Editorial 

Election Night in British Columbia

British Columbians normally fixated on the NHL playoffs at this time of year were able to divert some of their pent-up passion to this week’s provincial election. But alas, it turned out to be about as lively as a game between the Minnesota Wild and the New Jersey Devils.

In what will likely be the dullest of the three elections voters in B.C. will endure in the next six to nine months, Gordon Campbell Tuesday became only the fifth premier in B.C.’s history to win re-election. As Grapes might say, Campbell’s Liberals utilized a tight checking strategy through most of the campaign but demonstrated an ability to score goals when needed and came away with a solid majority government.

The NDP, with nowhere to go but up, showed great character but were ultimately outgunned by the Liberals. Captain Carole James’s team just couldn’t skate with Campbell’s team in a best of seven series, but they’ll be back – hell, they are back.

For all the new-age ideas floating around prior to this series – STV, the Green Party as a viable third alternative, a less physical campaign played by guys wearing visors, the NDP distancing itself from labour – it turned out to be an old time B.C. election: A centre/right coalition formed another majority government. Only three times in B.C.’s history has the NDP been elected: in 1972 at the end of W.A.C. Bennett’s 20-year dynasty; in 1991 after Bill Vander Zalm had destroyed Social Credit; and in 1996 when the combination of Glen Clark’s fudge-it budget and people’s unease with Campbell produced a second successive NDP government. With the exception of those three elections B.C. has, since party politics arrived in 1903, always elected centre/right governments. So Tuesday’s results should not be a surprise.

The biggest question raised is whether there is room for a third party in the B.C. game. The Green Party, under Adriane Carr, went from 12 per cent of the popular vote in 2001 to 9 per cent. Carr finished third in her riding. The Greens tried to bring some aspects of the European game to B.C. but ultimately came out of the corners third best against the play off-hardened elbows of the NDP and Liberals. Carr may not get the chance to skate with the big guns next time around.

The chances of the Greens, or another third party, winning seats in the next provincial playoffs also appear to have been hurt by the proposed single transferable vote system not quite making the standard. Like the calls for eliminating the centre line and no-touch icing, when it gets right down to it the traditionalists seem to hold sway.

The bar for approval of BC-STV was high – 60 per cent of all votes across the province and more than 50 per cent support in 48 of the 79 ridings. Partial results Wednesday showed support for BC-STV across the province slightly under 60 per cent. That’s impressive, but whether it’s enough to maintain the momentum for electoral reform and open up the game remains to be seen.

With nine per cent of the popular vote, under BC-STV the Greens would have captured six or seven seats in the 79-seat legislature. The Liberals, with about 46 per cent of the popular vote, likely wouldn’t have had a majority under BC-STV.

Of course, the same day British Columbians were voting on STV Belinda Stronach showed in the Ottawa series just how powerful a single transferable vote can be. A trade like that in the middle of a tough, physical series can suck the life out of a team, and give her new team a shot in the arm.

The Ottawa series continues to be physical and Paul Martin’s got everything riding on the budget his team proposed… and the NDP modified. If it’s defeated, the delay of game calls will be felt in B.C. Funding for amateur sports will be delayed, Ottawa’s plan to return some of the gasoline tax to cities will be delayed, and anything that requires federal commitments – financial or otherwise – will be on hold.

But you gotta take the games one at a time, and the provincial Liberals will have to play with whoever emerges from the Ottawa series.

Meanwhile, when the series resumes in Victoria it oughta be a doozy.

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