Liberals pull off surprise victory in B.C. election

B.C. Premier and Liberal leader Christy Clark and her son celebrate her victory in the provincial election. REUTERS/Andy …

In an astounding turn of events in British Columbia, Christy Clark's B.C. Liberals have won the provincial election and will retain power for another four years.

The Liberals have earned a convincing majority winning 50 of the 85 ridings compared to the NDP at 33. Green Party candidate Andrew Weaver — a renowned climate scientist at the University of Victoria — wins a seat becoming the first ever Green member in the B.C. legislature. Independent candidate Vikki Huntington also wins her seat in Delta South.

In terms of popular vote the Liberals are at 44.5 per cent, the NDP at 39.4 per cent and the Greens at 8 per cent.

NDP leader Adrian Dix — who won his riding in Vancouver-Kingsway — was clearly deflated after the results were announced.

"In a democratic system, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and in British Columbia it often rains," Dix told a crowd of stunned NDP supporters.

"But the issues we raised in this campaign, the issues I consider a passion in my life: To ensure young people have the skills, that we need fight child poverty now, that we need to address inequality now. Those issues of generosity and sustainability continue and will continue to guide the NDP in the future."

B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark is expected to speak to reporters on Thursday.
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CBC | Photo By CBC
Wed, 15 May, 2013 3:10 AM EDT
Talking to reporters, Dix later said that he didn't want to address any questions about whether he would step down as leader.

The mood at Liberal headquarters was predictably different.

"Well that was easy," Clark quipped, noting that she knew that the Liberals would win.

"I say to the citizens of British Columbia: You have humbled us tonight with this opportunity and with the tremendous obligation you've placed on our shoulders.

"During this campaign people said that they want to know that we will be sharing the economic benefits of this province with everyone. They told us that they wanted to balance economic and environmental issues. We will heed those concerns."

Global News is reporting that Clark did not win her own seat in Vancouver-Point Grey. NDP candidate David Eby narrowly defeated her by less than 500 votes.

Regardless, the Liberal victory is truly remarkable for Clark who becomes the first ever elected female premier in the province's history.

[ Related: Are we seeing a Wildrose Party-type collapse in the B.C. election? ]

At the beginning the campaign, the pollsters predicted the governing party trailed the NDP by as much as 18 points.

How did they overcome the deficit and defy the critics?

Well, the fact that the party had an energetic leader with charisma and a broadcast background certainly helped. Clark had the ability to excite and motivate people in a way that Dix didn't.

The Liberals also got some help from the Conservatives who kept shooting themselves in the foot. The B.C Tories lost four candidates since the beginning of the campaign, three candidates didn't register in time to run officially under the Conservative banner, and John Cummins performed poorly in both leaders' debates.

More importantly, however, the Liberals ran a textbook perfect campaign that political strategists across the country should try and emulate.

Their successes started with an experienced team.

Veteran B.C. Liberal insider Mike McDonald led the talented group that included Mark Marrissen and Don Guy. Marissen, who is Clark's ex-husband, is one of the sharpest political minds in the province, if not the country. He was the national campaign co-chair for the Liberals in the 2008 federal election.

Don Guy, of course, is known for running all of Dalton McGuinty’s campaigns in Ontario.

The Liberal strategists were able to raise more money than the NDP, get more high profile endorsements and win the battle on social media.

They also implemented the right strategy: Attack, attack, attack.

Quite simply, it's what we learn in Marketing 101. If you say something often enough people are going to start to believe it. The Liberals have been trying to sell the narrative that Dix is a flip-flopper, that he lacked integrity (see: memo-gate), and that it's the "same old NDP" of the 1990s that decimated our economy.

Every chance they had — on TV, on radio, on social media, at debates and on YouTube — all Liberal candidates repeated those messages.

Were the messages always truthful? It didn't matter. People listened and it clearly worked.

In contrast Dix and the NDP chose not to go negative. And it hurt them.

[ Related: Six things to watch for in the B.C. election ]

Some are calling this one of the most epic comebacks in the history of B.C. politics.

It's probably also one of biggest collapses by a political party — the NDP — in Canadian history.

Before the election, pundits and analysts debated about who would replace Christy Clark — now it's probably time to talk about who is going to replace Adrian Dix.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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