British Columbia Liberals Re-Elected with Majority, Minus Premier, Who loses her seat

Yesterday, the governing Liberal Party of British Columbia was re-elected, winning 50 seats in the 84 seat Legislature, with the New Democratic Party winning 33 seats and the Greens 1 seat. The Liberals actually increased their majority by winning 5 more seats than they had at dissolution, rare for a government asking the voters for a fourth term.

But, in one of those quirks of the parliamentary system, Premier Clark was defeated in her own riding by about 200 votes, meaning that she does not have a seat in the new House.

Somewhere in BC Liberal-land, some “party stalwart” (the traditional term in this situation) is being pressured to resign his/her hard-won seat as we speak, triggering a by-election where Premier Clark can run again.

Globe and Mail article: “What happens now that Christy Clark won the election but lost her own riding?”

Heard yesterday:

Q. What’s the difference between Christy Clark and Hitler?
A. Hitler was elected to power.

Obviously, no one thinks there’s a viable comparison between the two, but it does suggest some dissatisfaction with the situation among the electorate.

Does the premier have to be a voting member to perform the duties of the office? I remember Prime Ministers who weren’t.

She should stand in the next contested by-election.

Not as a matter of constitutional law, no. She became Premier (i.e. head of the executive) by appointment by the Lieutenant Governor. She’s still the Premier even though she doesn’t have a seat in the Legislature.

As a matter of constitutional convention and strong political reality, she has to have a seat. Someone in her caucus will resign in short order, to open up a seat for a by-election.

If there was dissatisfaction among the electorate–which I certainly have heard, read, and experienced–especially after the whole HST thing–how the hell did the Liberals win a majority? I was very, very surprised.

(For non-BC residents, the provincial Liberals are Liberal in name only, and not very liberal politically.)

I think people still have such misgivings about previous NDP governments that they held their noses and voted Liberal.

I am pleased a Green got elected, and in Victoria!

Has there been any explanation or discussion from the pollsters about how they got it wrong? Sounds very much like the Alberta polling fiasco from last year.

And the last federal election–it didn’t seem like Harper would have a majority. Polls are no longer accurate, I think.

Could it be cell phones and call display? Fewer people with land lines, and if you do have a land line, chances are you have call display, and can choose not to answer unknown callers like pollsters. Just wondering.

At least in Alberta, the polls were (IIRC) starting to shift significantly in the last few days, so a last-minute shift in opinion was at least possible. The BC polls were static in the last week (the Liberals had a small bump in a few polls about a week out, but it was from losing very badly to losing badly, and the movement stopped shortly afterwards). Even in the 2011 federal election, they got a general scheme of things right. The BC polls were just wrong in pretty much every way that polls can be wrong.

But that’s also going on in the US and there is no problem getting reasonably accurate polls here, at least at a statewide level and above. Although maybe we have more polls so crap stands out more.

I’ve heard a couple reasons behind it. First is complacency of NDP voters in hearing their party was so far ahead. This has some merit as the turnout was pretty low (52%) although that is still up ever so slightly from the last election. Second is the generally bad campaign decisions made by the NDP leadership. This runs the gauntlet of trying to win a ‘throw the bums out’ vote with a platform not that dissimilar from that which the Liberals were offering, through to not connecting with issues relevant to one of their major bases (youth vote) and finally their poor responses to Liberal accusations which were less than 100% truthful. Finally, I’ve also heard that the polls weren’t weighted well enough based on likeliness to vote.

The BC Liberal Party’s internal polls were predicting 48 seats - two less than they actually got.

Their pollster says that the difference between their polling methods and the polling companies is that they only did live telephone polls; did not rely on internet polling. Also, he acknowledges that it’s harder to poll young people with cell phones, but that’s cancelled out by the fact that young people tend not to vote.

Internal B.C. Liberal poll projected 48 seats before election

I think that would still be pretty weird, though. IIRC, the usual pattern is for the people in the perceived losing party to be less likely to show up.

