The surprising electoral loss of British Columbia's New Democrats this week should not trigger a leadership race, the party's president said Thursday as Leader Adrian Dix remained behind closed doors.
Moe Sihota said there were many factors in the electoral upset that saw the heavily favoured New Democrats lose ground in the legislature to the incumbent Liberals, and a "revolving door" on the leader's office is not the solution.
"I think it's fair to say that neither us nor the Liberals really expected the result that transpired," Sihota said.
The former New Democrat cabinet minister said there have not been calls within the party for Dix to step down as leader. It was a team effort, and the entire team will be looking at the campaign, he said.
"We don't have an 801 Club in the party," he said, referring to media reports in the days prior to the election, when the Liberal were trailing in polls, that a small contingent of Liberals planned to call for Clark's resignation at 8:01 p.m. on election night â€” one minute after the party lost the election.
"I think that the challenges that we face are deeper and different, and we need to reflect on the totality of those.
"It's not simply a matter of saying let's replace the leader and away you go."
Two years ago Dix took the helm after Carole James was pushed out in a party revolt.
Despite an expensive 28-day election campaign, NDP coffers could accommodate a leadership race but that is not what is needed, Sihota said.
A variety of factors were in play in the vote Tuesday, Sihota said, including complacency among party supporters.
"People just thought we were going to win and didn't come out and vote," Sihota said. "And, to a lesser degree, I think the split with the Greens was a variable. But, again, more than anything else, I think both us and the Liberals underestimated the potency of the argument of fear."
The New Democrats were reduced to 33 seats, from the 36 they held before the campaign began. The Liberal gained five seats, to hold 50 or the 85 ridings in B.C.
There has been speculation that Dix's decision to oppose Kinder Morgan's proposed expansion of its existing Trans Mountain pipeline, in addition to opposing the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, alienated working-class voters.
Polling company Ipsos Reid is defending its polling practices while at the same time explaining how the BC Liberals were able to sweep back into power despite being well behind in polls leading up to Tuesday's provincial election.
After interviewing 1,400 people on election day, Ipsos Reid claims the Liberals created enough momentum in the final days of the campaign to put them over the top.
It also stated negative advertising played a roll as did motivating voters to get out and vote.
"The long and the short of it was that NDP voters did not get out and fulfill their promise to vote for the party of their choice - they stayed home while Liberal voters showed up," the company stated in its latest polling information.
"As such, a small number of voters were able to influence the greater outcome."
They also stated the negative advertising campaign the Liberals waged against the NDP had a slaughtering effect.
"If ever there was a case to behold that negative advertising campaigns work, it is here where the Liberals were able to take the NDP lead at the outset of the campaign of 20+ points in some of the polls and put it in a hole."
Ipsos Reid says exit polls show 11% of voters didn't decide on who to vote for until they got into the voting booth and 23% stated they didn't make up their mind until the final week of the campaign.
Those that waited until late in the campaign chose the Liberals by a seven point margin.
The Liberals in fact held an edge over the NDP of voters who made up their mind at any point during the campaign. Only those who decided before the campaign began sided with the NDP (50% to 43%).
On the issues, Ipsos Reid's exit polling suggests voters sided with the Liberals on issues considered very important including the economy, government spending and leadership while siding with the NDP on health care, trust and open and honest government.
This week's provincial election in British Columbia was the first chance 18-year-old Merwa Almalike had to vote since she became eligible almost a year ago.
But like so many people her age, she didn't. In fact, she wasn't entirely sure whether she was even old enough to cast a ballot.
"I felt too lazy, I don't really pay attention to politics," said Almalike, while out for a walk through downtown Vancouver on a sunny Wednesday afternoon.
"I'm sure it affects me, but at the same time, I don't really notice it."
The night before, the province's governing Liberals pulled off a shocking victory, winning a majority government with 44 per cent of the popular vote.
The initial totals put voter turnout at just 52 per cent, slightly better than last year's record low of 51 per cent, but continuing the abysmal voter turnout rates that have plagued federal, provincial and municipal elections across the country. The final turnout rate is expected to increase by at least several percentage points after absentee ballots are counted.
Academics and pundits have a list of competing theories about why turnout remains so low, but many focus on the continuing inability to convince young people to vote.
In the 2009 provincial election, just 39 per cent of registered voters aged 18 to 24 cast ballots. For all registered voters under 45, the figure is 42 per cent. And younger voters typically aren't registered, either. In 2009, only 69 per cent of eligible voters aged 18 to 24 were actually on the voters' list.
Even Almalike, who is blunt about the fact that she just doesn't pay attention to politics, can spot the trend.
"There are plenty of people who don't vote, and I think they're probably around my age, too," she said. "They haven't really experienced life, they don't really know yet. Once they get older, they'll have an understanding and they'll probably vote."
Elections BC staged a massive public awareness campaign ahead of Tuesday's vote, blanketing the province with posters, TV and radio commercials, and social media content telling voters, particularly younger British Columbians, how to vote.
