2009 British Columbia General Election

Feature by Jay Makarenko || Apr 21, 2009

On May 12, 2009, British Columbians elected the provincial Liberal Party, helmed by Gordon Campbell, to its third consecutive term in office. The 2009 election was dominated by economic and financial issues as the province attempts to deal with the global economic slowdown, rising unemployment, and government deficits. Additionally, the election coincided with a provincial referendum on electoral reform, in which the proposed change to a BC-STV system of electing representatives was defeated. This article provides background information on the 2009 general election and includes the results of the previous election, party standings prior to dissolution of the legislature, pre-election polls, leader biographies, platforms of the major political parties, as well as an overview of key election issues, as well as a summary of the election and referendum results.

British Columbia Election Backgrounder

Previous elections, party standings, pre-election polls

British Columbia 2009 Party Platforms

Overview of Party Platforms in 2009 Election

Key Issues in 2009 British Columbia Election

Summary of key issues in the provincial election

Results of the 2009 BC General Election

Liberals win a majority government

Sources and Links to More Information

List of article sources and links to more on this topic

 


 

British Columbia Election Backgrounder

Previous elections, party standings, pre-election polls

2005 General Election Results

The last general election was held in 2005, with Gordon Campbell and the Liberal Party winning a majority government. The New Democratic Party came in second, forming the Official Opposition in the British Columbia legislature.

Below are each party’s total seat counts and popular vote tallies for the 2005 BC general election.

Results of 2005 BC General Election

Political Party

% Vote

Seats

Status

Liberal Party

45.8

46

Government

NDP

41.5

33

Opposition

Green Party

9.2

-

-

For more information on the 2005 BC general election:

Party Standings Prior to the 2009 General Election

Prior to the calling of the 2009 general election, the party standings in the provincial legislature were as follows:

Party Standings at Dissolution

Political Party

Seats

Status

Liberal Party

42

Government

NDP

34

Opposition

Green

-

-

Vacant

03

-

The change in party standings from the 2005 general election is the result of two by-elections and three vacancies. In October 2008, by-elections were held in the ridings of Vancouver-Fairview (previously held by NDP MLA Gregor Robertson) and Vancouver-Burrard (which was held by Liberal MLA Mayencourt). Robertson had resigned his seat to successfully run for mayor of Vancouver, while Mayencourt had resigned to unsuccessfully run for the Conservative Party in the 2008 federal election. In the by-elections, the NDP won both seats, with Jenn McGinn taking Vancouver-Fairview with 47 percent of the vote, and Spencer Herbert wining Vancouver-Burrard with 50 percent of the vote.

All three vacancies at the time of dissolution were former Liberal seats. In December 2008, Carole Taylor, MLA for Vancouver-Langara, resigned to serve on a federal Ministry of Finance advisory panel. In January 2009, Richard Neufeld, MLA for Peace River North, resigned his seat following appointment to the Canadian Senate. Also in Janurary 2009, Stan Hagen, MLA for Comox-Valley, passed away.

Pre-Election Public Opinion Polls

Public opinion polls conducted prior to the election have shown an early lead for the incumbent Liberal Party. A Mustel Group poll, released on April 7th, placed the Liberals at 52 percent support, the NDP at 35 percent, and the Green Party at 15 percent. An Ipsos-Reid poll, released on March 24, also showed a strong, albeit smaller, lead for the Liberals. That poll placed the Liberal Party at 46 percent support, the NDP at 35 percent, the Greens at 15 percent.

For more information public opinion polls for the 2009 BC general election:

 


 

British Columbia 2009 Party Platforms

Overview of Party Platforms in 2009 Election

British Columbia Liberal Party

The leader of the BC Liberal Party is Gordon Campbell, who has led the Party since 1993. He has served as a member of the provincial legislature since 1994 and as Premier of British Columbia since 2001. The Party’s 2009 election platform is outlined in a document titled Keep BC Strong: Proven Leadership for BC’s Economy. In their platform, the Party emphasizes six “pillars for a strong British Columbia”:

  • Strong leadership and stable government
  • Living within our means
  • Lowering costs on our economy
  • Improving and protecting vital public
  • Investing in jobs and infrastructure
  • Building strategic advantages

Economic policy: In dealing with the current economic downturn, the Liberals are concentrating on three core policies: infrastructure spending, lower costs for businesses, and providing support to the resources sectors. Over the next three years, the Liberals promise to spend $14 billion on infrastructure in the province, with the goal of creating up to 88,000 new jobs. In addition, the Party is committed to lower business costs by reducing small business income tax by 44 percent; reducing general corporate income tax to the lowest rate in Canada by 2011; and by eliminating red tape and costly barriers to investment and job creation. The Party is also committed to supporting provincial resources sectors in forestry, mining and energy by helping businesses open new markets and create new products and jobs. The Liberals have also introduced a Wood First Policy, which requires all new public facilities to include BC wood products in their construction.

