BC’s Place at the Cabinet Table

With Wednesday’s cabinet announcement looming, what will it mean for British Columbia?

Sir John A parachuted into Victoria in 1878

BC’s place at the Cabinet table was at the head of the table in the 1870s when Sir John A. MacDonald was elected from Victoria in 1878, despite never having seen the place.  He would eventually visit Victoria once he fulfilled the ultimate the election promise – the construction of the CPR.

Who have been BC’s heavyweights at the cabinet table?  An historical review reveals British Columbia’s conflicted past in dealing with race relations and uneven influence compared to its provincial peers.

The early years ~ BC notables in Cabinet

In the late 1800’s, Edgar Dewdney was elected from Yale BC and served as an MP under Sir John A. MacDonald, becoming a partisan loyalist, personal friend, and ultimately an executor of his will.  Lured to BC by the Gold Rush, Dewdney’s name is remembered through major roads (Dewdney Trunk) and localities, principally for his role in surveying the province.  John A. dispatched him to oversee the territories as a direct report where he dealt with the Riel Rebellion and the demise of buffalo herds and resulting starvation.   Not averse to mixing public duties with private land speculation, he eventually made it to federal cabinet in 1888 but not from BC; later, he was appointed BC Lieutenant-Governor.  A BC cabinet minister?  Not exactly, but an influential British Columbian at and near the cabinet table, yes.

Conservative Martin Burrell, representing Yale-Cariboo, served in Prime Minister Robert Borden’s Conservative and Unionist cabinets as Agriculture minister, Mines Minister, and Minister of Customs & Inland Revenue.   An interesting note about Burrell (a former mayor of Grand Forks), was that he was appointed Parliamentary Librarian in 1920 and served in this post until his death in 1938.

Future BC premier Simon Fraser Tolmie would serve in both of Arthur Meighen’s cabinets as Minister of Agriculture.  In both stints, Meighen’s governments were momentary, outfoxed by William Lyon MacKenzie King.  Along with Ujjal Dosanjh, Tolmie has been one of two BC premiers to serve in a federal cabinet.  Other premiers, such as Amor de Cosmos, Fighting Joe Martin, and Dave Barrett, also served in Parliament.

HH Stevens aboard the Komagatu Maru

Conservative heavyweight HH Stevens served in Meighen’s brief cabinet (1926) then for four years under Prime Minister RB Bennett.

He was a powerful Trade minister who crusaded against price-fixing.  He resigned in epic fashion and created the Reconstruction Party which split the vote and destroyed the Bennett government in 1935.

He returned to the Conservatives thereafter but his political career fizzled out.

While he was unquestionably a force of politics in BC during the 1920s and 1930s, he is also remembered for his role in stifling the Komagatu Maru and for reflecting public opinion during his time concerning Asian immigration: “We cannot hope to preserve the national type if we allow Asiatics to enter Canada in any numbers.”

Fishing boats seized during internment of Japanese-Canadians

Fear over Asian immigration was a multi-partisan issue, with labour leaders and Liberal politicians eager participants as well.  Liberal Ian MacKenzie was sworn into Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King’s cabinet prior to the 1930 election.  He won his seat but the government lost power.  In 1935 he re-emerged as Minister of National Defence.  He also became the first Government House Leader in the House of Commons.  As BC’s top cabinet minister, he championed the internment of Japanese-Canadians during WWII, stating in the 1942 election: “Let our slogan be for British Columbia: ‘No Japs from the Rockies to the seas.”

HH Stevens probably remains the most notable figure in Canadian politics coming from BC between Confederation to the end of WWII.  Perhaps it was the librarian Burrell who left the most lasting mark.

Moving toward modern times

James Sinclair: Justin Trudeau’s grandfather

The service of James Sinclair bears mention – the grandfather of incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  He was a Member of Parliament from Vancouver-North and Coast-Capilano from 1940 to 1958, when he was defeated in the Diefenbaker sweep.  He served as Minister of Fisheries from 1952-57.  The Sinclair Centre in Vancouver bears his name.

The Diefenbaker era ushered in BC’s first dose of serious cabinet clout.  From 1957-63, three senior ministers hailed from the west coast.

Two-time contender E. Davie Fulton

E.Davie Fulton as Minister of Justice for much of that time; Howard Green, ultimately serving as Secretary of State for External Affairs; and George Pearkes, Victoria Cross recipient, served as Minister of National Defence prior to his appointment as BC’s Lieutenant-Governor in 1960.  Fulton left federal politics to lead the BC Conservative Party, but was thwarted by the governing Socreds.

The election of the Pearson government in 1963 continued BC’s cabinet presence with capable ministers, albeit at a less prestigious level than the Diefenbaker years.

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Arthur Laing served in Pearson’s cabinet as Minister of Northern Affairs and Natural Resources then later as Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs.  A former leader of the BC Liberal Party, Laing was the “BC Minister”; the bridge from YVR to the City is named in his honour.  Laing’s wingman in cabinet was John Nicholson who served in various posts under Pearson.

BC’s decline in clout

While BC held at least three seats in cabinet during the first PET ministry (1968-79), BC seemed to lose ground with other provinces who had powerful ministers.  While BC was not without credible ministers, the Marc Lalondes, Jean Marchands, Jean Chretiens, John Turners, and Allan MacEachens defined the Trudeau era at the cabinet level.

In 1968, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau brought young Vancouver MP Ron Basford into cabinet as Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs.  He is remembered as the minister who championed Granville Island among other BC legacies.  Laing continued in Public Works until 1972.  Jack Davis served in Fisheries and Environment portfolios between 1968-1974 (before his election as a Social Credit MLA).  Len Marchand and Iona Campagnolo both served as Ministers of State in the mid 1970s, with Marchand finishing as Minister of Environment in 1979.  Marchand was the first First Nation cabinet minister and first FN Member of Parliament in Canadian history.  Senator Ray Perrault served as Government House Leader from 1974 to 1979.

The short-lived Joe Clark government featured prominent BC politicians like Minister of Environment John Fraser, Defence Minister Allan MacKinnon, and Minister of State Ron Huntington (father of Delta South MLA Vicky Huntington).  Their tenures were short-lived when the Clark government was defeated in the House.  Fraser ran for leader in 1976, dropping off on the second ballot but delivering his support for Clark.

When PET was returned in 1980, he had the makings of a strong front bench from BC.  Popular ex-mayor Art Phillips had been elected to the Liberals in 1979, serving in Opposition.  Former BC Liberal leader Gordon Gibson contested North Vancouver-Burnaby while renowned resource economist Peter Pearse sought election in Vancouver Quadra.   Three strong ministers except that none were elected, nor were any Liberals in BC.  Wipe out.  Senators Jack Austin and Ray Perrault became BC’s unelected representatives in Cabinet.  Perrault was later dropped, contributing to BC’s alienation from the Liberal Party.

