2005 British Columbia General Election

Feature by Jay Makarenko || Apr 1, 2005

British Columbia voters went to the polls on May 17, 2005, re-electing Premier Gordon Campbell's Liberals to a second majority government, and narrowly defeating a referendum on changing the province's electoral system. This article provides background information on the election and referendum, including the key political parties and players, election issues, information on the electoral reform proposal, as well as the results of the votes.

Parties and Players in the 2005 BC Election

Who is vying for control of BC’s provincial legislature?

British Columbia Election Issues

Major factors that will sway voters in BC.

Electoral Reform in British Columbia

What’s at stake in BC’s referendum on electoral reform?

Results of 2005 Election

BC Liberals win a majority government

Links to Further Information

List of links for more on this topic

*Please note: This article was originally written by Scot Fogden (April 2005), and has since been updated by Jay Makarenko (January 2006).


The Parties and Players in the 2005 BC Election

Who is vying for control of BC’s provincial legislature?

The Heavyweights

Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberal Party

Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberal Party are the incumbents.

The Liberals ran on BC’s recent economic upturn, a balanced budget, and a general mood of optimism in the province thanks to the 2010 Winter Olympics coming to Vancouver and Whistler. While at various points in history the BC Liberal Party has been considered a wing of the Liberal Party of Canada, Gordon Campbell has led the party to the right of the political spectrum, and the two parties no longer have any official ties.

Carole James and the New Democratic Party of BC

Carole James and the New Democratic Party of BC are the main challengers.

The NDP attacked the Liberal Party’s record on health care and social issues. The Liberals, they argued, irresponsibly sought to privatize many of the province's public services and failed to improve health care.

Other BC Political Parties and Leaders

Adrian Carr and the Green Party

Although the Green Party had yet to win a seat in the BC legislature, many observers suggested that Adrian Carr’s party was playing a significant role in BC politics. Some analysts argued the Green Party split the left-of-centre vote in BC, thereby making the Liberal Party’s re-election bid easier. However, it was difficult to measure which party, the NDP or the Liberals, stood to lose the most votes to the Greens.

In the 2001 election, the Greens captured nearly 200,000 votes – or 12.4 percent of the popular vote – across the province.

Tom Morino and Democratic Reform BC

Tom Morino, a former Liberal Party candidate from Vancouver Island, heads Democratic Reform BC, BC’s newest political party. The party is a coalition of smaller parties that occupies the political “middle ground” between the BC Liberal Party on the right, and the NDP on the left.

There are forty-one other registered parties ranging from well-organized, issue-based parties (such as the Marijuana Party) to marginal parties (such as the Sex Party and the Annexation Party, which campaigns for BC to become the 51st US state).

To view the complete listing of parties, visit Elections BC.

Other Political Players

In BC, political life extends beyond the legislature in Victoria, with media, special interest groups and a sort of political “star circuit” feeding into the mix.

The Liberal Party’s “Star” Candidates

Despite a spate of high-profile resignations – including those of former cabinet ministers Christy Clark (Deputy Premier and Minister of Children and Family Development), Gary Collins (Finance Minister) and Geoff Plant (Attorney General) – the Liberal Party added some “star power” to its candidate list:

  • Canada’s Olympic gold medal winning wrestler Daniel Igali was nominated by the Liberal Party to run in the Lower Mainland riding of Surrey-Newton where he lives.
  • Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Chair Carole Taylor agreed to step down from her position to run for the Liberal Party in the Vancouver-Langara riding.
  • Justice Wally Oppal, who serves on BC's Court of Appeal, agreed to step down from the bench to run for the Liberal Party in the Vancouver-Fraserview riding.
Trade Unions

BC’s trade unions are particularly powerful by Canadian standards, and often publicly oppose Gordon Campbell’s Liberal government. Even before the official start of the 2005 election campaign, the BC Hospital Employees’ Union launched an ad campaign denouncing the Liberal Party’s record on health care.

Industry and Business groups

BC’s business lobby is not to be outdone by the unions. Although not explicitly partisan, the Business Council of British Columbia launched its own ad campaign lauding the Liberal Party’s economic policies.

The Media and Special Interest Groups

The media are particularly tenacious in BC. Sensationalistic reportage by various media outlets has played an integral role in shining a spotlight on many high-profile political scandals over the years, contributing to the resignations of several former premiers, such as Bill Vander Zalm, Mike Harcourt, and Glen Clark.

Various special interest groups also play a significant role in provincial politics. The environmental lobby is particularly strong in BC, with organizations such as the David Suzuki Foundation and Greenpeace originating in Vancouver.

Municipal Affairs

BC provincial politics are inextricably linked with municipal affairs. A number of BC premiers, including Gordon Campbell, are former mayors of Vancouver. With nearly one-half of BC voters living in the Vancouver area, city politics usually impact provincial elections. Some observers view Vancouver’s left-of-centre city council and mayor, Larry Campbell, as a better counter balance to BC’s Liberal government than the provincial NDP.

