Spring B.C. election possible

The door is open as widely as it might ever be, so will the BC NDP walk through?

It will sound a little weedy and backhanded as a half-hearted, double-negative assertion, but I have not been convinced yet that a provincial election is not on as we get closer to summer. I know that many senior Liberals believe that, too, and that some New Democrats are murmuring about this as their most opportune moment.

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The latest intriguing morsel to interpret comes in the form of radio commercials that have surfaced in recent days, paid for by the "NDP caucus," claiming that B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson is only interested in helping the rich. Of course their leader, they claim, is about helping all British Columbians.

Sure, sure, we get it: positioning the embattled listener as deserving and the empowered rich as undeserving is not exactly a novel scheme to secure support. But why tell people something if you're not making a call to action? Why spend anything now when the official election date is two years hence?

History has shown, and as I suppose Justin Trudeau hopes holds true, that even a few months is an eternity in politics, thanks in part to the short memories of many voters. Would any message about Andrew Wilkinson in 2019 stick in 2021?

It's not as if we aren't festooned with vanity press. The NDP government is swamping television with ads about its most recent budget, as do most governments under a non-partisan, public service guise. The radio ads, though, strike the same exaggerated pitch of a campaign message - so it's worth wondering if indeed that's what they will soon be.

After all, there remain very good reasons to call an election sooner rather than later.

The NDP has fulfilled much of its commitment it needed from the Greens to stay afloat in the legislature, in particular the referendum on proportional representation (which seemed a low NDP priority and played out as such). It can cut the ties without significant unfinished business and hope it need not require its help again.

The Liberals, meanwhile, are in their most vulnerable position in some time. They are bearing debt and finding opposition a much more difficult exercise than it need be. Many arguments in the legislature are still about their record and not that of the new government. Like many parties that find themselves out of office after a long time in it, they are taking time to identify what their next chapter holds.

Beyond the legislature, though, lies a difficult long-term game that a risk-averse government might be wiser to test now.

Our economy is the country's best, and our country's is one of the world's best, but no one expects it to improve, and there are several worrying signs that we might be swept into near-global recession some time in 2020.

Do you really want to be seeking re-election in the spring of 2021 in that case? The bite of NDP taxes will be felt most significantly by then, the tap will be turned down on the revenue stream from real estate that has fed government growth for years and the age-old perception of the NDP's economic sub-competence could resurface.

The NDP stock is only going to decline.

Very likely on the morning of April 17, in the aftermath of the one-term NDP government in Alberta, there will be a cascade of resums arriving in Victoria.

Many of these CVs will come from British Columbians who in political opposition left to work for Rachel Notley's government and will not wish to have jobs in opposition again. So they will need or want to leave to work for John Horgan as he leads the lone NDP government, now and in the near future. They would be big organizational boosts in a heartbeat, attuned to a campaign rhythm and prepared for another one.

The door will be open only briefly for an election in June. July and August are out, and the fall belongs to the federal campaign, so that late-April period will be worth watching to see if there is a manufactured reason to ask British Columbia for a fresh mandate.

-- Kirk LaPointe, Glacier Media

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