At a wedding held this weekend in a spectacular fishing lodge on the outskirts of Agassiz, some of the chit-chat focused on two races currently underway – the Canucks’ quest for the cup and the outcome of the provincial byelection in Chilliwack-Hope.
This week will tell the tale on both issues, as the Canucks are certainly do-or-die at home on Wednesday … facing an almost impossible comeback, having to win four straight to advance to the next level.
The byelection, which will be decided on Thursday, is not so much about who will win, but which party will come in second.
Because it certainly appears from all observations that for the first time in its history, Chilliwack will have a left-wing MLA. Whoever finishes second may be the star in political ‘comebacks’.
The constituency, which at one time included Abbotsford, was one of the first Social Credit strongholds when in 1952 W.A.C. Bennett created a coalition of Liberals and Conservatives. Ken Kiernan won, and created the right-wing legacy that has prevailed until now.
The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) was an emerging political presence in the late 1940s and ’50s, eventually morphing into the NDP, which until now has never had a chance at electoral success in this part of the Fraser Valley.
The reason: the “right” has, since Kiernan’s day, been unified.
This week’s byelection has changed all that with the coalition formed by Bennett in the very early ’50s, now fragmented in Chilliwack.
And as they say in politics, frag the right and the left gets in, because no matter how vilified the NDP often is, the party always seems to maintain about a 37 per cent support ratio. Somewhat like poker, a 37 beats two 32s anytime!
While the good folks of Chilliwack-Hope may be shocked come Friday morning that they are now represented by an NDP MLA, it will not be the end of the world. What is disconcerting, however, is that the fragmentation of the current liberal/conservative coalition could put the government’s future at stake.
Therefore, whoever comes up second in this race may become the prognosticator of things to come. If it is the Conservative, then there is tremendous pressure on the governing party to stay together. If it is the BC Liberal, then there is some assurance that the current coalition will survive … and remain a force on British Columbia’s political scene.
What that latter scenario will do, however, is send a very clear message that splitting the right side of the vote will result in an NDP win, even in a clearly “conservative” riding.
Thus the mantra that will resonate over the next 12 months is that the right must stick together to fend off what is potentially an NDP government following the general election in 2013.
A similar situation in the always riotous political scene in B.C. occurred in 1972 when Dave Barrett catapulted the NDP to power over Bennett’s Socreds, helped immensely by a right-wing fragmentation driven by Dave Anderson of the B.C. Liberals and Derril Warren leading the B.C. Conservatives. That episode cost the Socreds the election, and ended forever W.A.C.’s premiership.
Son Bill, with certain help from dad, managed to reunite the right, regain government and hold it together until Bill Vander Zalm managed to shatter the coalition that resulted in Mike Harcourt and three other NDP premiers running the province for a decade ending in 2001.
So while many eyes will be glued to the television Wednesday night to see how the Canucks fare, there will certainly be as many, if not more, watching Thursday night’s election result.
Scoring, from all sides, hasn’t been this important for a long time, and the results of either contest, no matter which way they go, will have tremendous implications on the future of both the team and the province.