British Columbia·Analysis

NDP try to snap losing streak in bid to end B.C. Liberal political dynasty

The B.C. provincial election is set to kick off on Tuesday, April 11. For the 28 days after that B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and Green Party leader Andrew Weaver will be spanning the province looking for votes. The question is are people seeking change or more of the same.

The official 28-day-election campaign is set to begin Tuesday

B.C. Premier Christy Clark, alongside BC Hydro chair Brad Bennett, is looking to win her second straight majority government. (Government of B.C.)

When the official election campaign kicks off Tuesday it will have been 5,810 days since the BC Liberals first took power in 2001.

Gordon Campbell's victory 16 years ago launched the current dynasty, one of the longest lasting political regimes in Canada, which makes the premise of the 2017 election campaign simple: Do you want change or are you fine with how things have been going?

"Inevitably we have a government that has been in power since 2001, it is almost cliche to say it's time for change," said University of Victoria political scientist Norman Ruff.

 "Even a government that is doing well, it's good to have a circulation of change. It's part of the general atmosphere that is surrounding the election and clearly the NDP will focus on 'things can be better.' "

Can Clark cement Liberal legacy?

B.C Premier Christy Clark speaks to a crowd at an anti-bullying event in Burnaby, B.C., on Wednesday, February 22, 2017. (The Canadian Press / Ben Nelms)

At the helm for the B.C. Liberals is one of the province's most familiar faces: party leader and B.C. Premier Christy Clark is looking for a second mandate.

The Liberals have had some high profile problems. The premier has been dogged by questions about 'cash-for-access'  fundraisers in which donors who paid hundreds of dollars for tickets received face time with Clark.

There was also criticism that Clark received a $50,000 stipend as party leader, a practice she recently ended. The premier has also faced questions about why she falsely accused NDP Leader John Horgan of hacking the B.C Liberal website.

 And her government also came under fire for a practice of triple-deleting emails.

Finally, the government has acknowledged that it will fall short on one of its key election promises from the 2013 provincial campaign — to have three Liquefied Natural Gas plants up and running by 2020.

Still, Clark is in a much different position than she was four years ago. The province boasts the country's strongest economy and is leading in job growth.

"I think the most important thing a government can do to help people is help create jobs," said Clark. "I really believe, a job changes lives."

Horgan works to define himself

John Horgan surrounded by members of the B.C. NDP caucus on the last day of the 2017 legislative session. (Mike McArthur/CBC News)

Horgan is the third NDP leader that has tried to stop the Liberal run. Like Carole James and Adrian Dix before him, Horgan has been a fixture in the party for a long time.

The three-term MLA was first elected in 2005 in the riding of Malahat-Juan de Fuca. Horgan is working to define himself, while attacks come at him from both third-party groups and the B.C. Liberals.

The NDP leader has faced criticism from the B.C. Liberals that he's an angry person with a bad temper. Others have called him indecisive on issues like the Site C Dam construction.

Through all this, Horgan is trying to define himself.

"When people call me angry, I say I am passionate," said Horgan. "Who wouldn't be angry with the highest child poverty rate in the country? Who wouldn't be angry at a government who takes bus passes away from people with disabilities?"

BC Greens look for breakthrough

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver is looking to add to his caucus that currently only includes him. (CBC)

Trying to break into the conversation is the BC Greens Leader Andrew Weaver, who is presenting a platform that his party believes offers far more than climate change policies.

"Look at the trends. Two parties are trending down, one party is trending up. We are leading according to polls on Vancouver Island," said Weaver.

 "When you see the depth and rigour of our platform I think you are going to see heads turn."

Weaver may be counting on regional polling, but the 2013 election is proof of how badly the pollsters did. At this point four years ago, Clark was trailing by 20 points. 

This time it is a much closer race in the public's eyes and as the B.C. Liberals proved last time: once the campaign starts anything can happen. 

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