Find more BC election information on Mapleleafweb.com’s BC Voter Almanac.


British Columbia Election Issues

Major factors that will sway voters.

The 2005 BC election campaign is infused with both old and new issues that divide the electorate.

Economic Issues

British Columbia’s economy is undergoing somewhat of a renaissance; however, there is debate about how much of this success can be attributed to government policy (as opposed to energy and natural resource market forces).

Nevertheless, the Liberal government has been very active in the economic domain since its earliest days in power; indeed, on its inaugural day in office in 2001, it announced major tax cuts, large cuts in government spending, and privatization of some crown corporations and government assets (such as BC Rail). These initiatives, which then polarized the public, threatened to play a role in the election outcome some four years later.

BC’s finances are improving: the government tabled back-to-back balanced budgets in 2004 and 2005, promising surpluses to come.

Health Care

Health care continues to be a “hot-button” topic in British Columbia. BC’s aging population increasingly burdens the public health care system. One of the Liberal government’s most divisive moves occurred in 2002 when it brought in legislation that broke its contract with the 43,000 members of the BC Hospital Employees’ Union and granted the government the power to contract out their unionized jobs. Consequently, thousands of hospital workers lost their jobs and a province-wide health care strike occurred in 2004. The strike nearly spread to a number of public service sectors, including the school system and transportation.

Leadership

Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberal Party have encountered several credibility problems and scandals since 2001:

  • In January 2003, Campbell's personal political future was in jeopardy after he was arrested and charged with drunk driving in Hawaii. However, voters were forgiving due to his teary public apology.
  • The controversy surrounding the sale of BC Rail was a thorn for the BC Liberals. In late 2003 police raided two offices in the BC legislature as part of an investigation into two BC Liberal Party political aides who may have leaked information about the sale of BC Rail in exchange for jobs with the federal Liberal government. Both men faced charges of fraud, breach of trust, and other charges relating to accepting bribes and attempting to offer influence.

Meanwhile, former NDP party leader Joy MacPhail announced plans to retire from politics in 2005. The subsequent NDP leadership race led to the selection of Carole James, a fresh face on the provincial political scene, as leader. James admitted that her toughest job was winning back traditional NDP supporters who were alienated after a scandalous decade of NDP governments in the 1990s.

Other Potential Campaign Issues

The upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics has brought optimism to the province, in addition to renewed investments in infrastructure and cultural programs, as British Columbia prepares to host the world. Critics insist, however, that the Liberal government’s approach to labour issues reflects a broader contempt for public and social welfare institutions.

Also, Aboriginal issues have featured prominently on the Liberal government agenda since 2001. In the spring of 2002, the Liberal government proceeded with its promised referendum on Aboriginal treaty negotiations, despite strong opposition from First Nations peoples, various church groups, and civil libertarians.


Electoral Reform in British Columbia

What’s at stake in BC’s referendum on electoral reform?

In addition to selecting which party to form the government on election day, voters in BC also had a chance to make history when they voted whether to accept or reject proposed fundamental changes to BC’s electoral system. In December 2004, British Columbia’s Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform concluded its year-long investigation into the province’s electoral system. Its final report made a number of recommendations to revamp the system, including the recommendation to adopt a version of proportional representation known as the single transferable vote (STV) system.

The referendum question posed to the British Columbia electorate on May 17, 2005 was:

Should British Columbia change to the BC-STV electoral system as recommended by the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform? Yes/No.

In order for the referendum results to be binding, the vote had to meet two conditions:

  • Pass in at least 60 percent of the ridings across the province
  • Pass with an overall majority of 60 percent of the electorate.

If the referendum results met those conditions, legislation stipulated the new electoral system would be implemented in time for the 2009 provincial election.

For more details on BC’s proposed electoral reforms, visit Mapleleafweb.com’s feature on Electoral Reform or the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform.


Results of 2005 Election

BC Liberals win a majority government

Results of the General Election

The 2005 British Columbia election resulted in a second majority government for Premier Gordon Campbell and his Liberal Party. In total, the Liberals won 46 seats in the legislative assembly with 46.03 percent of the popular vote. The New Democratic Party came in second, with 33 seats and 41.27 percent of the vote. While the third place Green Party did not win any seats, it did garner 9.11 percent of the vote.

Results of the Referendum on Electoral Reform

The proposal to change BC's electoral system narrowly failed in the province-wide referendum. While it received majority support in 77 of 79 electoral ridings (well over the required 60 percent of ridings across the province), it only garnered 57.69 percent of the total popular vote (just shy of the 60 percent of the total electorate it need to pass).


List of links for more on this topic

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BC Political Parties  

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