When Prime Minister John Turner decided to seek office from Vancouver-Quadra in 1984, he sought to bridge the divide between the Liberal Party and the west coast.  While he gained his seat (in the face of an electoral onslaught), he alone was elected from BC.

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Turner’s BC story is a compelling one.  He spent his early early years in Rossland and, while his formative years were spent in Ottawa, he returned to UBC for university (his stepfather was Lieutenant-Governor) where he was very much Big Man on Campus along with being Canadian 100 metre sprint champion.   His BC years are chronicled in Elusive Destiny, an apt title for a political giant who’s timing was off.  (Incredibly, his Olympic dreams were dashed when his car was hit by a train on the Arbutus Corridor!  Who woulda thunk it).  Turner served as MP for Vancouver Quadra for 9 years, retaining his seat after relinquishing his leadership to Jean Chretien.  He had a strong BC connection but Turner was very much a pan-Canadian, representing three provinces during his illustrious parliamentary career.

The Mulroney-Chretien eras

From 1984 to 2004, BC had a steady presence at the cabinet table, not strikingly influential, but produced our first prime minister.

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney came to power in 1984 riding a wave of western alienation.  But he also won big in Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes too.  Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 11.42.39 AM.pngIt was a huge mandate.  “Red Tories” John Fraser and Pat Carney, an upset winner in 1980, led the BC contingent.  Fraser took Fisheries and Carney to Energy – two significant portfolios. Fraser would resign halfway through the first term during

“Tunagate” but his stature among MPs led him to a much-dignified election and reign as Speaker.
Carney would move to International Trade during the dramatic US-Canada Free Trade negotiations.  Tom Siddon would replace Fraser, and others like Gerry St. Germain, Frank Oberle, and Mary Collins would ultimately join Mulroney’s cabinet.

 

St. Germain was a Mulroney favourite.  The bilingual, Metis chicken farmer was my MP and opponent when I rode my ten-speed down to Mae Cabott’s Liberal campaign office on the Lougheed Highway in 1984.

Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 11.45.47 AM.pngGerry taught me a lesson in humility by spanking our campaign (Tip: be careful burmashaving on a busy highway when everyone hates your political party).  Incredibly to me, having been appointed to cabinet, Gerry lost his seat in 1988 at the very moment he was poised to move up in the cabinet ranks.  BCers often choose protest over pragmatism.

In 1988, Carney did not run again creating a vacancy in Vancouver-Centre.  Back then, Progressive Conservatives were electable in that riding, unimaginable, it seems, now.  Kim Campbell resigned her seat in the provincial legislature part way through her first term and secured the PC nomination, won the seat, and catapulted herself into Cabinet.  As Justice minister (then National Defence), she held a high national profile, and emerged as the consensus favourite to succeed Mulroney following the demise of the Charlottetown Accord.  Campbell fended off Jean Charest for the leadership win.

Kim Campbell on the campaign trail, 1993

She had a strong BC network behind her, like Chief of Staff Ray Castelli and other apparatchiks that have been a big part of BC politics, but Mulroney did not leave her much time and the subsequent election played out for her like it did for John Turner, except worse.  The party was decimated and, like 1984, Vancouver bore witness on election night to a humiliating concession speech by a sitting prime minister.

Jean Chretien’s election in 1993 and subsequent cabinets through 2003 had consistent BC representation, yet not too flashy.  David Anderson, elected in 1968, then BC MLA and Liberal leader, returned from the political wilderness in 1993 to serve as National Revenue Minister before moving on to Fisheries then his signature role in Environment.  Herb Dhaliwal was another prominent minister during the Chretien era, following Anderson in National Revenue and Fisheries before going to Natural Resources.  Ministers of State include Stephen Owen, Raymond Chan, and Hedy Fry.  Chretien could never elect more than 6-7 from BC so he didn’t have a lot to choose from.

BC’s return to Diefenbaker-like prominence: 2004-2008

I’ll run for the Liberals in 2004, says ex-NDP Premier Ujjal Dosanjh

Both the Paul Martin cabinet and first Stephen Harper cabinet saw a decided uptick in BC clout at the federal cabinet table.  Following the 2004 election, Martin appointed a record five BC ministers including star recruits David Emerson (Industry) and former BC Premier Ujjal Dosanjh (Health).  The lineup was rounded out by Stephen Owen, Raymond Chan, and Senate Leader Jack Austin.  The BC delegation was aided by a regional campaign, led by Mark Marissen, that punched above its weight in the 2004 election with its “Made in BC Agenda”.  The Liberals won more seats in BC despite dropping from a majority to a minority.  (They would win more again in 2006 in a losing national effort)

CPC Cabinet heavyweight Stockwell Day

Harper’s first cabinet contained a major surprise – David Emerson.  To the astonishment of Liberals and Conservatives alike, the Liberal star switched jerseys, eschewing politics for policy, and assumed the International Trade portfolio and eventually Foreign Affairs before he left office in 2008.  Emerson was joined from BC by former Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day (Public Safety, International Trade, Treasury Board), Chuck Strahl (Agriculture, Indian and Northern Affairs, Transport), and Gary Lunn (Natural Resources).  Jay Hill’s appointment in 2007 as Whip (elevated to cabinet) then Government House Leader would make it five ministers for the BC delegation, matching Martin.  BC had considerable clout.

Fading out of the Harper years

Emerson, Day, Strahl and Hill would all choose to leave politics by 2011, and Lunn involuntarily.  They would give way to James Moore, who started in Heritage and went to Industry, Ed Fast – who may have the Trans Pacific Partnership as his legacy, John Duncan, Kerri-Lynne Findlay, and Alice Wong.  As the Harper mandate struggled in its final years, so too did its profile in British Columbia – not an uncommon life cycle for aging governments.  Only Ed Fast and Alice Wong remain in Parliament from the Harper cabinets.

Eclipsed by other regions

For many Liberal governments in the Pearson-Trudeau-Chretien eras, it was often a case of being “west of the best” or so it seemed.  BC had many capable ministers during this time but very few national personalities that one hearkens back to when remembering an era.  Ron Basford may have the strongest claim for cabinet legacies.  The Martin government went in a stronger direction for BC but it’s lifespan was short.  Harper’s team started off strong but seemed to fade down the stretch.  Good people, good ministers, but lacking a sense of oomph.

Conservative cabinets have seen BC eclipsed by Conservative-crazy Alberta, which has established the storyline for much of the past 40 years.  Alberta had leader (1976-83) and Prime Minister Joe Clark (later Secretary of State for External Affairs and lead constitutional negotiator) and Deputy PM Don Mazankowski.  The demise of the PCs was born in Alberta too with Preston Manning’s Reform Party.  The evolution and return of the conservative movement was an Alberta story – Stockwell Day (who ran for leader of the Alliance from Alberta before moving to BC) and Stephen Harper led in succession.  Harper’s cabinet also featured prominent Albertan personalities such as Jim Prentice, Rona Ambrose, and Jason Kenney, who may well be the next in a procession of Alberta Conservative leaders.

