The two by-elections are very bad news for the Liberals, not much better for the Tories and excellent news for the NDP.
Let’s start with the last first.
The loyal opposition is now in the position where a couple of Liberals crossing the floor can bring the government down. I don’t believe that will happen but it’s a worry for the Liberals. Mostly this confirmed Adrian Dix’s leadership. Any time you have a contested election, the losers and their supporters have a death wish for the winner – more about that in a moment. Dix is firmly in control. The NDP made a brilliant move in saying that while they oppose Enbridge and coastal tanker traffic they promise a local referendum for Kinder Morgan. One of the moves of the Campbell/Clark government was to extinguish the right of local governments to pass judgment on environmentally sensitive projects and the NDP understand that the late US Speaker, Tip O’Neill, was right when he said “all politics is local”.
For the John Cummins Conservatives this by-election was a bitter blow, for if the Tories can’t win a by-election – governments usually have trouble with them – in a staunchly “conservative” riding, what chance do they have in a general election. This hardly enhances the opportunity for a new party along the Socred lines since Cummins brings nothing to the table.
For the Liberals, these votes can’t be put down to the usual anti-government pissed off voters. Premier Clark’s leadership was on the line and the Liberals know it.
Going into the by-elections all but one caucus and cabinet minister wanted someone else. She has stumbled from one gaffe to another since she took office. She must go and soon; if she stays, it will be the best news the NDP could get. She’s like Bill Vander Zalm was in 1991 – a loser brought to his knees as much by cabinet and caucus disloyalty as personal stupidity.
When a premier is in trouble he/she must be able to rally the troops – this Ms. Clark is utterly unable to do. She must go, with a temporary leader in place pending a leadership convention, for which time is very short.
Never mind the weeping that a split vote cost them Chilliwack and a turncoat won in Port Coquitlam – the fact is that the government lost two elections which were referenda on the Liberals and their leadership.
There was another winner – big time: the environment. In Chilliwack, the Kinder-Morgan pipeline was a big issue – to my memory, the first time the Environment was a large issue there.
These by-elections did more than alter the make-up of the Legislature; they altered politics in BC – Big Time.