British Columbia·FROM THE ARCHIVES

A look back at the beginning of the B.C. Liberal reign

It was one of the biggest political upsets in provincial history, and the party that won is still in place 16 years later — albeit with a different leader.

Provincial election in 2001 saw the B.C. NDP barely hold on to any seats in the Legislature

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell, seen here at a recent climate change meeting, was swept to power in 2001. The B.C. Liberals have been the governing party ever since. (Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward)

It was one of the biggest political upsets in provincial history, and the party that won is still in place 16 years later — albeit with a different leader.  

It was May 2001 when the B.C. Liberals became the province's governing party.

The question at the time, as noted by national CBC reporter Keith Boag, wasn't whether or not the Liberals would win but if there would be anything left of the B.C. NDP. 

The following video, originally broadcast just before the 2001 election, captures that moment in time:

Where there was usually a battle between left and right, in 2001 there was no contest. 4:44

After a decade of major political snafus that included accusations of theft, criminal charges and the fast ferries scandal, British Columbians, it seems, were ready for change. 

The polls for the NDP were so dire leading up to the election, then-premier Ujjal Dosanjh asked British Columbians to carefully consider their choices lest the province be left without an opposition. 

"That's not good for democracy it's not good for really having a debate and dialogue in British Columbia," Dosanjh said at the time.   

In a recent interview, he said the best the party could hope for — at the time — was to salvage five to 10 seats. 

"We were heading to a slaughter. We knew that we were going to lose the election, people wanted change," he said.

"And the rest is history."

Only 2 seats left

Only two NDP members made it to legislature — Joy MacPhail representing Vancouver-Hastings and Jenny Kwan for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant.

The remaining 77 MLAs representing the rest of the province were all Liberals.  

Of course, over the next 16 years the Liberals have had their own political setbacks, including the embarrassment of Campbell being arrested for drunk driving in Hawaii in 2003

More recent controversies include heated debate over political donations, broken LNG promises and scrutiny around public service announcements deemed too political.

Gordon Campbell was pulled over after speeding and swerving on a road in Maui in 2003. (Maui Police Department)

But Dosanjh said he doesn't think the same kind of political upset is in the cards for the Liberals in 2017.

"I don't see the same kind of yearning or desire for change," he said. 

So far polls for the upcoming election do put the NDP ahead of the Liberals, but with a tight lead. 

Compare that to the 2013 election, when polls indicated a sea change was destined for the B.C. Liberals, who were coming out of the failure of the HST referendum that caused then-Premier Gordon Campbell to resign and allowed Christy Clark to take over.

B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark won the 2013 provincial election, despite polls that hinted to the contrary. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

But as we know now, the Liberals won the day and Clark remained premier. 

Still, Dosanjh said it's early in the game and the NDP could still get ahead. 

His advice for NDP Leader John Horgan?

"If they can make it all about change, they'll win," he said. 

But unlike the NDP in 2001, Clark, the B.C. Liberal leader, isn't pleading for survival.

She's actively campaigning for a win that could cement her as one of B.C.'s most significant premiers.