Government finances: While the Liberals have acknowledged that the province will be incurring annual deficits over the next several years, they have promised to target government spending to key areas, such as health, education, housing and employment. In addition, the Liberals have committed to maintaining the government’s Triple A credit rating during this period of deficits, as well as work towards balancing the budget by 2011.

Social policy: The Liberals have promised to improve and protect key public services. With respect to education, the Party is committed to substantial increases in funding for primary and secondary education; introducing all day, voluntary kindergarten; and increasing access to post-secondary education. In addition, the Liberals are promising to expand funding for health care; new funding for social and supportive housing; new 24/7 access to emergency; and a new Rental Assistance Program.

British Columbia New Democratic Party

The leader of the BC NDP is Carole James, who has led the Party since 2003. She was first elected to the provincial legislature in 2005. The Party’s 2009 election platform is outlined in a document titled Take Back Your BC: Because Everyone Matters. Whereas the incumbent Liberal Party is stressing the need for proven leadership and stable government in their platform, the NDP are emphasizing the need for change and a greater focus on working families.

Economic policy: In addressing the economic downturn, the NDP are promising four basic strategies: tax breaks for businesses and consumers; increased infrastructure spending; support for rural communities; and strategic support for key industries. More specific commitments include eliminating the provincial gas tax; providing a one year tax credit against the small business income tax; increasing public investments in provincial road, rail and bus infrastructure; accelerate spending to upgrade schools, universities and other public buildings; and institute a Buy BC policy to ensure local business benefit from government spending. In addition, the Party promises to create an Export Development Agency to develop and advice on new export strategies; establish a Rural Economic Development Fund to support economic diversification and infrastructure spending to rural communities; and providing investment and strategic support to the tourism, forestry, mining and agriculture sectors. The Party is also committed to ending the trend towards privatization of government agencies and corporations, such as BC Hydro.

Government finances: Like the Liberal Party, the NDP is acknowledging that the province will be running annual deficits over the next several years. The NDP plan is to balance the budget by their fourth year in office, without any new taxes. In addition, the Party is committed to a cost containment plan which includes a roll-back of executive wages across the government; cuts to professional services, travel and other discretionary budgets; downsizing the public affairs bureau and government communications spending, and the elimination of government agencies such as Partnerships BC.

Social policy: The NDP have also made several commitments in the areas of education, health care, the environment, and working families. In regard to education, the Party promises smaller primary and secondary class sizes and more classroom resources, as well as a post-secondary tuition freeze. In health care, the NDP have committed to add more nurses and health professionals in the province, reduce waitlists, clear backlogged emergency rooms, and create an additional 3000 long-term care beds for senior care. For the environment, the Party promises enhanced water, land, air and species protection, moratorium on the sale of provincial rivers and streams, and new capital investment in green infrastructure and transit. To help working families, the Party promises to increase minimum wage, restore employment standards, reduce utility rates for lower income families, keep public transit affordable, and create more affordable and accessible child care spaces.

Green Party of British Columbia

The leader of the BC Green Party is Jane Sterk, who has led the Party since 2007. The Party has published its 2009 election platform in a document titled British Columbia’s Green Book: A Better Plan for British Columbia. The platform centres on four issues:

  • Strengthening the economy
  • Caring for one another
  • Protecting resources and the environment
  • Reforming government.

Environmental policy: Central to the Party’s ideology and election platform is its environmental policies. In this context, the Party supports robust environmental reforms that focus on resource conservation, protection of ecosystems and wildlife, reduction and elimination of pollutants, and the reversal of climate change. Specific policies include a carbon tax and global cap trading system to address global warming; providing financial incentives for clean-tech industry; strengthening the provincial Environmental Protection Act; stop automobile road construction in favour of transit, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure; and minimizing the environmental impact of forestry, mining and gas and oil industries in the province.