Voters could cast their ballots pretty much whenever they wanted during the campaign, either by visiting district electoral offices, dropping by one of the many advanced polling stations last week, or visiting any polling station, regardless of what riding it was located in, on Tuesday.
Don Main of Elections BC says it's too early to tell whether the campaign worked.
He noted absentee ballots boosted the turnout in 2009 by roughly five percentage points in the weeks following the election, and he expects those ballots will account for even more votes this year.
"We don't know what the final number is yet," he said Wednesday.
"So far, we're better than 2009, and if that was because of our public awareness campaign, that's great. I think Elections BC did the job it needed to do, which was get the information out to all British Columbians."
Paul Kershaw, a University of British Columbia researcher who runs the campaign Generation Squeeze, says he thinks politicians have spent years ignoring younger voters, who in turn are ignoring the entire process.
Here are a few photos from last night taken by our election team around the valley.
2013514 Election night gallery #1
2013514 Election night gallery #2
UBCO political science professor, Wolfgang Depner credits a sharp drop in the BC Conservative vote and some savvy campaigning by leader Christy Clark for the BC Liberal's stunning re-election win Tuesday.
"She pulled off one of the greatest political comebacks short of Dewey defeats Truman," says Depner.
All of the polls prior to Tuesday's election showed the Adrian Dix NDP would roll to a convincing election victory.
It was the other way around.
What was supposed to be a six, seven, eight point NDP win became a five point BC Liberal triumph.
Depner says he believes several factors contributed to what appears to be a stunning upset.
"One of the factors has to do with the complete disappearance of the BC Conservatives. They have done very poorly in some of the ridings where they were expected to do okay. Vernon-Monashee stands out as one of those," says Depner.
"Finally I think a lot of credit has to go to Christy Clark. She was an effective campaigner. She was able to deliver a clear message to voters and it worked."
Depner says Dix failed to sell his ideas to the electorate.
"I think he was trying for a somewhat deliberative approach in a province that tends to be fairly polarized," says Depner.
"It simply blew up in his face."
While there were many winners and losers Tuesday, the big losers may be the polling industry who blew another election much as they did the last Alberta provincial election.
"It's fair to say the polls were dead wrong and I've already heard people who work in the polling industry assume blame for their many, many, many failings," says Depner.
"I think it's fair to say they messed up big time."
While the electorate decided it could live with four more years of Liberal rule in BC, voters in Vancouver-Point Grey were not so sure about its leader.
Clark was trailing NDP candidate David Eby by nearly 400 votes with only a few polls left to report late Tuesday night.
If those results indeed hold up, a Liberal backbencher would likely step down allowing Clark a chance to win a seat in a by-election later in the year.
Despite the results in her own riding, Depner says he doesn't believe Clark is in political jeopardy.
"I think her leadership will be safe after tonight even if she doesn't win her own riding. I think she can turn around and say boys you can't dump me over this one," says Depner.
"There were a lot of people who were looking to get rid of her who are also licking their wounds tonight."
On the flip side, Depner says Dix's political future is up in the air after Tuesday's defeat.
"If the NDP cannot win under these conditions when can they ever win. He may wish to reflect on tonights results and he may wish to make some personal choices of his own," says Depner.
"If you read between the lines - and I'm not suggesting it - but he may not be a viable leader for the New Democratic Party down the line."
Depner also believes Tuesday's results will resurrect the BC Green Party who elected their first member to the Legislature (Andrew Weaver in Victoria-Oak Bay) and signal the death knell of the BC Conservatives.
"We will be dedicated to this riding and the issues that we face, especially with the Patient Tower at the Penticton Hospital," said Liberal Party MLA for the Penticton riding Dan Ashton.
"Congratulations to all the Liberal candidates, especially those that were successful in their respective ridings."
"I also want to thank the voters of Peachland, Summerland, Penticton and Naramata for placing their trust in me and helping me to take to Victoria what we have initiated here in Penticton."
"I want to thank my campaign team," said Mark Steven Olsen, NDP candidate for Vernon-Monashee shortly after losing to Liberal incumbent Eric Foster. "They were phenomenal, they were tireless, they were dedicated and I tell ya, I am a winner just for knowing them. They were fantastic."
"I also want to thank my family for the support they gave me throughout the whole election."
"I don't think anyone saw this coming. I thought it would be a closer race here."
"i am surprised by the outcome. We ran a really good campaign. We worked hard to identify the vote and get the vote out but they were more successful. My hat's off to Eric (Foster) and his team."
"It's a little early to determine what the difference was, I think they ran a good campaign and they got more votes than us."
When asked about the polls that predicted an NDP victory, he said, "You have to wonder what they based those numbers on, because we heard a number of times that the polls are not quite as accurate as they project to be and we'll have to analyze a bit."
"I wanted to run an honourable campaign, and I did, and I made sure my people ran an honourable campaign."
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