British Columbians have risen to prominence in the NDP, although not usually to the top.  Tommy Douglas led the party from a base in BC for a time.  Rosemary Brown, Dave Barrett, Svend Robinson, and Nathan Cullen have all been serious national leadership contenders, though unsuccessful.

BC’s Burden

There’s one major disadvantage: Distance.  How many people want to fly 3000 miles back and forth each week?  Time spent traveling is enough to dissaude anyone, especially those with younger children.

A point of regional unfairness is that BC ridings have more population than most provinces due to Canada’s constitutional side deals.  The vast expanse of Skeena has far more constituents than ridings in Saskatchewan, Manitoba or any in the Maritimes.  How does that make sense?  It makes a tough job even tougher.

Political culture.  Federal politics is more abstract to British Columbians.  While we saw 70% turnout in the recent election, BCers do not live and die by federal politics. If they did, Keith Baldrey might report on federal politics more than twice a year.  But they don’t.  BC media outlets have only two reporters in Ottawa (Vancouver Sun and the Tyee).  Provincial politics is the main sport and drives the media’s and the public’s interest.

Protest over politics.  We have often gone the other way when Canadians elect their governments.  BC abandoned PET in 1980, cut down the PC team in 1988, and kept Chretien on a short leash.

Then there’s the network.  It’s tough to aspire to national leadership when the critical mass is elsewhere.  Kim Campbell remains the only BC-raised prime minister.  Alberta has figured out how to gain national office, but no one here.  HH Stevens may have had the first good chance in the dying days of the RB Bennett government but he passed on it.  E.Davie Fulton was a thorn in Diefenbaker’s paw, but finished third to Dief in the 1956 PC leadership, and third again trying to succeed him in 1967.  John Fraser tried in 1976.  Hedy Fry and Joyce Murray both made quixotic bids to lead their parties but were never in contention.

Of course, fewer BC politicians speak french than in eastern provinces.  This has been a drawback in climbing the greasy pole.  James Moore does, but he is another BC politician who has ruled out a national bid.

Prime ministers have been piled up like cordwood from Quebec, Ontario, and Alberta.  Even Saskatchewan has had its run; BC has but one brief stint from one of its own prior to her electoral slaughter.  Where have been the Finance Ministers from BC? Many excellent ministers from BC have served at the cabinet table, but my overall assessment is that we, as a province, haven’t been exceptional in the federal arena.  In part, because many have chosen not to run.

What’s next?

Unlike any Liberal prime minister since his father in 1968, Justin Trudeau has more than a handful of MPs to choose from in BC.  However, BC will have to be patient.  ‘Heavyweight’ cabinet ministers usually don’t start out that way.  13 of 17 Liberal MPs from BC arrive in Ottawa with no federal experience.  It will take time for BC’s new ministers to learn the ropes and gain effectiveness in the race for competing resources.

Trudeau is probably the first elected prime minister in Canadian history to claim extensive BC roots and a strong family connection, though Quebec rightly has first claim.

I wish the new BC appointees patience and perseverance.  BC’s clout in cabinet over the years has been checkered.  Let’s hope they elevate BC’s priorities to their rightful place.

UPDATED (November 2015):

BC netted two major cabinet portfolios with the appointment of the Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould (Justice and Attorney-General) and Hon. Harjit Singh Sajjan (Defence).  Hon. Carla Qualtrough (Sport and Persons with Disabilities) rounds out the BC cabinet delegation.

Both Wilson-Raybould and Sajjan represent Vancouver seats while Qualtrough is one of five Liberal MPs elected south of the Fraser.

When is the last time BC’s delegation has been entirely made up of rookie MPs?  I’m not sure there is a precedent in the past 100 years.

UPDATED (JULY 2018):

Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould and Hon. Harjit Singh Sajjan continue to serve in their major portfolios.  Hon. Carla Qualtrough received a promotion to Public Works and was affirmed in that role in July 2018.  Hon. Jonathan Wilkinson joined Cabinet on July 18 as Minister of Fisheries & Oceans, following in the footsteps of other BC ministers like David Anderson, Herb Dhaliwal, Tom Siddon, John Fraser, Jack Davis, Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau’s grandfather, Jimmy Sinclair.  Historical list of Fisheries & Oceans ministers here.

** This post was taken from a number of sources and not always easy to piece together BC’s federal voice.  If there are any sins of omission or commission, please comment.  Thank you.

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Taking a look at Chicoutimi

This week’s by-election made me a bit curious about Chicoutimi.  It’s a long way from my perch on the west coast and probably even further in cultural terms. Turns out to be a pretty interesting riding in terms of its political history and volatility.

The riding boundaries have changed over time but I have gone with the main Chicoutimi riding to see the overall trends (purists alert – this is not precise, just directional).  Since Diefenbaker, Chicoutimi has gone Creditiste, Liberal, PC, Bloc, PC, Liberal, NDP, Liberal, and, now, CPC.

Chart 1: Chicoutimi federal election results since 1962

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Here’s a closer look at elections since 2000…

Chart 2: Chicoutimi federal election results since 2000 only

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As the charts show, there has been huge volatility over time.  Parties swing from domination to destruction.  For the NDP, they managed to go from 8% to winning with 38% and back to 9% over four elections.

The Liberal percentage held fairly steady compared to 2015.  Before 2015, the prior Liberal win was with Andre Harvey who had been first elected as a federal PC MP in 1984.  Harvey won in ’84, ’88, and ’97 as PC, but crossed over, and won as a Liberal in 2000. Harvey’s nemesis was the Bloc Quebecois which won in ’93 and again in 2004, 2006, and 2008 before giving way to the one-and-done NDP MP.

The Conservatives were lower than a snake’s belly in 2000 and 2004, and only at 17% last election, but clearly their candidate in the by-election did an excellent job drawing support.  The question is: are we also seeing a consolidation in Quebec between the Liberals on one side and the Conservatives on the other, feasting from the remnants of NDP and Bloc support?

I will leave that to others to judge. Quebec politics is definitely above my pay scale.

On a national basis, if the NDP collapses in Quebec, it will have an impact on their national effort.  The NDP had one-quarter of the vote in Quebec in 2015, with Quebec representing about one-quarter of the national population.  That’s good for about 6% nationally in the popular vote.  Chicoutimi-Le Fjord dropped from 29.7% (above Quebec average for NDP in 2015) to 8.7% in the by-election.  Not to read too much into by-elections, but if the NDP slip to 10% province-wide in the next election, that drops their national share of the vote by about 4%.  That means they are going to look more like a third party that can’t keep up with the Liberals and Conservatives, whereas in 2011 and 2015, they were at the main table.  The Layton legacy is in real jeopardy and that will have consequences across the country unless they can find new voters elsewhere. The Tom Mulcair days are looking pretty good right now.

