Christy Clark’s suggestion that the next BC Liberal leader will need to get a “mandate” from BC voters through an early election shows she doesn’t understand our parliamentary system. And former attorney general and author of the fixed election date legislation Geoff Plant’s statement that the legislation did not anticipate the current situation is absurd.
Under the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy, we don’t elect our premiers – that’s the American system. In fact, Gordon Campbell received 10,838 votes of 21,411 votes cast in Point Grey. One could be generous and say that Campbell received 50% of the support in his electoral district but even that is not true. In Point Grey, 41,181 were eligible to vote so Campbell was the preferred person of only 26% of the people in one small area of this province.
Even if we are generous and count all votes for the BC Liberals as being a “vote” for the premier, that was only 757,661 votes of 1,640,542 cast out of a possible 2,995,465. Under whose arithmetic does the support of 46% of those who bothered to vote and 25% of those eligible to vote constitute a “mandate”? Certainly, those who voted for the BC NDP, BC Greens and others didn’t give Campbell or the BC Liberals a mandate.
The success of the anti-HST petition and the recall campaigns are a pretty strong indication that the people of BC don’t think the BC Liberals has a mandate. In fact, British Columbians are saying the Liberal government misinterpreted the results of the election and need to do things differently.
When he introduced the fixed election date law, Plant wanted the voters of BC not to be ’held hostage by the personal and political agenda of whichever premier was in office’. While the legislation does allow for earlier elections, if the next leader of the BC Liberals decides to call a vote prior to May 2013, it will only be because of his or her political agenda.
We all know that if the BC Liberals think they can win, they will go against their own legislation and call a snap election. The decision will depend on their assessment of the state of the NDP and whether the polls tell them the people of BC have bought the lie that somehow the BC Liberals are magically transformed under the new leader.
An early election has nothing to do with seeking a “mandate” for the new premier. If we go to the polls in 2011 or 2012, we will do so because the BC Liberals make be a cynical decision based on their lust for continued power and their belief that they can win.
Jane Sterk is the leader of the BC Green Party.