Economic policy: The Green Party’s economic policies focus on creating more jobs, encouraging sustainable growth, and green investments. Central to these objectives is the Green Business Program, which will promote “green collar” jobs and ensure that businesses have the tools they need to adopt clean-tech practices and succeed in tomorrow’s green economy. Specific economic policies include the removal of provincial sales taxes from domestic goods; advance fair trade over free trade; eliminate corporate welfare; foster the building of clean, renewable energy facilities in a mixed public/private system; and provide investment and strategic support to businesses to encourage new green industries and a more-environmentally sensitive economy.

Social policy: In regard to social policy, the Party is committed to health care reform by placing a greater emphasis on preventative care, as opposed to disease management. Central to this policy is the reduction of environmental pollutants to ensure healthier British Columbians, as well as the encouragement of healthier lifestyles through nutrition and physical activity. The Party also promises to improve social services by extending the availability of affordable housing; adequately funding public education; providing timely, comprehensive health care in the community; and sponsoring a plan to eliminate child poverty.

Reforming Government: The Green Party promises to restore integrity to government through several democratic reforms. These include implementing a single transferable voting system for elections, reducing the power of the premier’s office; expanding recall legislation to the municipal level; allowing free votes in the legislature; reforming political party financing; introducing whistleblower legislation; and decentralizing decision making by enhancing the powers of local and regional governments.

Other Registered Political Parties

In addition to Liberals, NDP and Greens, many other political parties will by participating in the 2009 general election. The following provides a list of other registered political parties in the province, with links for more information on their ideologies and election platforms.

BC Social Credit Party

BC Marijuana Party

BC Refederation Party

Citizens Action Party

BC Reform

Democratic Reform BC

Communist Party of BC

Emerged Democracy Party of BC

BC Conservatives

Herb Party

BC Libertarian Party

Link BC

The Sex Party

Moderate Democratic Movement

Western Canada Concept

Nation Alliance Party

Your Political Party of BC

People’s Front

The Annexation Party of BC

Planting Seeds Party

BC Democratic Futures Party

Progressive Nationalist Party of BC

British Columbia Party

Western Party

BC Patriot Party

Work Less Party of BC

Platinum Party of Employers Who Think and Act to Increase Awareness

Party of Citizens Who Have Decided to Think For Themselves And Be Their Own Politicians

Advocational International Democratic Party of BC

 


 

Key Issues in 2009 British Columbia Election

Summary of key issues in the provincial election

Provincial Economy

A central issue in the 2009 election will be the provincial economy. As with the other western provinces, British Columbia had escaped much of the brunt of the global economic downturn, particularly when compared to Ontario. However, in March 2009, the BC economy lost approximately 22,600 jobs, with unemployment rising to 7.4 percent (Brethour). Falling commodity demand and prices, as well as provincial tourism, will continue to put downward pressure on the provincial economy in the short-run.

In this context, the two major political parties, the Liberals and NDP, have made the economy the primary focus of their election platforms. In terms of policy, both parties are advocating similar economic strategies and priorities, focusing on reducing costs to businesses (such as lower taxes), government spending on infrastructure, and providing strategic support to specific industries, in particular forestry and mining.

In terms of political optics and image, however, the Liberals and NDP are adopting very different strategies. The Liberals, as the incumbents, are attempting to present themselves as the “proven” and “stable” choice. In this context, the Liberals are suggesting that a change in government at this point would be detrimental to the economic stability of the province. Moreover, the Liberals are attempting to paint the NDP as a “risky” and “untried” alternative, arguing that the New Democrats will be an obstacle to economic recovery.

In contrast, the NDP are advocating the need for change and fairness in economic policy. In this context, the NDP are attempting to link past policies of the Liberal government with the current economic slow down in British Columbia. The objective is to paint the Liberals as poor economic stewards by suggesting that they are responsible for the current problems and, as such, cannot be trusted to help the province to economic recovery. In addition, the NDP are alleging that the Liberals are advocating “unfair” economic policies in the sense that they are prioritizing the wealthy and big business over working families. As such, the New Democrats will attempt to highlight Liberal tax cuts and financial assistance to large companies, while emphasizing their own policies orientated towards helping middle class and lower income families deal with the current economic slowdown.

Government Finances

Another key issue, which is related to the economy, is government finances. With the downturn in the economy, the next government will face declining revenues coupled with costly economic stimulus packages. In this context, both the Liberals and the NDP have acknowledged that they will run annual deficits over the next several years. The incumbent Liberals have promised to balance the budget by 2011, while the NDP have publicly committed to return to annual surpluses within four years of being elected.