Pondering a Nanaimo By-election

Nanaimo NDP MLA Leonard Krog announced his candidacy for Mayor of Nanaimo on Wednesday.  If he wins, his resignation as MLA will set up a high stakes by-election that could have a major impact on the government’s razor thin margin in the House.

Nanaimo is a mess and an embarrassment.  Whatever the reasons are, the Council has failed to pull themselves together, evidenced by criminal investigations, staff departures, and chaos. The City, renowned for tasty Nanaimo bars and bathtub races, but lately for dysfunctional politics, desperately needs new leadership.

krog20at20chamber

Krog pondering the fate of British Columbia.  (Nanaimo News Now)

Leonard is a well-respected elected official who has respect from both sides of the electoral fence.  I lived in the area for 15 years and saw Leonard around town a lot – he’s present.  He’s well liked.  I like him.  He’s a good constituency MLA.

The City has a ton of potential.  It’s growing, it has an underrated university that does great things, an airport that is one of the fastest growing in Canada, and if someone would please figure out a passenger-ferry link to Vancouver, it would be very attractive for housing-stressed families that work in Vancouver area.  It’s a pretty good lifestyle on the mid-Island.  It would be even better if the City could get its act together.

It is surprising though that Leonard would seek to leave his post as MLA.  When I first heard the rumours of his mayoral candidacy, I rejected them out of hand.  Notwithstanding the need in Nanaimo, the NDP have a precarious hold on the Legislature after having endured a sixteen year time-out.  I thought there was no way that a by-election could even be contemplated.

Leonard has been serving as MLA since 2005 (and before that he was a government backbencher from 1991-1996).  He has 17 years of service, but the call to Cabinet did not come last year.  Perhaps, had it not been for Darryl Plecas, he would be Speaker today, and, thus, a central figure in a split Legislature.  That opportunity passed him by as well.  I’m not sure if any of this factored into his decision, but here we are.

If Leonard wins as mayor and resigns as MLA, the Legislature would then stand at 40 NDP, 3 Green, 42 BC Liberal, and 1 Independent until a by-election fills the seat.

If the BC Liberals win the by-election, they would then have as many MLAs as the combined NDP-Greens, with the Independent Speaker (formerly a BC Liberal) holding the tiebreaker.  We can go back a year in time to the exhaustive discussions about how the Legislature will be in gridlock if it is tied.  The recruitment of Darryl Plecas relieved that pressure, but losing the by-election makes the situation worse than it was pre-Plecas, especially when the situation would be one of the NDP’s own making.

It should be noted that there already is a strong candidate in the Nanaimo mayor’s race – Don Hubbard.  Don is a former chair of Vancouver Island University, a former chair of the Vancouver Island Health Authority, past Citizen of the Year, and an active businessperson in the Nanaimo area.  He brings a lot to the table as a mayoralty candidate.  While he does not have the profile of Leonard, Nanaimo has only elected one left-leaning mayor (Joy Leach) since the 1960s, and through much of that time, elected a free enterprise pirate.   Hubbard is more than capable to be the mayor and could save Horgan the grief of a by-election.

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Modern-day Nanaimo Pirate: Is Leonard Krog making John Horgan walk the plank?

If Leonard does win and resign, is there a chance the NDP could lose the by-election?

There are a number of things about the Nanaimo riding to consider.

  • Nanaimo is a north-south City.  The BC Liberals are strong in the north; the NDP are very strong in the south.  A lot of North Nanaimo was previously in the Parksville-Qualicum riding when Judith Reid and Ron Cantelon were the MLAs, but the redistribution prior to 2009 pushed the core Nanaimo seat to the north.  This favoured the BC Liberals chances in Nanaimo, but they have not been able to capitalize on that shift.  Had former BC Liberal MLA Mike Hunter run on the current boundaries in 2005, he would have been very close to winning the seat.  Instead, he lost to Leonard on previous boundaries.
  • Prior to 2017, the boundaries were tweaked.  It improved the riding yet again for the BC Liberals as some polls in the tough south end were swapped over to Nanaimo-North Cowichan while some good BC Liberal polls were added in.  It didn’t help. The BC Liberals did worse in 2017 but that was for other reasons.
  • With Leonard, the NDP had a strong candidate with a strong local brand.  There is no question he added to the NDP margin.  In 2013, BC Liberal Walter Anderson was the 84th of 85 BC Liberal candidates nominated.  He was in Hawaii when the campaign started and was recruited by phone.  He did a good job and lost to Leonard by only 9.5% – not a huge margin, and won 34 polls, indicating a solid base of support.  Had the NDP not had Leonard, had the BC Liberals been more organized, and had the current boundaries been in place, it might have gone to the BC Liberals.  Coulda shoulda woulda.

Chart 1: Total votes in Nanaimo riding by Party (2005-2017)

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  • In 2017, the BC Liberals performed poorly across the entire Island.  While Paris Gaudet increased the number of votes for the BC Liberals compared to 2013, turnout increased considerably with the Greens and NDP also growing.  The spread between the NDP and BC Liberals grew.  Things have changed now.  Christy Clark – who had become a lightning rod – has moved on.  Andrew Wilkinson is yet to be truly introduced to voters.  John Horgan appears strong on the Island but he will not have Leonard on the ballot this time and will have to account for government decisions over the past year.

By-elections in BC suck for governments.  Since 1981 when the Social Credit government won a by-election in Kamloops,  a sitting government has only won by-elections twice and, in both cases, the candidate’s name was Christy Clark (Point Grey and Westside-Kelowna).

The NDP never lost one of their own seats to a by-election in the 1990s, because no one resigned.  In fact, no NDP MLA resigned during the Barrett government either.  If Leonard resigns, it will be the first time in BC history that any NDP MLA has resigned his or her seat while an NDP government held power.

While they didn’t have to defend any seats in the 1990s,  the NDP were trounced in numerous by-elections, including Parksville-Qualicum in 1998 in which Leonard was a candidate.  He had been the MLA in the riding from 1991-1996 but lost in a squeaker to Parksville Mayor Paul Reitsma.  Reitmsa disgraced himself over phoney letters to the editor, and other transgressions, and resigned before he could be recalled.  What was a slim defeat for Leonard in 1996 mushroomed to a 28-point swing and blowout win for BC Liberal Judith Reid in the 1998 by-election.

One year later, in the Delta South by-election,  NDP support plunged from 26% in the previous general election to 2.44%.  This may be a record-low in Canada for an incumbent government in a by-election (which can’t be blamed on the candidate, Richard Tones, who dutifully put his name on the ballot).  Yes, Millennials, the NDP government really was that unpopular.  Is the Horgan government at the same stage as Glen Clark’s government twenty years ago?  No.  Not even close.  But stuff happens and who knows what the next 2, 3, 6 months look like?

(By-elections were not easy for the NDP in the 1990s. In the Matsqui by-election of 1994, the NDP nominated a witch.  The witch did not make it to the ballot).

