VANCOUVER — The day after a stunning provincial election victory, triumphant Liberal Premier Christy Clark told a packed room of reporters she wasn’t surprised her party defied early predictions to beat the NDP in British Columbia.
But she was likely in the minority.
While Clark was pleased to meet with the media Wednesday, New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix and other members of the NDP camp weren’t taking calls and messages were left unreturned.
The Liberals were almost 20 percentage points back in the polls when the election started and while other some polls had the Liberal party closing the gap to around nine points, pollsters and pundits didn’t come close to predicting the Liberal romp.
Clark said she never trusted the polls.
“You ask someone how are you going to vote two months from now and they give you an answer, but the answer doesn’t necessarily have a whole lot of relevance because most of us don’t know what we’re going to do two months from now,” she said.
“Most people are waiting for the campaign to start so they can learn about what it is the parties stand for, who the leaders are, what the vision is that we’re presenting in the competition.”
Clark said she sensed a change in momentum for her party after the televised leaders’ debate two weeks before the election as voters honed in on her economic message.
She said the NDP leader’s flip-flop on the Kinger Morgan pipeline was also a factor because he seemed to be saying no to economic development before it even begins — a sentiment also felt by various unions that are traditionally pro-NDP.
While Clark triumphantly led her party to a 50-seat majority government, she lost her own seat to the NDP’s David Eby in her own riding of Vancouver-Point Grey.
It will be more than a week before it is determined which member of her caucus would step down so she could run for a seat again.
Under similar circumstances, an MLA in a safe seat might be expected to resign his or her seat so the leader could run in a byelection, but Clark said she will not be having that conversation with anyone until the final election results are in on May 27.
Clark explained the loss of her seat was as a consequence of her travelling around the province during the election campaign rather than spending more time in Vancouver-Point Grey.
“To me, we won the big war on this,” she told reporters. “So at the end of the day, we got a chance to protect the economy of British Columbia, and I’ll find a way into the House if that’s where the votes end up.”
On Wednesday, Dix wasn’t available for comment and others close to the campaign did not answer their phones or return calls.
Some campaign workers who did answer calls said they would pass on requests for interviews, but suggested they had yet to hear from campaign managers or MLAs.
The complete silence from the New Democrats on Wednesday was a stark contrast to the over-confidence the party put on display Tuesday in the hours before the polls closed.
At the NDP’s Vancouver election night headquarters, stand-ins for Dix were rehearsing his victory speech on the stage of the convention centre. But Dix never did read that speech, and when he took to the stage to deliver his concession speech, some openly wept.
Max Cameron, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia, said it is likely that Clark will have to take the seat of someone who is either approaching the end of a career, or who accepts that he or she is dispensable.
“But it has to be a reasonably safe seat,” he said. “I mean, this is a huge victory for her, but it’s a little embarrassing that she has to go through another step.”
Tom Sigurdson, executive director of the BC and Yukon Territory Building Trades Construction Trades Union, said he was disappointed and as shocked as anyone that the Liberals won a fourth consecutive victory. But he says Dix failed to win votes from those who are worried about their jobs in the resource sectors.
“We were of the opinion that at least the process of Kinder Morgan’s twinning of the Trans-Mountain pipe would go ahead and there would be an environmental review, as there should be,” said Sigurdson.
“But when he out-and-out said that it was not going to happen, that disappointed so many of our members. I think that probably caused many people to think about just the kind of development of our resources that we would have under his leadership.”
Clark said she intends to have a meeting with all her MLAs next week. With 25 returning MLAs and 25 new members, the Liberals can start working on their economic plans with renewal and more vigour than when she stepped in for her predecessor, she said.
“It’s easier when you’re leading your own team,” she said. “It was a tough few years for lots of those folks. I came in after there had been a whole lot of turmoil in the party and it was really difficult for lots of people.”
Clark said that while the Liberals have won their fourth straight election, the party has also lost some experienced MLAs, including Ida Chong from Victoria and Margaret MacDiarmid from Vancouver.