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Not-so liberal Liberals projected to win in British Columbia; score huge upset over NDP

So much for all those predictions of a big NDP victory.

It’s been an hour and fifteen minutes since polls closed in British Columbia’s 2013 provincial elections, and the New Democratic Party (NDP) has yet to overtake the Liberals in the count of leading/elected MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly). And it looks like they’re not going to.

As the minutes tick on, the NDP’s chances of victory seem increasingly slim. There is no talk of an NDP landslide now on Canadian networks; in fact, one (CTV) has already called the election for the Liberals, projecting they will retain their majority. And on Global (which I’m watching from here in the States), anchors and pundits are already suggesting that Christy Clark will be basking in the glow of victory tomorrow while the NDP does some soul-searching.

UPDATE, 9:47 PM: Global has now called the election for the Liberals as well.

Why are the Liberals ahead? Well, they’re doing much better than expected in many areas of the  province, including Prince George and the Lower Mainland.

Some of the rising stars the NDP was counting on to help carry the party to victory aren’t faring too well. For example, Chris Wilson, whose campaign I covered on Saturday, is trailing in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain.

It appears the Liberals could end up with more seats than they had at the dissolution of the B.C. Legislative Assembly, although ballots are still being counted and the numbers will change. That would be a stunning outcome.

In a bit of good news for the NDP, in Vancouver – Point Grey, the New Democratic Party’s David Eby is now ahead of Christy Clark. As of 9:40 PM:

Christy Clark BC Liberal Party 3,401 44.56%
David Eby BC NDP 3,514 46.04%
William Gibbens Independent 26 0.34%
Hollis Jacob Linschoten Work Less Party 18 0.24%
Duane Nickull BC Conservative Party 118 1.55%
Marisa Palmer Libertarian 14 0.18%
Françoise Raunet Green Party of BC 537 7.04%
Bernard Bedu Yankson The Platinum Party 4 0.05%

There will likely be pressure on the NDP’s Adrian Dix to step down as NDP leader, at least from some quarters. Dix’s strategy of trying to run a positive campaign and deflect Liberal attacks – instead of aggressively counterattacking – appears to have backfired, and cost the NDP the election.

The NDP wasn’t apparently able to capitalize on dissatisfaction with the Liberal government, despite all of the public opinion research that suggested voters were unhappy with the B.C. Liberals and ready to turn them out.

The results are so at odds with the polling – like in last year’s provincial election in Alberta – that Canadian media are suggesting it will be a watershed moment (and not in a good way) for pollsters and public opinion research firms.

Instead of it being a history-making night for the NDP, it’s turning out to be a great night for the Liberals and a good night for the Green Party, who have apparently managed to elect their very first MLA (Andrew Weaver) to the Assembly in the Oak Bay – Gordon Head riding on Vancouver Island.

The Conservatives, meanwhile, are having a pretty bad night as well. They haven’t won any seats or led in any ridings the whole evening.

It appears many of the British Columbians they were wooing decided to support the incumbent Liberals instead of voting Conservative.

The progressive vote, meanwhile, appears to be more split between the NDP and the Green Party. The NDP had repeatedly appealed for progressive voters to vote NDP during the campaign, but many still chose to vote Green.

Some of the ridings that the NDP was thought to stand a very good chance of winning that are currently going Liberal instead include:

The Liberals’ platitude-filled rhetoric about creating economic opportunity and exploiting the province’s natural resources, coupled with a sustained effort to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) about the NDP into the minds of British Columbia voters, appears to have succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.

The results once again offer proof that while voters say they don’t like negative campaigning, it is effective. Dix and the NDP allowed themselves to be defined by the B.C. Liberals, especially towards the end of the campaign, and it resulted in an election night catastrophe of huge proportions. Instead of taking power or at least cutting into the Liberal majority, they have lost ground – and the Liberals will return to Victoria with an even bigger caucus than the one they left with.