The BC Liberals had their problems with by-elections too.  Despite being relatively steady in the polls, the BC Liberals lost a relatively safe seat in Coquitlam – Burke Mountain in a 2016 by-election  (a harbinger of things to come).  In 2012, during a time of trouble and turmoil early in her premiership, Christy Clark’s government lost two BC Liberal seats, in Port Moody and Chilliwack-Hope.  Chilliwack-Hope was truly a safe seat yet voters soundly rejected the government.  Is Horgan’s government in the glue as much as Christy Clark’s government was in 2012? No.  Not even close.  But the 2016 example should give them pause for thought.

Since 1981, there have been twelve by-elections were the government defended its seat and government’s record is 2 wins, 10 losses.  Or more precisely, it’s 2 wins for candidate Christy Clark, and 10 wins for the NDP Opposition, which won five by-elections against the Social Credit government between 1984-1989, and five against the BC Liberals between 2004-2016.

Table 1: BC by-elections since 1981 in government held seats

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The average swing against the incumbent government of the day since 1981 is 26%, ranging from a massive 59% swing in Surrey-Panorama in 2004 to a 6 point swing in favour of the government in the by-election that elected Premier Christy Clark in Westside-Kelowna in 2013, the only example where the government improved its position.

Since 2008, leaving Christy Clark out of it, the swings range from 14% to 36%.

The high-stakes Point Grey by-election of 2011, won by Christy Clark, had a 7% swing against the BC Liberal government.  In hindsight, it was a very risky move to run there.

The swing that is needed for the BC Liberals to win Nanaimo is 15%.

Therefore, the swing required for the BC Liberals to win Nanaimo is on the low end of the spectrum.

If I was an NDP strategist, I would be a little nervous about this.  The BC Liberals will be fired up for this opportunity.  There will be no shortage of volunteers and money.  If the free enterprise base can’t be motivated for a high-stakes by-election like this, then the Party has a deeper problem.  I suspect they will rally to support the local campaign, even if the odds are against them.

Finally, it comes down to candidates.  Candidates make a big difference in a local campaign.  Take Leonard away and the NDP lose support.  There is likely not a candidate who is as strong as Leonard available to the NDP.

The BC Liberals must consider carefully their approach too.  This is an opportunity and the Party should be beating the bushes, talking to local members and identifying a range of potential candidates.

The Greens say they will run a candidate.  They improved their vote in 2017 at no consequence to the NDP.  They were also a serious contender in the 2015 federal election in Nanaimo.

As of today, victory still looks like a tall order for the BC Liberals, but not impossible.  I estimate, with my gut, that the BC Liberals have a 20% chance of victory.  That’s worth fighting for, given the stakes, and given the history of swings against governments in by-elections.

Politics is full of surprises – who would have thought Rachel Notley, Justin Trudeau, Donald Trump, and Doug Ford would be where they are today?  Not to mention John Horgan – he didn’t look like a likely prospect 6-12 months before the election.

The NDP sounded confident in the Province newspaper on Sunday.  “We’re very confident we would win that by-election,” said an NDP official.

Free advice: don’t take the voters for granted.

Especially ones that travel by bathtub.♦

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Electoral Wipe-Outs and the Aftermath

Ontario Liberals are looking into the abyss.  This isn’t news.  Premier Kathleen Wynne said as much already when she conceded defeat, a rare admission by a campaigning incumbent Premier.

But how bad will it be?  And then what?

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It’s just politics.  Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell on Election Night, 1993.

We’ll know Thursday night where the Liberals will stand, but they stand to face drastic losses.  Reaching 10 seats at this point will be a triumph.  Our numbers at Pollara Strategic Insights, applied to a seat model, indicate there is a greater likelihood that they will be reduced to five or less seats.

Canadian politics provides us with several examples of tsunami elections where incumbent governments were literally washed away:

  • 1987 New Brunswick (58 Liberal, 0 PC).  Premier Richard Hatfield had governed uninterrupted since 1971, but by the mid 1980s, his government had lost its way, not to mention Hatfield’s own personal scandals.  Upstart Liberal leader Frank McKenna mobilized the electorate behind his active, youthful leadership.
  • 1993 Canada (PC’s reduced from 169 seats to 2 seats).  After two successive majority PC governments, the fallout of the Charlottetown Accord defeat, rise of Preston Manning’s Reform Party, and imposition of GST had dealt fatal blows to the Mulroney government.  Despite leadership change and the first and only female prime minister in Canadian history, the PCs were obliterated.  The Liberals had been dealt a hobbling blow themselves in 1984 -their worst outcome since Confederation.  Not only did they return with a majority under Jean Chretien in 1993, a key part of three successive wins was their utter domination of Ontario.
  • 2001 BC (77 BC Liberals, 2 NDP).  The BC NDP pulled a rabbit out of the hat in 1996 when incumbent NDP Premier Mike Harcourt gave way to one of his ministers, Glen Clark.  Clark won a majority by a thin margin.  However, Clark’s government was quickly under siege early and never recovered.  Clark resigned and Ujjal Dosanjh led the NDP into an electoral clearcut.  Gordon Campbell’s BC Liberals won the largest majority in the province’s history.

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There are examples where governing parties have been rendered extinct – the BC Social Credit, United Farmers of Alberta, Alberta Social Credit, Saskatchewan PCs, and Union Nationale come to mind.

The Ontario Liberals look to finish well below Richard Hatfield’s PCs and Ujjal Dosanjh’s NDP in terms of popular vote.  They have fallen below the “pitchfork line” – my newly coined phrase that I am marketing to Canada’s political science professors. It’s that line where – once crossed – a government will never recover because a critical mass of voters is so angry that the incumbent government cannot overcome that passion and intensity.

It’s hard to believe that the Ontario Liberals will become a political DoDo bird.  It’s more likely they will rise again, in due course.  Among the stages of recovery:

  • Mourning
  • Walk of humility
  • The professional class gives way to the true believers and new believers
  • New governments eventually screw up, therefore, opportunity
  • Momentum builds for a comeback
  • Time passes, change is inevitable

1987 New Brunswick – the PCs came back and won the first election after the retirement of McKenna.  It took a while to rebuild and the flash-in-the-pan Confederation of Regions Party supplanted the PCs briefly during that period.  But eventually, voters stopped punishing the PCs and Bernard Lord’s PCs returned to power in 1999. (12 year recovery)

1993 Canada – From two seats, the PCs climbed to official party status, then the merger with the Canadian Alliance, which had evolved itself from the Reform Party.  After forcing a minority in 2004, Stephen Harper won the 2006 election and governed for nine years. (13 year recovery)

2001 BC – the NDP were reduced to two of 79 seats.  They roared back in 2005 almost upsetting the Campbell government, and for the next three elections, there was a 4-point standoff between the governing BC Liberals and NDP.  After 16 years, in 2017, the NDP returned to power, with support from the Green Party.  While missing their chance at the 12 year mark, they are there now. (16 year recovery)

Whatever happens on June 7th, the Liberals will not be dead, they will just be resting.  In all likelihood, they will be back some day.  The three-party system is well-established in Ontario. Maybe it will be the 12 to 16 year range like the examples above.  Or maybe the volatility of today’s politics will expedite that process.

