Friday, April 10, 2009

Campbell Liberals figure bad economy to make good politics in B.C. vote.

This is from the Canadian Press.

I thought the Campbell govt. was less popular than this article assumes. According to this article the NDP seems to be going nowhere. But we shall see next Tuesday. Campbell was probably smart to have an election now since once the economic decline in BC becomes more evident and entrenched the Liberals could lose support.

Campbell Liberals figure bad economy to make good politics in B.C. vote

VICTORIA, B.C. — Recession, deficit, unemployment.
Those three negative economic forces don't usually make a winning campaign combination for a government seeking re-election, let alone a third consecutive term.
B.C. Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell faces bad economic times as he heads into Tuesday's provincial election campaign looking to three-peat on May 12.
But the bad times could translate into good politics for Campbell's Liberals, who appear prepared to use the struggling economy as a haunting reminder to beat back the Opposition New Democrats.
The NDP's record of economic management while in government during the 1990s is one associated with decline and the over-budget fast ferry project.
The Liberals and New Democrats agree the economy and who voters believe best represents their economic interests will be the dominant issue in the campaign.
The decline of the forest industry, poverty, treatment of the elderly, the environment and the long-running and seemingly endless legal and political drama involving the 2003 police raid on the B.C. legislature are all issues expected to be debated on the campaign trial.
But the economy is likely to rise to the top.
A Liberal insider suggested the party will use every opportunity to remind voters that when the New Democrats were in government during the 1990s, British Columbia was in trouble economically and the province was a bottom feeder in Canada.
"The idea for our campaign was that we were always there to keep B.C. strong and why would you want to risk that," he said.
NDP Leader Carole James said her party also has the economy at the centre of its campaign, but NDP candidates will be telling voters that Campbell Liberals cannot be trusted to protect their interests, especially when it comes to the treatment of seniors and poor families.
She said she will also focus on the government's inadequate response to the hard-hit forest industry.
"You can't trust Gordon Campbell to put the people of this province first," she said.
The economy is always the top issue in every election, said Virginia Greene, president of the Business Council of B.C., but it has become even more important this spring as voters consider change.
"The conversations that I am a part of talk about how important this election really is - maybe more than it might have been when we were all doing so well - from the perspective of staying the course and the perspective of leadership," said Greene, a former Liberal candidate.
Eight months ago, British Columbia was on economic cruise control, but suddenly everything shifted downhill faster than a bobsled on the new 2010 Olympic run at Whistler.
The Liberals, after leading the country in creating jobs and posting consecutive surplus budgets, admitted British Columbia could not escape the worldwide economic meltdown and now faced budget deficits, lost jobs and recession.
Campbell, who staked his political reputation on slaying budget deficits and cutting taxes, said he was forced to make one of his most difficult decisions in public life when the government was forced to drop its legal pledge to keep B.C. deficit free and table a deficit budget in February.
Despite the deficit, Vancouver political consultant Brad Zubyk said the shaky economy actually bodes well for the Liberals in the campaign.
"Love Gordon Campbell or hate him, you've got to give him some credit - and I think the public does - for managing the economy," he said. "The fact is he's closely associated with seven boom years."
Zubyk, who has worked for the B.C. NDP and federal Liberals in the past, said Campbell's Liberals are politically fortunate the current economic downturn is universally regarded as worldwide, which leaves fewer willing or able to blame the Liberals for troubles at home.
Zubyk said he doesn't sense voters are in the mood to change governments, and he believes the New Democrats will be hard-pressed to keep the 34 seats they currently hold.
The current standings in the legislature are 45 seats for the Liberals and 34 for the New Democrats. A redistribution of B.C. electoral boundaries will see eight new seats up for grabs in the May election, expanding the B.C. legislature to 85 seats.
"I don't think a lot's going to change election day in terms of composition," said Zubyk.
John Zagc, a B.C. oil-patch helicopter pilot, echoes Zubyk's point.
He said he isn't seeking change on election day even though he has some concerns about the Campbell Liberals.
"I think things should stay the way they are," he said. "Things are going fairly in the direction we wanted."
Zagc said he can't blame the Liberals for the problems with the economy because tough times are a worldwide issue.
But Steelworkers' Union spokesman Stephen Hunt said thousands of forest workers in British Columbia are unemployed or are bracing for word that they are about to lose their jobs.
The government has done little to help, he said.
"When you are outside of Vancouver or Victoria and you're in a forest-dependent community you count on your government to help industry through some times, especially in tough times. Arguably, we're in the toughest possible times," he said.
Jason Morris, a political scientist at the University of Northern B.C. at Prince George, also senses optimism among Prince George residents who believe they will weather the economic downturn.
"Prince George has a sense that it can still hang in there," said Morris, adding he believes the Liberals are strong in the northern city.
Zubyk said he believes Prince George is a symbol of the current mindset of most B.C. voters.
Most are just not angry enough to vote the Liberals out of office, he said.
"I'm not sure a provincial government is going to own this round of bad times."
Copyright © 2009 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved

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