Sunday May 1, 2022 | VICTORIA, BC
NEWS COMMENTARY by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
The BC Liberals have returned a party leader to the BC Legislature by way of Kevin Falcon winning the by-election in Vancouver-Quilchena.
A riding long-standing as a BC Liberal stronghold (BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson resigned as MLA on February 17, 2022, and the riding was held before that by BC Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell), the by-election held yesterday April 30 produced a 58.61% popular vote win for Falcon in the initial count (6,200 votes).
Wilkinson was in the crowd for Falcon’s by-election win last night, given a shout-out by the new leader who now has now secured a seat in the legislature. Interim BC Liberal leader has been Shirley Bond.
Four other candidates:
The NDP ran a political science prof as their by-election candidate. Jeanette Ashe (married to Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart) pulled in a respectable 24.48% result (2,590 votes) in what was expected to maintain its strength as a BC Liberal stronghold.
The BC Greens ran emergency management expert Wendy Hayko as their candidate. She drew 9.69% of the vote (1,025 votes) on April 30.
Conservative candidate Dallas Brodie pulled in 6.6% of the popular vote (698 votes). It’s unclear whether that voter base would have gone to the BC Liberals or the BC Greens, if there hadn’t been a Conservative option on the ballot.
The Libertarians ran candidate Sandra Filosof-Schipper who got 0.62% of the popular vote (66 votes).
Last night Falcon congratulated all the other candidates “for participating in this important moment that we call democracy”.
28-day campaign, votes counted within the hour:
It was a tight campaign period, from April 2 to 30.
Votes were counted electronically, and as such results were known within the first hour of polls closing at 8 pm Saturday night. Final results for Vancouver-Quilchena were posted by Elections BC as of 9:21 pm.
Advanced votes were included in the preliminary digital tally, final count will be made available by Elections BC on May 4 (including a count of paper ballots).
This was the first provincial by-election in BC since changes to the Election Act came into force in March of 2022. The changes include using electronic tabulators to count paper ballots and electronic voting books to look up voters and cross them off the voters list.
Falcon the winner:
Falcon made a short televised acceptance speech last week. Unsurprisingly he primarily bashed the NDP government.
Falcon leaned heavily on the ‘family’ message during the campaign (and on election night last night), in that he oft-repeated that his wife and two daughters were the reason he left politics 10 years ago, but also why he’s back, i.e. to do better for the next generation. Political life does indeed take a toll on family life, but that campaign theme as used by Falcon has always felt a bit packaged, using family as the prop.
“Tonight we got a wonderful message from the voters of Vancouver-Quilchena that said it is time for an end to the empty rhetoric. It is time for a government that gets results,” he said right at the top of his speech.
Building the party:
Falcon also noted in his brief speech the need for diversity and inclusivity in the BC Liberal party that for the last two election cycles has been trying to carve out its sense of identity and purpose. Under the Horgan NDP government anti-racism and efforts to infuse inclusivity into BC society has been pretty much non-stop.
“In the months ahead, I look forward to nominating a team of diverse, accomplished, and compassionate candidates from all walks of life with a positive vision for the future of our province to get big things done once again here in British Columbia,” said Falcon in a statement from the BC Liberal party later on in the evening.
Lack of affordability in BC:
Falcon said he heard on the doorstep during the by-election that “people are getting very very concerned about the lack of affordability in British Columbia”.
But that is not a new message. That’s been a problem for a large swath of British Columbians for many years. Previous to now, the BC Liberals weren’t really listening to that message, but the NDP was and they’ve capitalized on it since 2013, and notably with the majority win that Horgan nabbed in September 2020 for another four-year run.
Big issues and getting things done:
At the beginning of his campaign last month, Falcon said: “British Columbians deserve leaders that understand not just how to talk about the big issues that we face, but also how to execute and get things done.”
The BC Liberal party has for decades focussed on economy and business, primarily in already well-established sectors of society and the ecnomy. They’ve been short if not lacking (or arguably detrimental) on many areas of social policy. Some British Columbians did well during the 2001-2016 period that the BC Liberals were in power in BC, but many did not or even slid further behind.
Horgan with his NDP government since 2017 has been plugging the holes and aiming to making improvements in policies, systems, and programs that will strengthen the social safety net and give small businesses (the ones whose goal is not to necessarily become mega-big) a fighting chance.
Yet last night Falcon said that “today, voters sent a clear message to the NDP that they want to see results – not just rhetoric”, which is simply not a realistic statement. From day one in July 2017 Horgan has driven his ministers hard, to produce results in a manner ‘as if each day was their last’. Horgan’s turnover of nearly every corner of the BC government’s approach to things has been like tilling each acre of soil in a large field, methodically one at a time.
Falcon also expressed concern over the state of health-care in the province, and renewed his call to the Premier for action. Again, an odd stance, as Horgan has been focused on health-care not only during the province’s management of the COVID pandemic but for over a year he’s been chairing the Council of the Federation in leading all of Canada’s premiers in a pitch to the federal government for an increase in the Canada Health Transfer.
Eager congrats from BC Greens:
Within moments of the evident by-election results last night, BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau released a statement on the election of Kevin Falcon as MLA-elect for Vancouver-Quilchena.
“I look forward to him joining us as a Member of the Legislative Assembly for the last weeks of the Spring session,” said Furstenau. “I hope to continue the collaborative work of our caucuses on issues of common ground, such as the all-party Health Committee to address the drug poisoning crisis.”
Falcon did mention the opioid crisis in his speech last night. “Our province’s opioid and mental health crisis is now worse than ever before. The NDP has had five years to address this crisis. If John Horgan’s government won’t take the necessary steps to end this crisis, then it’s time for them to get out of the way.”
The COVID crisis did supersede the opioid crisis in BC; the BC Coroner pointed out that a similarly focused and intense response could be applied to dealing with the overdose emergency.
The opioid (overdose) crisis is arguably more complex, with tendrils into the socioeconomic despair produced for many reasons across society. One might think that the ‘people-first’ approach of the NDP would have already acted on this crisis, but arguably that perspective is also the more appropriate one to finally be taking some effective action on it.
To date, the approach has been primarily within the medical model (beds for addiction treatment and recovery) and to some extent through social supports like getting homeless people off the street. But the social web of reasons for addiction (which might start with painkiller prescriptions) crosses all socioeconomic levels in society, something which the NDP government is only recently starting to translate into what might now be done differently.
Efforts to deal with drug-poisoning has seen some lead from the construction industry on Vancouver Island. In January 2022 it was announced that the Vancouver Island Construction Association (VICA) had been granted $1 million from the BC government to try and make some headway with this issue among workers in their sector.
Vancouver-Quilchena byelection called for April 30 (April 4, 2022)
BC Liberals choose Kevin Falcon as new leader (February 7, 2022)
BC Liberals: six leadership candidates deliver online campaign pitches (November 6, 2021)