I will draw from my own personal experience.  My first campaign was in 1984 when as a Liberal in the Mission-Port Moody riding, I saw the pitchforks first-hand.  Voters were very angry with the Pierre Trudeau government and weren’t buying the change that John Turner offered as his replacement.  While burma-shaving on the Lougheed Highway in that summer campaign, the rage emanating from the commuters was hotter than the pavement we were standing on.  We were clobbered, going from government to 40 seats – the most humiliating defeat for the Liberal Party since Confederation.  Yet, the Party rebuilt, made a hard charge during the 1988 election, and then won a decisive majority in 1993.  A nine year recovery.

In 1988, I was on hand for Liberal Sharon Carstairs’ amazing breakthrough from one to 20 seats in Manitoba, only a few seats from governing.  Then again in 1991, for BC Liberal Gordon Wilson’s rise to Official Opposition from zero seats.  Turnarounds can be faster than people expect, especially in the social media age.  I mean, six months ago, did anyone – anyone – expect Doug Ford would be the next Premier of Ontario?  Anything can happen.

Ontario Liberals can learn from the 2011 federal election and events thereafter.  It was a humiliating loss for Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals and many touted a Liberal-NDP merger, with the NDP having the strong hand.  Until halfway through the 2015 election campaign, it looked like Tom Mulcair’s NDP were the primary opposition to Harper.  Justin Trudeau turned the tables and governs today, taking his party from third to first in probably the most dramatic comeback in Canadian political history.

A huge loss can be a good loss.  It allows for new growth and regeneration.  The Liberals will shake off “government-itis” in the face of the obvious. Voters will want to see that the Party has learned its lesson, has changed, and is offering new leadership.  Internally, the party will need to heal and unify.

Electoral wipe outs – and subsequent recoveries – speak well for our system.   There is elasticity.  Voters are in charge, punishing when they are mad, generous to parties that change and renew.  Parties that can take a punishing hit, rebuild, and contend for power are examples of parties that strive to be inclusive, rather than staying in a narrow box that only appeals to a narrow slice of voters (like the Greens, for example).  For Ontario Liberals, this phase may be over, but it will also be the beginning of something new.

Voter Turnout lessons and what it means for Ontario

Update: My editorial in the Globe & Mail (June 6, 2018)

Ontario voters will render their verdict on June 7th.

It’s a very significant election.  The Liberals have governed since 2003.  A change in Ontario – either to Doug Ford’s PCs or Andrea Horwath’s NDP – will be a major tone-setter for national politics and influence the make up of the issues heading into the 2019 federal election, not to mention the impact it would have on one of the largest sub-national economies in the world.

But of course, only those who actually vote get to decide.  Millions of Ontario residents will avoid the polls altogether.

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Who will end up voting to elect the next Premier of Ontario? (Photo: CBC)

The recent BC election and 2015 federal election provide insight into who will show up to the polls in Ontario, and what it means for parties when the overall voter pool grows, and by how much.

You can’t stand still while the voter pool grows

Like the Ontario Liberals, the BC Liberals won four consecutive elections in BC – and like the Ontario Liberals – a female leader replaced a three-term Premier and won an improbable fourth term for her party.

In the case of BC, Christy Clark succeeded in holding her Party’s overall raw vote and its market share, especially in relation to the BC NDP, and won a majority in 2013.  In 2017, Clark’s BC Liberals still held their raw vote (almost identically), but the voter pool grew resulting in a loss of market share.  The Greens surged and the NDP bridged the gap.  Result: a minority government and we all know how that turned out.

Chart 1:  Raw vote for BC parties (1996-2017)

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In fact, when looking at BC’s historic forces of “Free Enterprise” versus “The Left”, the change over time is quite dramatic.  Free Enterprise has been sitting at around 800,000 voters for 20 years while the NDP/Greens have nearly doubled.  It finally caught up to “Free Enterprise” in 2017.

Chart 2:   Raw vote for Free Enterprise (BC Libs/Right wing parties) vs. NDP/Greens (1996-2017)

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The number of voters in BC provincial elections has climbed steadily since 2009 after a dip, with the total now reaching close to two million. Federal turnout was not that much different than provincial turnout from 2000 to 2011, but exploded in 2015.  Close to 2.4 million British Columbians voted, 20% more than the 2017 BC election.

Chart 3: Total number of voters in British Columbia in recent provincial and federal elections (BC only)

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The federal Conservatives – like the BC Liberals in 2017 – held their raw vote in 2015, but lost market share because almost three million more Canadians cast ballots in 2015 compared to the previous election. The Conservatives were happy with their slice of the pie in 2011, but Justin Trudeau helped bake a bigger pie leaving the Conservatives with their same old slice.  The Liberals were clearly the beneficiary of the increased turnout.

Chart 4: Federal parties’ raw vote totals (2006-2015)

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It also matters where you hold your vote.  Both the Clark BC Liberals and Harper Conservatives actually increased their raw vote in their heartland.  The BC Liberals cleaned up in the Interior while the Conservatives thumped the other parties in Alberta (and gained votes in Quebec).  But they both lost ground in the vote-rich urban regions.

A study of federal voter turnout among registered voters between 2011 and 2015 showed that there was increased turnout in all age groups, but the largest increase was among younger voters.

Chart 5: Turnout rate of registered voters by age group (2011 and 2015 federal elections)

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So, increased voter turnout, means more young people voting, meaning bad news for centre-right parties.  Got it?

Actually, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Federal turnout in 2015 was quite exceptional.  It blew the lid off of previous federal elections and, as shown above, the 2017 BC election did not replicate that level of turnout.  Turnout increased, but it wasn’t “Justin-sized”.

In BC, the Golden Agers still rule the roost.  Those aged 55 to 74 punch above their weight.  Compared to their share of the population, those age groups make up a much bigger share of the voter pool.  The 55-64 age group makes up about 17% of the adult population but accounts for about 21% of the voters; the 65-74 age group makes up about 13% of the population but 18% of the voters. Combined, about 30% of the population have close to 40% of the voting strength.  Add the over 75s, who also have a disproportionately large share of voting strength, and you have half of the voting population over the age of 55.

The reverse is true, obviously, for younger voters, particularly those under 35.  Those voters make up about 28% of the population but only about 18% of the voters in BC.

Chart 6: BC age groups as a percentage of the population and as a percentage of voters

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When looking at how age groups compared between the 2013 and 2017 provincial elections, there are interesting findings.  The largest increase by age group was the 65-74s with over 60,000 more voters in that category in 2017.  The next largest increase was 25-34s at close to 40,000.  What explains this?  Demographics partly, but there may be a mini-Justin effect with the Greens inducing turnout (a theory, not proven) and it may have been a result of third-party turnout activism (again, not proven).  These numbers are also the result of Elections BC estimate so we also have to assume they got it right, but it rings true to me. (Not sure what’s going on with that 45-54 category – did I remember to vote?)

