Top of Mind - November 8, 2010

What happens to the provincial Conservatives now that the Liberals are having a leadership race?

Many federal Conservatives organizers were waiting to see whether Gordon Campbell would be hanging on until 2013 before making a decision on whether to support the provincial Conservatives. Now, that decision will be put off until his successor is chosen. If the successor is seen as being too much of a federal Liberal, the provincial Conservatives could receive a bumper crop of new members. Otherwise, the party could wither on the vine.

Has Mr. Campbell become a lame duck premier?

"I think the premier has been pretty clear that he is staying on as a caretaker premier - that he will be very much in the background with a low profile." That's what Health Services Minister Kevin Falcon told CTV last week. Indeed, some might wonder what other profile he could have given his unpopularity - both among the public and reportedly among members of his own caucus? But be aware the premier's decision to resign has also removed an important past check on his behaviour - the need to be re-elected.

Will the provincial New Democrats soon be looking for a new leader?

Perhaps. As we reported today, Carole James's leadership woes are mounting in the wake of Mr. Campbell's resignation - and continuing controversy over provincial New Democrat party president Moe Sihota's stipend. Furthermore, the timing for Ms. James to step down appears increasingly favourable. The party would likely hold its leadership convention in late 2011 - after the Liberals. That will provide New Democrats with an opportunity to choose a new leader based on a comparison with Mr. Campbell's successor. Moreover, as noted by The Vancouver Sun's Vaughn Palmer, Ms. James's husband was recently elected chief of the Burns Lake Indian Band - giving the opposition leader yet another reason not to want to stick around Victoria.

What happens if the New Democrats don't get a new leader?

Part of the answer to that question depends on who the Liberals elect to replace Mr. Campbell. But, regardless of who it is, a new leader will put a bounce in the governing party's poll numbers. And the preceding leadership race could keep Ms. James's name out of the headlines - similar to the effect Fight HST had on her media profile. Of course, there's some thinking the lack of attention will provide the opposition leader with an opportunity to get her house in order. But remember Ms. James hasn't taken advantage of similar opportunities in the past.

Of course, all of this is premised on a set election date in 2013. What are the chances of there being an election before then?

Here's what Mr. Campbell had to say about that last week: "We have legislation in place. I would be surprised if a new leader changed that. Our party brought that in. We think it's important." By contrast, Ms. James told The Vancouver Sun's Doug Ward she thinks Liberals will probably call a quick election after a leadership convention next spring. That being said, it's in her best interest to say so because that might get the New Democrats thinking they don't have enough time to find a replacement for her. But, then again, 24 hours's columnist Bill Tieleman also thinks there will be a snap election - and no one would mistake him for being a James supporter. So the long and short of it is we don't know whether the province's parties will be hitting the campaign trail before 2013.

2 Comments

I think the fixed election dates was one of the landmark changes to Canadian politics that Premier Campbell brought in. PMSH tried to do the same, but failed w/ a minority government facing an opposition hell-bent on obstructionist bullying. Ontarian Premier McGuinty did though buy into the reform as have other Premiers. It would be very sad if for political convienence a new Premier ditched that... after all people didn't vote for Gordon Campbell in 84 ridings, they voted for/against a BCLib candidate. Keep the BCLibs in until 2013 as promised!

The BC Conservatives do not need a federal type of Liberal to replace Campbell in order to experience a surge in membership. All they need is a Campbell replacement from the same group of cronies. This appears to be the most likely scenario with Falcon and Coleman being the leading candidates to replace Campbell.

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