Top of Mind - June 6, 2011

How will the Liberals' and the New Democrats' caucus dynamics influence the chances of an early election?

British Columbians are evenly split on whether they want to go to the polls this year, according to the latest polling by Ipsos-Reid Corp.. Nevertheless, Christy Clark and Adrian Dix may need to - even if the corporations, unions and individuals who bankroll their parties can't afford it. Ms. Clark's caucus has yet to embrace her leadership, while New Democrat MLAs continue to be divided as a result of the infighting that resulted in the resignation of Mr. Dix's predecessor Carole James. But an election would provide an opportunity for each leader to replace legislators they see as troublemakers with loyalist candidates.

What role will British Columbia's ethnic communities play during the next provincial election?

Those communities will likely become more of a battleground than they have in the past due to the personalities now heading the province's two major parties.

As reported by The Georgia Straight's Charlie Smith, Mr. Dix "has been a student of diversity for many years," having won the New Democrat leadership with the support of those communities.

Mr. Smith's reportage was reinforced last week when Mr. Dix blasted the premier on the lack of diversity in her office during estimates debate. During a recent interview with The Vancouver Sun's Vaughn Palmer, the New Democrat leader also argued the mainstream media's decreased influence provides a "great opportunity" for his party to get its message out in other publications, specifically highlighting the increased influence of several newspapers including Sing Tao, Ming Pao and World Journal.

Chances are then that Mr. Dix believes he can make major inroads into British Columbia's ethnic communities during the next election. But Ms. Clark and her supporters are also well-known for having won political victories thanks to those communities. So Mr. Dix can expect a fight if he launches such a campaign.

What should we make of Mr. Dix's relationship with the media?

As the opposition critic for children and family development and later health, Mr. Dix was extremely skilled at advancing his issues in the media. But like many New Democrats, Mr. Dix appears to believe the mainstream media is biased against his party. Speaking on Voice of BC, he denied that perception - although he occasionally seems to read political motivations into reporters' questions and coverage. As such, it's perhaps fairest to say Mr. Dix has a conflicted relationship with the media.

That could prove problematic for the New Democrat leader, whose senior staff don't yet have a strong personal connection with the media - at least in comparison those who served under his predecessor Carole James. It's possible his new chief of staff Stephen Howard could change that. But if that doesn't happen, Mr. Dix could have a tough time mitigating negative coverage.

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