Chart 7: Increase in votes by age category between 2013 and 2017 BC elections

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Was the increase in 25-34s concentrated in the Lower Mainland where the BC Liberals suffered heavy losses? I don’t know.  It would be an interesting study to see where in BC the largest increases took place.

The increase in 65-74s – and indeed increases across the board among 55+ age groups, should have been a good thing for the BC Liberals.  The fact is – they didn’t do as well as 2013 with their base.  It wasn’t just young people showing up that made a difference; it was a lack of performance among previous BC Liberal voters.

What does this mean for Ontario?

Let’s take a look at how Ontario provincial elections compare to federal elections when it comes to turnout.

Federal turnout has been consistently higher.   In 2015, 6.5 million Ontario voters galloped to the polls to vote in the federal election, yet no Ontario provincial election has ever seen more than five million voters.

Chart 8: Comparison of number of Ontario voters voting in recent federal and Ontario elections

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Historical election data in Ontario shows us that – only once – has a political party received over two million votes (Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals in 2003)

Chart 9: Ontario elections since 1990 – total votes and top party votes

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Taking turnout into account relative to federal elections, how many voters can we expect in the June 2018 election in Ontario?  And how many votes will the top party need?

The 2014 election saw provincial turnout at 88% of the level of the dull 2011 federal election.  If the 2018 Ontario election is 88% of the sizzling 2015 federal election, then that would equate to 5.7 million voters in June. That would be a huge increase. I don’t think that’s going to happen.  I think, like BC, there will be an increase in the voter pool – over 5 million for the first time – but probably not as high as 5.7 million.  Even with an increase north of five million, the winning party will likely need a record-setting vote total (+two million) or hope for a good vote split.

Then, who votes?

It is more likely that Ontario’s age composition will resemble BC’s 2017 profile than Canada’s 2015 profile – older people having a disproportionate share.

I looked at the share of each age group in the 2011 and 2015 federal elections, and the BC 2017 election, and applied those ratios to Ontario’s population.  Based on these three scenarios, 55+ age group would account for 42% to 48% of the voters in the coming election, compared to 38% share of the population.

Chart 10: Ontario population by age group compared to age models from 2011 and 2015 federal elections, and 2017 BC election

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Does it matter in Ontario?  Typically, the 55+ age group leans right relative to younger voters.  This was certainly the case federally in 2015 and in BC in 2017.

However, in Pollara Strategic Insight’s mid-election survey of Ontario voters, we found that the NDP had gained 7 points among voters aged 50 and over during the first half of the campaign, taking the lead in this category of high-turnout voters.

Chart 11: Pollara Strategic Insights survey results of Ontario election, May 4 & 22, 2018 (50+ voters)

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The striking difference in Ontario is the gender split, with men more likely to vote PC, and women more likely to vote NDP at this stage of the campaign.  From what I have seen over the years, there is not a major turnout difference between men and women, like there is with age.

If the poll results stand, the NDP will have blunted a major advantage for the PCs – support among older voters.  Geographically, there is likely still a PC advantage.  The NDP may be gaining in key demographics, but at the end of the day, it matters where the votes are located – in the ridings.  (More on seat models another day).

Pollara’s research also finds an “enthusiasm” advantage for Doug Ford’s PCs.  Ford Nation is already lining up at the polling stations to vote, they’re so excited, though slightly less so than earlier in the campaign.  The NDP voters are the least excited.  Is that just their nature or is their rise in support a bit thin? In terms of impact on votes, if Ford over performs the polls on Election Day, it may well be because he was throwing red meat to his base, regardless of their age.

Chart 12: Pollara Strategic Insights survey results of Ontario election, May 4 & 22, 2018 (Enthusiasm Gap)

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What does it all mean?

  • When the voter pool grows, parties must grow with it or perish.
  • Older voters (55+) still rule the roost and constitute a majority (or close to it).  They punch above their demographic weight at the polls.  The party with an advantage in this age group will have a turnout advantage.
  • Youth turnout continues to lag behind, but it is growing and becoming a bigger factor.
  • While it will likely be a record turnout for an Ontario election, it is very unlikely that the June election will keep pace with 2015 federal turnout. The unknown is to what extent 55+ age group exerts control over the outcome, or whether Millennials offset their influence by voting in increased numbers.

 

Life and loss – celebrating two friends in politics

As we get older, we are faced with our own mortality, and, sadly, that of our friends.

This week, many of us were shocked to learn that Doug Eastwood had died of a heart attack during the Sun Run.  Doug made numerous contribution to public life – as a crown prosecutor, Chair of the Justice Institute, volunteer with Last Door Recovery Society, and as a campaign volunteer over the years.  It was shocking to lose someone so full of life and vibrancy as Doug, so suddenly.

Doug.jpgI first met him in 1986 when he was dispatched to BC from Ottawa by the Liberal Party of Canada to help the fledgling provincial BC Liberal campaign under the leadership of Art Lee.  The campaign didn’t succeed, but presumably Doug liked what he saw as he came west to study law at UBC.

I had not known Doug that well until he volunteered on Christy Clark’s leadership campaign in 2010.  He showed up to that campaign with passion and intensity.  It was a campaign driven by volunteers and he was instrumental in recruiting them and tending to them.  He brought a spirit and positivity that was infectious.  Talking to Doug always left one in a happier place.

During Christy’s first term, Shirley Bond was appointed Attorney-General, combining that role with Solicitor-General.  The “General” was not a lawyer, therefore, we sought a legal resource to provide her with day-to-day advice in the Minister’s Office.  Doug agreed to be seconded to work with the General.  He was invaluable and Shirley got a lot done as A-G.

He would have been a fantastic candidate for office.  I certainly asked him, as did others. He would have been a great Attorney-General, with his extensive legal knowledge and reservoirs of compassion.

Earlier this year, another friend and political volunteer succumbed to heart failure as well – John Aisenstat.

Like Doug, John was much-loved.  While Doug was a lifelong federal Liberal, John was a lifelong Conservative.  Both in their 50s when they passed, they had worked their way up on separate tracks in politics in the 1980s.

Screen Shot 2018-04-24 at 10.56.50 AM.pngJohn was a veteran of the 1983 Mulroney leadership campaign, where many young (Progressive) Conservatives of that era had their political futures forged from the heat and intensity of that race.  John became known as an expert in Leader’s Tour – the peculiar mix of news and entertainment, politics and show business.  Underpinning his expertise was his mastery of logistics.

He could tell you where every landing strip for every type of plane was located, or where to get cold beer for the tour bus. He knew the shorthand for every one-horse town in BC and probably all of Canada.  He managed tours for Brian Mulroney and he led the 1996 Gordon Campbell tour.  It was a different time back then when there was a considerable working media who had to be mollycoddled on the bus, then taken on desperate dashes to file their stories.  This was also a time before blackberries, iPhones and reliable cell phone coverage.  It was a logistical puzzle and John was the puzzle master.  His logistical superiority was secondary, however, to his strategic mind and political knowledge.

