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2001: The B.C. Liberal Party campaign

British Columbia has a proud tradition of bare-knuckle, drag-'em-out election campaigns. No other province can match B.C.'s flamboyant leaders, its salacious scandals and the trench warfare between free-enterprisers and socialists. Many of the hard-fought victories ended in resignation. CBC Archives takes a look back at campaign highlights going back as early as 1952.

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The Liberal campaign is on a roll. A campaign worker uses a cordless microphone to introduce party leader Gordon Campbell. The crowd goes wild as he bounds off the campaign bus and enthuses about ending the NDP's decade-long grip on British Columbia. At a meeting of NDP supporters, the mood is sombre, more like a farewell party. In this television clip, NDP Premier Ujjal Dosanjh is reduced to pleading for a single seat.

"There's a danger of 79 Liberal MLAs being elected," without any opposition in the legislature, Dosanjh warns. "That's not good for democracy." He can't deny voter anger over NDP scandals and boondoggles. David Mitchell, a B.C. historian, calls this campaign very unusual for the province. There are no outrageous personalities this time. And where there is usually a pitched battle between forces on the political left and right, there is now no contest. 
• Seat totals in the May 16, 2001, British Columbia election:
- British Columbia Liberal Party: 77
- New Democratic Party of B.C.: 2
• Eighteen other parties failed to win a seat.
• The NDP initially thought it had won three seats but lost one in a recount. The party got 21.6 per cent of the popular vote.

• NDP leader Ujjal Dosanjh, who had become the first Indo-Canadian premier when he replaced Glen Clark in 2000, lost his Vancouver seat to a Liberal. He ran successfully for the federal Liberals in 2004 and was named health minister by Prime Minister Paul Martin. Carole James became B.C. NDP leader in 2003, replacing Joy MacPhail.

• The B.C. Liberal party that won the biggest landslide in the province's history has no connection to the federal Liberals. The right-of-centre provincial party attracted a coalition of Social Credit and B.C. Reform party supporters determined to oust the NDP.
• During the race, Liberal leader Gordon Campbell's platform included personal income-tax cuts, a referendum on the province's native-treaty process, and government accountability. He promised a "new era of hope and prosperity."

• On election night, three days after this clip aired, television stations predicted a massive Liberal majority government only 18 minutes after the polls closed.
• Campbell's campaign was a slick affair. His tour manager had staged events for singer Britney Spears and Microsoft mogul Bill Gates. His wireless microphone, nicknamed the Gordomatic, transmitted reporters' questions and his responses back to the Liberal campaign headquarters.

• Ujjal Dosanjh's campaign suffered an embarrassing series of gaffes. When Dosanjh attempted to meet voters during a walkabout in Vancouver, the owner of the Jerk Pit Grill restaurant refused to open the door for him. Dosanjh had another awkward moment in front of the cameras when he bumped into Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day. To see Dosanjh kick off his 2001 campaign, go to the clip Dosanjh's uphill battle.

• The Green Party Political Association of British Columbia failed to win a seat but it did get 197,231 votes -- more than half the NDP total. Most of the party's campaign workers had defected from the NDP. To see a clip about the Green campaign, go to the clip The Greens gaining ground. The British Columbia Marijuana Party captured more than 50,000 votes.

• After winning the election, Campbell followed through on his 1996 vow to try to make election results more accurately reflect the popular vote. A group of 160 randomly chosen British Columbians from all over the province recommended a system known as a single transferable vote (STV).
• British Columbians voted on whether to adopt the STV at the same time they voted in the May 17, 2005 election. In that referendum, the "yes" votes just fell short of the 60 per cent required to change the system. There will be another referendum on the subject during the 2009 election.

• Gordon Campbell was re-elected in the May 2005 election, although not with the same overwhelming majority. The B.C. Liberals got 46 seats in 2005, while the New Democrats got 33 seats. No other parties got any seats in the 2005 election.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: May 14, 2001
Guest(s): Gordon Campbell, Ujjal Dosanjh, David Mitchell
Reporter: Keith Boag
Duration: 4:43

Last updated: September 20, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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