Will BC Liberals hold hands after next Saturday's vote?
This is my 24 Hours column from this week...
The mood on the floor of the BC Liberal convention last weekend was friendly, but tense. But not nearly as tense as it will be the afternoon of February 26th when a vote will be taking place for a new leader.
Can party unity survive after the vote? It’s a good question.
At six p.m., an hour after voting ends, BC Liberal organizers promise to announce which candidate will be dropped off due to lack of votes. This is because party members voted overwhelmingly – ninety-eight percent in favour – to adopt a preferential ballot.
This means that all party members must mark their first choice, and a second choice. If a voter fails to select a second choice, the ballot is not counted.
Answer our poll question on who will win next Saturday!
The buzz circulating among party members is whether Christy Clark, the high-polling late entry to the contest, can get fifty-percent plus one on the first ballot. Observers I’ve spoken to – both Clark supporters and opponents – say that is not likely to happen.
If someone does not win outright on a first ballot, experience shows that a second or even a third place candidate stands a good chance of winning all the marbles.
In recent emails to party members, Clark’s campaign has made an appeal to put her as a second choice if they are already decided on Abbott, Falcon or De Jong. But my sources suggest that Clark is a highly unlikely number two pick, which narrows the field down to Abbott, De Jong and Falcon if Christy’s rumoured mass sign-ups and other members fail to come through for her.
Someone who just might pick up a lot of number two choices is Mike De Jong. The Matsqui, B.C. raised lawyer is perhaps the best political orator among all the leadership candidates. Mike is supported by his close friend Patty Sahota, a former MLA and well-known federal Liberal. This would help Christy’s large federal Liberal base warm to Mike.
Falcon and Abbott have been notably civil to each other during the campaign, which leads me to think they’ve got each other’s backs. Many Abbott fans will likely pick Kevin #2, and visa versa.
What has also been fascinating is the support from the current BC Liberal caucus the candidates have, or have not, picked up. Clark has only backbench MLA Harry Bloy on her side, and De Jong has no caucus support. Abbott and Falcon divide up all the rest, with most cabinet members siding with Kevin.
On Wednesday, leadership candidate Moira Stilwell ended her campaign and threw her relatively small base of votes and funding to George Abbott. It’s a good development for Abbott, but no one thinks it’s a game-changer.
As it stands there’s still no clear winner, and who will be the next Premier is a real nail-biter.
But on February 27th, everyone is going to have to kiss and make up fast if they want to beat the NDP.
UPDATE: Since this column ran last Thursday a couple of significant new developments, both involving Kevin Falcon. On Friday Minister of Finance, Health & Deputy Premier Colin Hansen endorsed Falcon. While many in the public equate Hansen with the HST mess, he's regarded as a public official with extremely high integrity. His choice is pretty significant among the BC Liberal rank and file.
Secondly, the BC NDP went on the attack against Falcon, singling him out for a website called www.falconkidding.me. It's not surprising, given the fact that Falcon has heaped more scorn on BC's left wing party in recent years than most members of the legislature, with the possible exception of Mike De Jong.
It will be a very interesting week, folks. My sincere best wishes to all candidates during these final days.
- post by Mike