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Posted: July 9, 2016

Will history repeat itself in next B.C. election?

Gerry WarnerPerceptions, by Gerry Warner

The mists are beginning to lift and an image is starting to come into focus. What can it be? Oh, oh! It looks tumultuous and kind of ugly with a lot of rhetoric that can’t be trusted. Of course, it can only be one thing and it can’t be avoided. It’s the May 9, 2017 B.C. election in a province where politics is often called a blood sport.

I can hardly wait.

So once again pert and popular Christy Clark will dip into the electoral well and see what she can come up with. A larger majority? (By no means impossible.) Fewer members, but still government? (A more likely scenario.) But there’s one thing our telegenic Premier is very unlikely to come up with try as she might. And that, of course, is a brand, spanking, new LNG plant for the province.

Didn’t she promise at least a dozen of these giant, job-producing and polluting mega-projects during the last election? I believe the number got as high as 18 at one point and the “boom” they were suppose to create – along with a pipeline or two – was going to pay off the provincial debt and put us all on the gravy train as former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was so fond of saying.

But all Christy could do on that preposterous, political promise was produce a big fat zero and it will be interesting to see how she tries to spin that embarrassing shutout in the next electoral go-around.

But in spite of that fairy tale political promise that was never likely in the first place one would be very foolish to count Christy and her merry gang of Socreds out. For starters, Clark is a hell of a campaigner. Just ask Adrian Dix. Secondly, you’ve got to consider the most important dictum of B.C. politics that has stood the test of time going as far back as W.A.C. (“Wacky”) Bennett. Considering that Clark’s Liberals are really hard-line conservatives (Socreds) in drag there’s an iron law of B.C. politics that’s never been broken. The NDP can never defeat the BC Socreds, but the Socreds can defeat themselves as they’ve done on a very few occasions.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at B.C. electoral history.

In 1972, the Socreds under W.A.C. Bennett had been in power for 20 years and were looking to cruise to another easy election victory when they were upset by Dave Barrett’s idealistic band of socialists. What happened? Bennett was getting long in the tooth and had lost his populist touch and his right-hand man and logical successor, “Flying Phil” Gaglardi antagonized a lot of voters with remarks in favour of greed and the role it played in building the B.C. boom and calling the pulp mill stench that hung over several B.C. mill towns the “smell of money.” Environmentalism was just beginning to become a major movement in B.C. and it was obvious the Socreds were out of touch.

However, the Socreds won four consecutive elections after defeating Barrett in 1975 and only lost again in 1991 when the controversial and scandal-plagued Bill Vander Zalm government fell hard in the 1991 election.

In 1996, the NDP got lucky, winning a narrow, majority victory under Glen Clark even though their total of the popular vote was less than the Liberals, which the Socreds were now mischievously calling themselves. It also didn’t help when the NDP did, as the left so often does, ate one of their own when they forced former Premier Mike Harcourt from power even though he won a huge victory for them in 1991.

So now it’s John Horgan’s turn to try to win one for the Gipper even though he leads a party that has a sheer genius for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory as they showed so dramatically in the 2013 election debacle. But fortunately for the NDP, Horgan is personable and can give a good stump speech unlike Dix who was barely coherent in the last campaign.

With no LNG plants in the immediate offing and the Liberals clumsy and expedient handling of the school closure crisis in the province, Horgan may have a fighting chance to reverse NDP fortunes. But don’t bet the farm on it. Unlike Alberta, the right is united in B.C. while the Greens tend to steal precious votes from the NDP.

United we stand; divided . . . well you know the rest.

Gerry Warner is a retired journalist, whose political predictions haven’t been too accurate lately, but he’s not trying to jinx the Socreds, oops, the Liberals.

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