West Shore MLAs suspect that Premier Christy Clark’s about-face on a fall election hinges on the unpopularity of her party in the wake of the defeated HST, rather than sticking to fixed election dates.
The leader of the B.C. Liberals had suggested in February she would seek a mandate to govern, fuelling speculation and nomination planning around a fall election. Clark reversed that position in interviews with selected Vancouver media outlets Wednesday.
B.C.’s election law specifies a provincial election every four years, the next being May 2013.
Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan (NDP), who supports fixed election dates, said the failure to pass the HST is equivalent to a non-confidence vote on tax policy, meaning the government should fall.
“If the HST had been defeated in the legislature, that would have been a vote of non-confidence. Instead we had 1.6 million people pass judgment on tax policy of government, and yet they still govern,” Horgan said.
“Under normal circumstances that would say ‘you guys are done.’ This is new grounds. In Canada we’ve never voted on tax policy before.”
“I’m disappointed,” he said. “I was looking forward to defeating the Liberals in an election.”
Esquimalt-Royal Roads MLA Maurine Karagianis (NDP) called Clark’s position a “clear flip flop,” which provokes further uncertainty of an economy in an 18-month sales-tax limbo.
“Clark said she would go into an election after the HST (referendum) because she is an unelected premier,” Karagianis said, referring to the fact that Clark, while winning a by-election, hasn’t led the B.C. Liberals through a general election. “But she read the tea leaves that she would be defeated.
“The state of economic uncertainly magnifies itself the way Clark conducts herself. There is no vision presented for where this government is going. I think the government has gotten worse under this premier.”
Both MLAs concede voter fatigue could undermine another election in 2011, after a federal election in May, a summer referendum and municipal elections in November. At the same time, they know the NDP would likely sweep the Liberals from the office and form government.
“My preference would be good governance, not necessarily my government,” Horgan said. “The Liberals have got to show they can govern, but they’re all over the map. That happens to governments that have been around for a long time.”
–with files from Tom Fletcher