It was a costly election for the B.C. Liberals, who lost a net six seats and were devastated in Metro Vancouver where the party saw four cabinet ministers fall.
With the party’s hopes of a majority balanced on a knife edge, pending the outcome of recounts and absentee ballots in a handful of key ridings, it’s raised questions about the leadership and future of Premier Christy Clark.
Amid that conversation, a prominent voice form the BC Liberals’ past has spoken up, and offered his analysis of the situation.
LISTEN: The Vancouver Sun’s Rob Shaw on Kevin Falcon and Christy Clark
In the aftermath of the election, Vancouver Sun Legislative Reporter Rob Shaw spoke with former BC Liberal Finance Minister Kevin Falcon – who also battled Clark for the leadership of the party.
He joined Simi on Friday to talk about that conversation.
Shaw says it’s no surprise Clark’s leadership is in the spotlight right now, after she pulled off an upset majority in 2013.
“Everyone credits her with pulling it out of the fire. So when things go bad in 2017, the first person everyone’s going to look at it is Christy Clark. And she certainly had a lot more of her flaws on display this election than in 2013.”
Falcon occupied a controversial position in the party himself, pushing through the tolled Port Mann Bridge along with the Canada Line, which was hotly opposed in some quarters at the time.
But Shaw says he still holds a high stature, and the criticism, coming from someone “who [is] still kind of talked about as one day possibly being part of that party, it takes on a different significance as well.”
Shaw says in Falcon’s assessment, Clark’s strong economic message got through.
“But it was eaten away at by ethical issues. The political donations issues. And a big one in Metro he pointed out was too much politics and not enough leadership on the issue of Metro Vancouver transit.”
That transit issue has been a multi-year battle between the region’s mayors and Victoria.
“She decided it would be a good idea to kick them around and make them squirm on transit, and to repeatedly tell them, no we’re not going to allow you to do a vehicle levy, we’re not going to allow you to take carbon tax money,” he says.
“We’re going to make you squirm for your one-third share of a project because we’re not going to put one more dime into it until just before the election, where that share increases.”
Shaw says it can be good politics to fight it out with other levels of government during a campaign.
But he says it’s a reasonable question whether the Liberals took it too far, sticking to their guns about the prospect of another transit referendum.
“At some point you have to give a path out of the mess that we’re in on transit in the region, and I think some people are looking to the Liberals now and saying they didn’t quite do that.”
Falcon’s point, says Shaw, was that leadership got lost in the politicking.
“At some point, you have to just pick a path and go, and history will judge your decision to build the Canada Line or the Port Mann or whatever as time goes on. And I think most people think the Canada Line is pretty good. But the Liberals have not done that.”
“I have not heard anyone from the Liberals disagree,” says Shaw of Falcon’s criticism.
But he says that doesn’t mean the knives are out yet for Clark as party leader.
He says the BC Liberal Party, as it exists now, is largely Clark’s construction – with the caucus owing her their political lives and a sense of absolute loyalty.
But he says that won’t last forever.
“The question is if she doesn’t pull out a majority government with a recount and the absentee ballots, people are going to ask, ‘Okay, well we have an election in six months, 12 months, 18 months. We’re not going to last four years. Is she the person we need to go into the re-election with?’ What is she doing to address the many flaws and negatives that came up on the doorsteps from candidates when they were out campaigning and heard people say ‘I don’t like Christy Clark, and I don’t like what she’s doing?’”
Shaw says if Clark wants to hold onto power, she’ll need to address those concerns before those conversations get underway.