A Yank who’s not getting it here.

Doesn’t being defeated in one’s own election constitute enough of a repudiation for your party to want to find a new leader instead from among those conventionally eligible? Why wouldn’t Clark’s authority be undercut enough by that, and then by this tawdry tactic, to make her ineffective as a leader?

Does the U.S. stereotype of West-Coasters being a bunch of granola-crunching tree-hugging lefty-hippies also apply in Canada?

No, because her seat is just one out of 84. The Liberals under her leadership won 50 out of 84 seats, with a plurality of the popular vote (44%). That is a tremendous showing, for a party that was trailing in the all the polls for the past year. They even picked up 5 seats from their standings in the House at dissolution. That’s rare for a party that’s been in power for three elections, and is asking for a fourth mandate.

Since the party leader is one of the most significant factors in a party’s electoral fortunes, that means that Clark is generally a very popular leader, apparently trusted by the people of B.C. to lead the province.

The fact that she lost her own seat (by ~750 votes) is a local aberration; it doesn’t count too much against her overall success. One riding’s rejection of the Premier personally doesn’t carry enough weight to discount those positives.

In these circumstances, she’s pretty firmly in control of the party, and it’s doubtful that anyone else in the party would have a chance at defeating her in a leadership race.

Now, the situation would be different if she had led her party to defeat, and lost her own seat. Off-hand, I can’t think of a First Minister in that situation who retained the confidence of his/her party. Usually, the leader of the losing party who is defeated in his/her own riding fades away pretty quickly. For example, Prime Minister Campbell led her Tories in 1993 into the worst fiasco in Commonwealth parliamentary history: from a solid majority in the Commons, to two (2) seats. She lost her own seat, and disappeared into obscurity. (Well, Canadian consul general to Los Angeles; much the same thing. ;))

As Lombardi is reputed to have said: “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” The Liberals won the election, and that’s pretty much the only thing that matters.

They have that reputation, but it’s not really reflected in electoral politics. Provincially, the socialist/leftist CCF/NDP has contested 23 general elections (dating back to 1933); it has won precisely 3 of those elections, not a strong electoral track record (B.C. Liberal rhetoric prevents NDP victory).

At the federal level, the last time the NDP held a majority of the BC seats in the Commons was the 1988 election (19 seats out of 32). In every election since then, the Reform/Canadian Alliance/Conservative Party has won either a plurality, or an outright majority of the BC seats.

hmm - I’ve found a National Post article from a few days before the election which cites a poll that the two parties were in a statistical dead heat: With only four days to go before B.C. election, Liberals are now neck and neck with NDP: poll

Still had the NDP ahead of the Liberals, but it does show that at least one poll captured the shift in the latter days of the campaign, similar to that one late poll in Alberta last year, the weekend before the election.

And this article suggests that the problem is that Canadian pollsters have not developed statistically valid models of “likely voters” or voter turn-out, which the US pollsters have been using more and more: Why the B.C. polls were wrong: voters aren’t like the rest of us

I believe there’s the same kind of urban/rural split like there is in California, for instance.

Here’s a map showing that almost all of the Liberal seats are in the BC interior.

That provides a bit more context for the Premier losing her seat: she was running in a Vancouver riding, which may be more of a left-wing area.

And I’m assuming that Canada is like the UK in that there’s no requirement for an MP or MLA to ever actually live in their constituency.

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo said something after Obama’s victory over Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primaries that has always stuck with me: Winning campaigns always look brilliant; losing campaigns always look incompetent. A campaign and an election comprise a multitude of interacting events and decisions and actions, and it’s never easy, or even possible, to prise out the key elements that determined the outcome.

The day before the election, various pundits were congratulating the NDP on running a “flawless” campaign, based on the absence of gaffes and scandals and attacks that seemed to gain traction, and the fact that the polls consistently showed a strong NDP lead that should have led to a majority victory.