, lowest unemployment rates in Canada, and the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio of any province east of Saskatchewan.

By 2020, British Columbia is projected to have the lowest debt per capita of any province.

“Pshaw,” cry the BC Liberals’ critics.

Still, the numbers do not lie. B.C. is outpacing all of its counterparts in the Confederation. In conversations with friends and family in provinces back east, they like to remind me that we have got it pretty good here west of the Rockies, in large measure thanks to our leadership.

In spite of the positive statistics, there is no question that challenges remain. There are plenty of folks in our province who are not yet benefiting from our economic success.

Housing prices remain a barrier for many families across the Lower Mainland. Fentanyl overdoses and homelessness demand an even more coordinated and aggressive response between provincial authorities and local government.

If her political instincts are as finely tuned as some suggest they are, Christy Clark’s biggest takeaway from the 2017 campaign will be that now is not the time to rest on our laurels. Should she be given a second mandate, Clark’s government will have to work harder to bridge those gaps between B.C.’s haves and have-nots.

When it comes to the oft-repeated claim by the BC Liberal’s opponents that big money is buying political influence, if there truly is proof of a quid pro quo resulting from political donations, it is something that all British Columbians – including BC Liberal supporters – should roundly condemn.

The trouble is, there is no evidence showing where a public policy has been changed as a result of a political donation under Clark’s mandate, in spite of years of dogged investigations by advocates, academics, and journalists trying to prove otherwise. Her promise to commission an independent review of the rules governing political donations is a prudent response.

In addition, Clark’s renewal of the BC Liberal Party under her watch — including the addition of prominent women, minority, and First Nations as candidates, as well as a qualified and diverse slate of choices in Vancouver’s ridings — goes a long way to justify giving the party an historic fifth mandate.

So is change in the air for B.C. in this election?

More likely voters will look to the U.S. and U.K. and say to themselves if that is what change looks like, they would rather stick with a party and a leader who has given them the most prosperous province in Canada.

Disclosure: Mike Klassen was campaign manager for BC Liberal candidate Colin Hansen in 2005 and 2009.

– Originally published by Vancouver Courier