Again, both parties will attempt to spin the fiscal situation into their favour during the election. The incumbent Liberals will highlight their past fiscal record, in which they posted four years of surpluses. The Liberals will also attempt to deflect the current fall into deficit by citing the “unprecedented” global economic crisis, as opposed to government mismanagement. Moreover, the Party will seek to cement itself as the stronger option on the issue of government finances by publicly linking the current NDP with the high taxing, high deficit New Democratic governments of the 1990s.

The NDP, on the other hand, will attempt to paint the Liberals as incompetent fiscal managers. In doing so, the NDP will emphasize the fact that the Liberals have abandoned their promise to eliminate deficits; in 2001, the Liberals had introduced balanced-budget legislation. The NDP will also argue that the Liberal government was slow to recognize and react to the magnitude of global economic crisis. Finally, the current NDP will have to work to distance itself from the fiscal policies of past New Democratic governments in the province, and reinforce its image as strong fiscal stewards.

The Environment

While economic and fiscal issues will dominate the election, the environment may also have an impact on the election. Environmental policy has tended to enjoy a high profile in BC provincial politics, particularly since the summer of 2008, when the Liberal government introduced a carbon tax on gasoline. The higher profile of the Green Party in the province has also contributed to greater public attention to environmental issues.

In this context, the NDP have made the elimination of the carbon tax on gasoline a central promise of its election platform. The Party has publicly stated that the tax is an ineffective mechanism for reducing greenhouse gases. Moreover, the tax is unfair in that it places a disproportionate burden on lower and middle classes. As an alternative strategy, the New Democrats have promised to provide direct investment green infrastructure and transit.

While the NDP promise to eliminate the carbon tax has support in the general public, several high profile environmental groups have been critical of the Party’s position. At the outset of the 2009 election, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Pembina Institute and ForestEthics publicly called on the NDP to reverse its position on the tax. The Liberal Party has also taken several steps to solidify its image as a pro-environment party. In addition to defending the provincial carbon tax, the Liberal government announced the creation of two new protected wildlife areas on the eve of the election campaign.

Provincial Referendum on Electoral Reform

Coinciding with the 2009 general election is a provincial referendum on electoral reform. Voters will be given an opportunity to choose between the current First-Past-the Post (FPTP) electoral system or a new Single Transferable Vote (BC-STV) system for future provincial elections.

The BC-STV system was recommended by the province’s Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform in its 2004 final report. A similar referendum was held during the last provincial election in 2005, in which the BC-STV system failed to be endorsed. Given the strong support for the new electoral system in 2005 referendum, and subsequent surveys which indicated that many voters did not feel adequately informed about the BC-STV system, the Liberal government committed to holding a second referendum during the 2009 general election.

In order for the new BC-STV system to be passed, it must receive the support of at least 60 percent of the total province-wide vote, as well as more than 50 percent of the votes in at least 51 of the province’s 85 electoral districts. If these two thresholds are met, then the government is required to implement the new electoral system by the May 2013 general election. To promote informed voting, Elections BC distributed funds to two referendum groups. The No STV group was established to advocate against the new electoral system, while British Columbians for BC-STV was created to advocate in favour of the new system.

For more information on BC-STV and the 2009 referendum:

 


 

Results of the 2009 BC General Election

Liberals win a majority government

In the 2009 general election, the provincial Liberal Party, helmed by Gordon Campbell, won a majority government. The Liberals took 49 seats with 46.1 percent of the popular vote. The NDP formed the Official Opposition, winning 42 percent of the popular vote and 36 seats in the legislature. Overall, the election changed little from the pervious election in 2005, when both parties claimed similar numbers both in terms of seats won and popular support.

Results of 2009 BC General Election

Political Party

% Vote

Seats

Status

Liberal Party

46.1

49

Government

NDP

42

36

Official Opposition

Green Party

8.1

-

-

In regard to the referendum on electoral reform, only 38.7 percent voted in favour of changing the electoral system to BC-STV, while 61.2 percent voted in support of maintaining the current first-past-the-post system (Elections BC, May 15, 2009). Not only did support for BC-STV fall far short of the 60 percent needed to pass, it also represented a decline from the 57 percent support it received in the 2005 referendum.

Also important to note was record low voter turnout for the 2009 general election and referendum, with only 50 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot (CBCNews, May 13, 2009). This was the lowest in British Columbia’s history, and was significantly reduced from the last general election in 2005, in which 58 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot.

 


 

Sources and Links to More Information

List of article sources and links to more on this topic

Sources Used for this Article

Links to More Information