John was beloved for his wit and sense of humour.  Like Doug, he did not view politics as a career.  It was a hobby, and he was good at it.  He volunteered in politics his entire life.  He always stepped up.

I am very saddened that the first half of 2018 has seen the loss of these two thoughtful, generous, warm individuals who didn’t ask anything from politics, but rather gave of themselves considerably.  They are both a great advertisement for the political adventure and the great people you meet along the way.  Those who have had the experience of volunteering and working in politics know that we are blessed to work with people like Doug and John.  This is why losing brothers-in-arm like them is particularly hard.  Two guys with the biggest hearts had their hearts give out.  RIP both.

Note: Doug’s obituary is here

It’s no time to change time change

By Jay Denney

It’s one of the longest ongoing debates in the public sphere – should we keep changing our clocks twice a year, or not? For as long as anyone can remember, it is an issue that pops up twice a year, gets debated for a week or so, and then the sun sets on the conversation yet again (either an hour earlier or later than when the debate started).

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At a Toronto meeting in 1879, Sandford Fleming proposes international Greenwich time, dividing the world into 24- one hour zones. starting at the Greenwich meridian. (Radio Canada International)

2017, however, has been different. The Alberta Legislature recently studied the matter, and ultimately voted to keep observing Daylight Saving Time (DST). And in B.C., MLA Linda Larson has introduced a Private Member’s Bill to scrap DST province-wide. The argument in favour of keeping clocks the same year-round tends to focus on the first two three days after the spring ahead or fall back, mainly on the effects on health and increased auto and workplace accidents.

But what about the impact on the B.C. business community? Currently, B.C. maintains the same local time year-round with the US West Coast, which is a benefit to our burgeoning tech sector, who frequently interacts with other tech hubs in Seattle and Silicon Valley, just as the TV and film production sector does with Hollywood. They also maintain a permanent one-hour time difference with their Alberta neighbours, and a three-hour time difference with the major financial networks in Toronto and New York.   Affixing to either Standard or Daylight Savings Time would throw all of those time relationships off-kilter for part of the year (see Fig.2).   Could that be harmful to business development? Would U.S. based tech firms choose to grow their businesses state-side, thus slowing their recent expansions in B.C.? Would it impact where resource companies choose to locate their offices? Would it have an impact on jobs and opportunities in the financial sector?

One area it would certainly have an impact on would be transportation. Take for example, direct flights from Vancouver to Toronto, one of the busiest routes in the country. Currently, a flight leaving Vancouver lands in Toronto roughly 7.5 hours later (4.5 hours flying time plus 3 hour time change). If B.C. were to affix to a single time, that schedule goes off by an hour for half of the year, impacting connections, crew scheduling and ground operations, particularly with the first and last flights of each day. This could prompt Air Canada and WestJet to re-evaluate flight frequencies into and out of B.C. communities. In fact, WestJet was quite vocal during the Alberta Legislature’s study of the matter, and had projected a negative impact on air travel and connections in Calgary and Edmonton.

Further, while many people think changing the clocks is an outdated practice, there is less agreement as to which should be made permanent.   Keeping standard time year round would mean an earlier sunrise and sunset in the spring and summer, while fixing to daylight savings time would keep the late summer evenings we are used to, but mean darker morning and later sunsets in the winter.   Whatever choice is made, again it would have economic impacts. Take seasonal summer businesses for example. Many of them, such as boat and bike rental companies, and golf courses, rely on the late evening daylight to generate revenue. Would the business they lose from an earlier sunset be offset by having daylight at 3:45 in the morning? Not likely.

Most people can agree that the first few days after a time change are annoying, either because we’ve lost an hour of sleep in the spring, or because it is dark out by 4:00 pm in the fall. And we get cranky and say we just stop doing this already. But we shouldn’t be so quick to make that switch without thoroughly studying its full impact. At the very least, we should sleep on it… preferably for an extra hour in the fall.

Jay Denney is a long-time political advisor, with past experience as a Ministerial Chief of Staff in the BC Government, and as Director of Communications to former federal Cabinet Minister Stockwell Day.

Three lessons for Ontario from B.C. and the world of outrageous politics

Published in Globe & Mail, March 2 / 2018

As Ontario PC members and interested observers brace for the finale of an unanticipated and compressed leadership race, they may wish to take note of how BC Liberals recently selected Christy Clark’s successor using basically the same voting system. Instead of outrageous politics, the boring math will decide the next PC leader, and maybe the next Ontario Premier.

Three key points:

1) Some votes count more than others: In British Columbia, Andrew Wilkinson prevailed in the six-candidate race despite having the fifth-highest number of votes on the first count. How did he win?

It’s a weighted ballot. Every riding is created equally. A riding is worth 100 points, and points are allocated according to the percentage of votes received by each candidate. In Mr. Wilkinson’s case, while he had the fifth-highest number of raw votes on the first count, he had the third-highest number of points because he did well in ridings that had low membership levels (mainly in B.C.’s Interior) where his supporters had higher impact.

 Another candidate, Michael Lee, had more votes than anyone in the race but finished third because his support was concentrated in ridings with big membership lists.

 

2) First choices are important, but second and third choices will decide: It’s a preferential ballot, meaning that you only vote once and you have the opportunity to rank your choices. In the Ontario PC race, there are four candidates.

Mr. Wilkinson started third on the first ballot with only 18 per cent of the weighted votes, but he won. He made huge progress on the third count, and by the fourth count he was second, ultimately winning on the fifth and final count. He climbed throughout the counting process because he accumulated more second and third choices than any other candidate. He especially gained from former finance minister Michael de Jong, with whom he had a formal alliance to support each other as second choice, and from Mr. Lee, whose supporters decisively preferred Mr. Wilkinson over his final-ballot rival, Dianne Watts.

3) Not every voting member stays in the “convention hall” to the end: In the old days, delegates voted on the first ballot, heard the result, then lined up and voted again, and kept doing so until one candidate had a majority. In the Ontario PC system (as was the case in B.C.), members do all of their voting in advance, which means ranking their candidates from 1 to 4. However, they do not have to rank all of the candidates. They can just vote for their first choice if they want, but they might find that their ballot won’t count when it comes down to the final two candidates.

In the BC Liberal race, about one-quarter of the voters who cast a vote on the first count did not have their ballots considered on the final count. They had essentially “walked out of the convention hall” as they did not express a preference for either Mr. Wilkinson or the runner-up, Ms. Watts. Since they had only voted for candidates already eliminated, their ballots were removed from the counting process. Smart candidates will plead for second and third choices from voters who might otherwise “leave the hall.”

 The outcome in B.C. was certainly unpredictable. When it comes down to who wins, the next Leader of the Ontario PCs may be the one who is the best at math.