With a provincial election looming this May and support for the B.C. Liberals falling, Premier Christy Clark was in Maple Ridge Tuesday afternoon to rally troops and pump Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton.
Clark urged local voters gathered at Thomas Haney secondary to put their support behind Dalton and the as-yet-unnamed Liberal candidate for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, chalking up her party’s waning support for having been “too boring.”
“I used to be in talk radio, and I can tell you this, low taxes, triple-A credit ratings, best full-time job creation record in the country: It’s boring,” she told the crowd. “We are too boring as a government and have been for the last 12 years.”
Among the local politicians in attendance were Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin, as well as Couns. Cheryl Ashlie, Mike Morden, Al Hogarth, Judy Dueck, and Bob Masse. Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school trustee Kathy Marshall was also in attendance, as was Pitt Meadows Coun. Doug Bing.
Clark’s appearance was prior to the high-profile departures of Liberal ministers Kevin Falcon, George Abbott, John Les, and Mary McNeil this week.
The local ridings are once again expected to be swing ridings in the next election, as Dalton won his riding by less than 100 votes in 2009, while Liberal candidate Ken Stewart lost by less than 300 votes in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows.
“It was tight last time, I expect it will be tight again in the future election,” said Dalton at the event, hosted by the local Liberal riding associations.
However, this time around, B.C. Liberals are fighting a two-front war, thanks to the emergence of John Cummins and his B.C. Conservative Party.
“A vote for the Conservatives is a vote for the NDP,” said Abbotsford-Mission Liberal MLA Randy Hawes. “All you are doing is making sure Adrian Dix is our next Premier.”
The Conservatives have managed to drive a wedge into the B.C. Liberals base of support, Dalton conceded, with right-leaning voters leaving the party in favor of Cummins’ Tories.
According to Angus Reid’s latest poll, released Aug. 3, the Liberals would have the support of 22 per cent of British Columbians in the event of an election, behind the NDP, with 49 per cent.
Meanwhile, the B.C. Conservatives now hold 19 per cent support provincially.
A little over a year ago, it was a much different story for the Liberals. In March of 2011, as Clark took over as premier, the Liberals enjoyed 43 per cent popular support, ahead of the NDP, with 38 per cent. The B.C. Conservatives, meanwhile, barely factored, with just five percent support.
According to Dalton, the most pressing issue for the B.C. Liberals is retaining their centre-right coalition, insisting that Conservative-leaning members have a strong voice within the party.
“I know what happens when there is that split,” said Dalton, himself a former Conservative Party of Canada candidate in the 2006 federal election. “That’s the only way the NDP gets on top, is when that centre-right vote gets split. If you look at the polls, you don’t really see a big climb in the NDP support.
“That’s why we have to keep that coalition together.”
Clark, herself, focused her attack on Adrian Dix and the NDP.
“They’re not just an obstacle to the B.C. Liberals’ success, they are an obstacle to the success of B.C. families,” she said. “We have the best full-time job creation record in Canada right now, that will all go up in smoke if we change from a free enterprise government.”
Hawes said the May election is the biggest fight the party has ever faced, and took the opportunity to fire a few jabs at outgoing Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows NDP MLA Mike Sather.
“We still scratch our head and wonder how did you elect Mike Sather?” said Hawes. “But If you look at the roster of the other side, I think you are going to find a whole bunch of Mike Sathers. I don’t understand how we could ever in this province allow a team of Mike Sathers to run our province and to entrust the future of our kids to a group like that.”