What a difference four years make. In 2015, the mantra was “Stop Harper” and the method was strategic voting. Progressive pied pipers rented halls and prodded left-leaning voters in the general direction of Justin Trudeau’s rejuvenated Liberal party.
It was understood that voting Liberal meant 2015 would be the last federal election held under the first-past-the-post system – didn’t Justin say it, with boldness and conviction? It meant major industrial projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would not be approved without “social licence” from local communities. It meant the Liberals would restore Canada’s progressive image abroad and do government differently, transparently, and with women taking lead roles in cabinet “because it’s 2015.”
Harper was of course stopped and the Liberals got a majority, with a historic breakthrough in B.C. In the sprawling West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding, the party cleaned up, taking almost 55 per cent of the vote while the NDP and Greens were knocked down to single digits.
What followed is a matter of record.
Electoral reform, so critical in securing Green votes, was booted to the curb.
Social licence was quietly revoked and the taxpayers shelled out $4.5 billion to buy Trans Mountain.
On the world stage, Justin’s star power faded into farce, with the India scrapbook being a picture-perfect example, though a mere sideshow to the economic head-stomping from China that continues.
And on the government-transparency and women-empowerment front, we got the SNC-Lavalin debacle, two top women cabinet ministers dumped from the party, the prime minister found by the ethics commissioner to have flagrantly violated the Conflict of Interest Act – and now the RCMP denied access to nine witnesses, making it more difficult for the Mounties to determine if criminal charges are warranted.
Make no mistake. Many voters will give the Liberals a pass on all of the above, frame the narrative of the past four years in an entirely different light, and vote Liberal again, seeing no better alternative among the other parties. That’s their prerogative. But as we saw in the last B.C. election, the party that wins only three seats can sometimes have more influence on government policy than the party that wins the largest number. Nothing is guaranteed, however.
We are now in an election campaign and there will be pressure to vote strategically to keep the other guy out. For some voters that will make sense, but those who still feel jaded and bamboozled from 2015 will hopefully have learned their lesson.
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Last week’s editorial about the NDP defections to the Greens in New Brunswick was dated before it even hit the street. That’s because five of the 14 former provincial NDP candidates swiftly denied they had defected and reaffirmed their loyalty to the party. Exactly how their names got on the declaration of support for the Greens in the first place; whether “strong-arm tactics” were used by the NDP to make them return to the fold, as Green Leader Elizabeth May claimed and the NDP vehemently contradicted; and whether any of it will matter in the slightest in the final seat count – those are details well beyond our reckoning. In the end, neither side came out looking like a winner, although NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh really does have to take a trip to New Brunswick one of these days. Perhaps Elizabeth May can show him around. She knows the province well and the Greens are all about co-operation.