British Columbia (Canada) 2009

Status-quo and politics as usual have prevailed in British Columbia, in a rather dull election. Gordon Campbell’s Liberals have been re-elected to a third term, and both the seat count and popular vote have shown quasi-irrelevant movement.

BC Liberals 46.02% (+0.22%) winning 49 seats (+3)
New Democrats 42.06% (+0.54%) winning 36 seats (+3)
Greens 8.1% (-1.07%) winning 0 seats (±0)
Conservative 2.11% (+1.56%) winning 0 seats (±0)
11 Others and Independents 1.71% (-1.8%) winning 0 seats (±0)
turnout 52.2% (58% in 2005)

Referendum results:

FPTP 61.18% (+18.87%) winning 78 ridings
STV 38.82% (-18.87%) winning 7 ridings

BC 2009

As the results showed, status-quo prevailed at unprecedented levels since the SoCred days. In fact, only two incumbents were defeated last night: John Nuraney (Liberal) in Burnaby-Deer Lake won 46.3% to the NDP’s 48.2% and Jenn McGinn (NDP) in Vancouver-Fairview won 42.2% against the Liberals’ 47.2%.

Of the ridings I identified as close in my second post, only Stikine, Vancouver-Fairview (covered above) and Nanaimo changed, the first from Liberal to NDP and the latter from NDP to Liberal. In Maple Ridge-Mission, a notionally NDP new creation, the Liberals won. The Liberals won the notionally Liberal new seat of Boundary-Similkameen. Other than that, those ridings stayed with their old party, unsurprisingly.

Two seats will go to a judicial recount. In the Vancouver area seat of Delta South, Wally Oppal (Liberal) has defeated the Indie Vicki Huntington by a mere two votes. In Cariboo-Chilcotin, the margin between the winning Dipper and the Grit is 23 votes.

Turnout was an atrocious 52%, a major drop since 2005. This is the latest in a series of preoccupying declines nationwide, with 58% in the 2008 federal election and 57% (down from 71%) in Quebec’s 2008 election. Just in the late 1985, nearly 70% of British Columbian voted. And with their rejection of electoral reform, this trend is unlikely to be broken.

Unsurprisingly, the party strongholds remained the same. The NDP now quasi-entirely dominates the North Coast, the Pacific coast, and Vancouver Island. Especially in the North Coast, a lot comes from the important Native communities but also due to the strong precense of logging and manufacturing in the area. The same thing in the Cariboos ridings. In Victoria, only the wealthiest coastal communities evade the NDP’s omnipotence. In Vancouver proper, the NDP is based on the city’s famous “east side”, the poorest areas of Vancouver. In Burnaby, the same thing. Both of the NDP’s seats there are seats with low income levels. In Surrey, the NDP is especially strong in the poorer blue-collar Indo-Canadian neighborhoods, and weaker in the wealthier outskirts of Surrey.

The Liberals are strong in the non-industrial rural agrarian interior parts of BC, which are some of the Conservative Party’s strongest areas federally. In more urban areas, the Liberals dominates the northern suburbs of Vancouver, such as West Vancouver-Sea to Sky, and ridings with an important percentage of wealthy retirees. In Greater Vancouver itself, the Liberals win Vancouver’s much-wealthier “west side” and also the Chinese (though equally wealthy) areas of Richmond. Ironically, part of that strength is probably due to voter loyalty to the “Liberal” name federally, which carries over to the provincial Liberals, despite the vast differences between the two.

BC 2009- Green

The Greenies had a deceiving night last night, with only 8.1% of the vote, less than the 9% they received in 2005. They probably suffered the most from the atrocious turnout, given that Green supporters are often the least likely to turn out. Geographically, the Greenies did best where you expect them to. Their best result was 22% in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky, a wealthy northwestern Vancouver suburb. They got their other best results in Victoria, downtown Vancouver, and the Kelowna area (not the city core itself, but its suburbia). As always with Greenies, their lowest results were either in low income areas or heavily blue collar areas.

The BC Conservatives, who ran a “record” 24 candidates won a decent 2.11% of the vote overall. This averages out to around 8% in the ridings in ran in, with lows at around 2-3% and a high in Boundary-Similkameen at 20.17% (the Tory candidate, Joe Cardoso, was a former Liberal). Its best results were concentrated in the BC Interior. Its few candidates in Vancouver or Vancouver Island polled significantly lower than their comrades in the Interior. The Conservative leader, Wilf Hanni, got 10.05% in Kootenay East. While the Conservatives remain a fringe in BC politics, and they probably didn’t prevent any Liberal victory, their continued growth off of discontented Liberal supportes (such as Joe Cardoso) could prove a non-negligible threat to the Liberals in the near future.

CBC.ca has an interactive map of results here.

There was a huge turnaround in the electoral reform referendum, and STV was dealt a severe blow, sadly enough. I choose to blame the new ballot question used this time around.

New ballot

New ballot

Old ballot

Old ballot

The old 2005 ballot was a yes or no question to electoral reform, while this year’s ballot is a choice between the “existing FPTP” and the “STV blablabla”. Since a huge majority of voters probably had no clue was single-transferable vote was (a lot of Irish voters probably aren’t entirely sure what STV is, despite Ireland using it for a long, long time), they voted based on their little to no knowledge of the proposal. When asked if they wanted a nice little cute-sounding “STV” in 2005, they said yes. However, when asked to chose between the existing junk and the proposed new system, they prefered the current system to something they have no clue what it is. The same thing probably played a large role in the defeat of the MMP proposal in the Ontarian election in 2007.

Perhaps the change of mood was also partly based on the years passed since the 1996 and 2001 BC elections showed how FPTP was a worthless junk system. Voters don’t remember those atrocities, so they see no reason to vote against a system they know.

The referendum passed in only 7 ridings, all of them urban core ridings in downtown Vancouver and Victoria. Similar to how the only ridings to vote in favour of MMP in Ontario two years ago were downtown Toronto constituencies.

The cause of electoral reform is probably dead in BC for quite some time now, sadly. And this won’t do anything to help the case of turnout, which is also pre-occupying.

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Posted on May 14, 2009, in British Columbia, Canada. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. My guess (and that is all it is) is that if the hypothesis about the ballot effect is right, then had the 2009 wording been on the ballot in 2005, STV would have made it over the 60% hurdle.

    The words, “existing FPTP system” would have highlighted the source of the then-recent anomalies. But when you have what is pretty clearly a status quo election, “existing” does not look so bad.

    In other words, I am skeptical of the idea that the ballot wording would be a major explanation of the 19-point swing. If the 2009 wording would have an effect, I suspect it would be just to amplify the existing polarity of voter evaluation of the options before them–perhaps by a few percentage points. Of course, in 2005, a few percentage points positive would have made all the difference.

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