Opinion Column

Race is tight for B.C. election

By Steve Burgess

B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark smiles during a media availability as she tours D-Wave Systems in Burnaby, B.C., Friday, April 28, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark smiles during a media availability as she tours D-Wave Systems in Burnaby, B.C., Friday, April 28, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

We’re lucky in B.C. Think of the Americans, poor dogs—they have presidential elections that go on for well over a year. By comparison our election is a sprint. There’s been barely enough mud slinging to make a pig feel at home, and it’s almost over already. But this should be a big week—the race is tight. Can Premier Christy Clark’s Liberals pull off another Houdini act?

Four years ago the Liberal goose was turning slowly on a spit, apparently fully roasted. Imagine a barbecued bird standing up, flapping its wings, and strutting down the supermarket aisle cackling “Happy Days Are Here Again,” and you will have some sense of the pollsters’ reaction to Clark’s victory. True, it didn’t have the shock value of the Trump win—how often does the presidency go to a guy who was regularly portrayed by a nasty orange-haired puppet on Sesame Street? But the Clark comeback win was a stunner nonetheless.

The B.C. election is not the U.S. vote. There are no Sesame Street villains on the ballot here. But B.C. pundits can still draw lessons from the US scene.

Trump made a lot of promises. A big wall that Mexico would pay for; the end of Obamacare; “draining the swamp” of political corruption. So far his 2017 win/loss record makes the Blue Jays look like champs. But do his fans care? Apparently not. A recent poll shows Trump’s core supporters like him as much as ever.

Last provincial election Clark’s Liberals hammered home the promise of liquefied natural gas. LNG was going to make us all so rich the price of Vancouver real estate would prompt nothing but carefree laughter. We’d all be rolling in gas money.

Four years later there’s not a lot of chuckling going on. The promised LNG bonanza has yet to pay off. So are voters poised to punish Clark and the Liberals for their failure to pass along the gas?

Trump demonstrated that keeping promises is not as important as simply  making them. Your promises tell voters what you value. Clark’s promises of resource wealth signal that she cares more about jobs than the environment. That’s a popular message in many parts of the province. Just how popular we will see next week.