British Columbia

5 things to watch as B.C. election campaign kicks off

B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark is expected to ask the lieutenant governor to dissolve the legislature this morning, officially kicking off a provincial election campaign.
British Columbia's provincial election is set for May 14. (CBC)

B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark is expected to ask the Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon to dissolve the legislature this morning, officially kicking off a provincial election campaign.

B.C. voters will head to the polls on May 14, which is a fixed-date for the election.

Here's a look at five issues for voters to keep an eye on as the campaign gets underway:

Campaign styles

This is the first provincial election campaign for both B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark and NDP Leader Adrian Dix, and therefore the first opportunity for voters to see how the leaders campaign.

Clark replaced former leader Gordon Campbell, who stepped down following widespread criticism over the party’s handling of the introduction of the HST, in March 2011.

Dix was elected leader of B.C.'s NDP in April 2011 after Carole James resigned amid a caucus revolt and party infighting.

In the coming weeks, British Columbians will have the opportunity to see how the leaders handle the campaign trail, how they engage with the public, express their policies and, ultimately, how they hope to win votes.

B.C. Liberal support

Over the next four weeks, the B.C. Liberal Party will be working desperately to sway voters.

The most recent online poll from Angus Reid Public Opinion puts the NDP 20 points ahead of the Liberals.

According to the same poll, Dix’s approval rating sits at about 47 per cent, while Clark sits around 27 per cent — leading many to say this is essentially Dix’s election to lose.

Will the Liberals pick up support on the campaign trail? Only time will tell.

Will Christy Clark win her riding?

Clark faces a tough race in her riding of Vancouver-Point Grey.

In a 2011 byelection, she defeated NDP candidate David Eby by just 564 votes. It marked the first time in 30 years any sitting government in the province won a byelection.

Clark will face off against Eby again in this election.

Eby, the former executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, has spent the past two years campaigning in the hopes of ousting Clark in her own riding.

The B.C. Conservative Party has recruited a colourful candidate of its own in the riding — Duane Nickull, the co-founder of Yellow Dragon Software Inc.

It’s not clear how much time Clark will spend campaigning in the riding, but she did decline to attend an all-candidates’ debate for the riding organized by the University of British Columbia earlier this month.

NDP record

Dix and the New Democrats face the challenge of overcoming their own records this election campaign.

The party has won just three of the last 22 provincial elections, but has formed the Official Opposition 18 times — more than any other party in B.C. history.

Dix was forced to resign as chief of staff to former NDP premier Glen Clark after getting caught back-dating a memo to make it look like Clark had asked him to stay away from the casino licensing process.

The so-called Bingo-gate scandal, which involved NDP officials taking money that should have gone to charity and using it for the party, and the fast ferries scandal are both black marks on the party’s record.

In addition, the NDP tabled eight deficit budgets during its time in office, though the province was also grappling with the leaky condo crisis and the Asian market collapse.

The other parties

In the last provincial election, the B.C. Green Party, B.C. Conservatives and Independents captured a total of just over 11 per cent of the popular vote.

But according to the latest poll, the Conservatives and Greens alone could capture over 20 per cent of the popular vote.

While neither party currently holds a seat in the provincial legislature, both have gained support since 2009.

In addition, three incumbent Independent MLAs are seeking reelection — former New Democrat Bob Simpson in Cariboo North, Vicki Huntington in Delta South and John van Dongen in Abbotsford South.