Local politicians weigh in on byelection results

With the news that the NDP had captured two byelection victories this past Thursday, local politicians had their say on the significance.

With the news that the NDP had captured two byelection victories in traditionally Liberal ridings this past Thursday, Columbia-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald and BC Liberal candidate nominee Doug Clovechok weighed in on the potential significance for each of their parties.

“I’m very pleased of course,” Macdonald told The Echo Friday. “We had two very good candidates and I know they each worked very hard.”

In the Chilliwack-Hope riding, the NDPs’ Gwen O’Mahony won with about 41 per cent of the popular vote, while the Liberal and Conservative candidates combined for about 58 per cent. In Port Moody-Coquitlam, former mayor Joe Trasolini came away with about 54 per cent of the vote, compared to 45 per cent combined for the Conservative and Liberal candidates. Both NDP victories came in ridings that have been won by the Liberals in the last three provincial elections.

“I think that there is no question — you see it here in the riding, you see it in the polling and you see it across the province — people are tired of the BC Liberals and are ready to vote them out,” Macdonald said. “In Port Moody and in Chilliwack people took the opportunity to send a very clear message that they want change, and I think that’s reflected in the province as a whole.”

For his part, Clovechok points out that byelections rarely favour the current government, and that he thinks in the absence of a split vote in Chilliwack, that the Liberals would have easily claimed victory.

“All the candidates need to be congratulated, but what I would say to O’Mahony is, ‘don’t get too comfortable,'” Clovechok said. “When you do the math between the BC Liberals and the Conservatives, we carried about 57 per cent of the popular vote, which would have won soundly.”

As each of the two ridings have been traditionally Liberal seats, Macdonald says that this confirms that there are no “safe” Liberal seats in the province any longer. He also feels the two victories speak highly of the work B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix has done over the last few years.

“I think this confirms what people know, that the B.C. Liberals and Christy Clark are really on their last legs,” Macdonald said. “There is a lot of time left before the next election, so really the expectations British Columbians have is that any party that’s going to be putting themselves forward, such as the NDP to be the next government, they have to prove that they are going to work for British Columbians and that they have to prove that they have the capacity and the confidence to provide a good government moving forward.”

Meanwhile, Clovechok says he he has recently received the endorsement and personal support of MP David Wilks as well as former federal Liberal candidate Betty Aitchison. He says that while the recent results are concerning, he doesn’t feel it’s time to push the panic button.

“Overall, I think this has showed in the Chilliwack riding that the split vote is disastrous… had this been an election without a third party we would have an MLA in power (in Chilliwack),” Clovechok said. “As far as our riding is concerned, we don’t anticipate to see a Conservative candidate here, and I can safely tell you that [Macdonald] will not see a split vote here.”

Clovechok adds that he fully expects the Liberals to retake the Chilliwack riding come May 2013, although he expects the Port Moody to be much tougher to reclaim due to the popularity of former mayor Joe Trasolini.

“I think it would be arrogant to say that this isn’t concerning… but in byelections… the government usually doesn’t win, and if you look statistically at the next election, the governments that have lost those byelections usually re-win those seats,” Clovechok said. “I think that a lot of voters will have said, ‘we need to send the government a message because we’re really not pleased with some of the things that have happened,’ and we have a year to fix that. I think that come elections in May 2013, I think British Columbians will understand why they voted the NDP out in 2000, and that’s because [the BC Liberals] create jobs and we create opportunities for the economy to grow.”

While both candidates admit that they each have lots of work left to do in the following year, Macdonald gave an insight that both he and Clovechok would likely share.

“I think in politics you always have to temper your expectations with the reality that things can change very quickly,” he said. “You have to constantly be working to do the best that you can.”