Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau wave as they go on stage at Liberal election headquarters in Montreal, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Analysis: B.C. shone bright for major parties in 2019 federal election

A post-mortem following the Black Press Media series on B.C.’s role in the Oct. 21 vote

By Bruce Cameron

Handwringing over the federal election outcome began in earnest before the votes were fully counted on the West Coast.

Commentators from Central Canada reminded viewers of the serious regional divides exposed by the results, with the Bloc Quebecois gaining ground and the governing Liberals being shutting out across Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Yet in more than seven hours of live coverage, the most glaring omission was how little was said about B.C., which was a relative bright spot: multi-party federalism is alive and well in this province.

Conservatives “ran the table” in the Prairies, but in B.C., all four major national parties claimed victories.

The Conservatives increased their seat count to 17. The Liberals did enough to retain government, as this series predicted, capturing 11 ridings. Even the NDP, thought to be on the verge of a national collapse when the campaign began, captured 11 seats on the West Coast. And although the Greens again failed to break through as they were hoping, they won two seats on Vancouver Island.

Unlike Liberal cabinet ministers defeated elsewhere in Western Canada, several prominent Liberals won in B.C. Minister of Public Services Carla Qualtrough won in Delta; Fisheries and Oceans Minster Jonathan Wilkinson won in North Vancouver; and Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan won in Vancouver South.

B.C. is likely to play a prominent role in the minority government, but some tensions will remain.

Independent candidate Jody Wilson-Raybould won her seat in Vancouver Granville, ensuring that the damaging SNC-Lavalin affair will not fade away quietly.

And one of the most sensitive dividing lines in Canada – whether to build or block oil pipelines to the coast – is well reflected in the final vote: Liberal Terry Beech, who broke ranks with the PM over the Trans Mountain pipeline, won his seat in Burnaby North–Seymour, while pipeline opponents for the Greens and NDP won in coastal communities.

According to recent polling data, just over half of British Columbians support building the Trans Mountain expansion, particularly those living in suburban and interior ridings represented by a mix of Liberals and Conservatives.

But on the coast, the electoral map is green and orange.

‘Issue-by-issue parliament’: Liberals need to placate NDP to be effective, expert says

Keeping the Liberal minority government viable may be tricky because of the pipeline issue, but the real impediment keeping the Greens and NDP from defeating the minority is a lack of funds and energy to run another campaign so soon after this one.

If the Conservatives ever hope to win government again, they will need to re-evaluate their opposition to climate change actions to appeal to more urban voters.

A case in point is the Lower Mainland, where Liberal policies will have a decidedly B.C. focus, from investments in regional transit infrastructure, to implementing a carbon tax, and balancing resource extraction and reduction of emissions.

While B.C. is definitely a bright spot in an otherwise challenging electoral outcome, the scope of the challenges ahead should not be underestimated. The “sunny ways” Trudeau talked about back in 2015 have definitely become cloudier.

ELECTION 2019: Here are the results from our 12 B.C. races to watch

With such a mixed result nationally, it is not surprising that there will be a reckoning for all parties.

The Conservatives must re-consider some strategic decisions they made in the 2019 campaign. Their American-style attack ads fell short of the mark, and despite leader Andrew Scheer’s defiant tone on election night, questions about whether he can ever defeat Trudeau will grow louder in the months ahead, especially if Trudeau regains some of the momentum he lost this year.

The NDP and Greens also have some reckoning to do. Elizabeth May has led the Greens for 13 year now, and rumours of a leadership change before the next election are growing. Although Jagmeet Singh celebrated on Oct. 21 as if his party had won Official Opposition status, the much-anticipated “Singh surge” was more of a ripple, sufficient to retain some seats, but not enough to boost his leadership position.

And Trudeau will have the tallest order of all. Having retained power despite self-inflicted wounds, he will need to deftly manage the many regional tensions this outcome exposes. That includes rising separatist sentiment in Quebec and Alberta, disappointment among Indigenous communities over insufficient action, and a battle over simultaneously increasing energy exports while decreasing carbon emissions.

Perhaps the most enduring image was the unprecedented scene of all three major party leaders speaking over each other in their televised post-result speeches, rather than waiting for each to speak in turn, as is customary.

KEEP READING: Election results means more tax for foreign buyers, little change on mortgages

The speeches, bombarding the audience as in during a food fight in a cafeteria, signalled that our political leaders failed to absorb a critical message from voters: Canada needs less empty campaign rhetoric and more humility to overcome the challenges we face as a nation.

Bruce Cameron, Black Press Media’s polling analyst, is the founder of Return On Insight. Follow him on Twitter @roitweets

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Second Vernon-area high school exposed to COVID-19

Kalamalka Secondary School staff, students urged to self-isolate if showing symptoms

Significant snowfall forecast for Interior mountain passes

Allison Pass, the Okanagan Connector, Rogers Pass and Kootenay Pass could see 15 to 25 cm of snow

COVID-19: Changes at Knox Mountain, Canyon Falls, park washrooms in Kelowna

Park washrooms open with extra cleaning on April 1; Knox Mountain Drive, Canyon Falls remain closed

What to expect for Central Okanagan schools in light of COVID-19

For the first week after spring break, March 30 to April 3, schools will not be open to students

District of Lake Country lauds residents staying active while distancing

Lake Country residents getting fresh air and exercise while physically distancing

Trudeau announces 75% wage subsidy for small businesses amid COVID-19

This is up from the previously announced 10 per cent wage subsidy

UPDATE: Coronavirus concerns prompt event cancellations across the Okanagan

This is a running list of events cancelled across the Okanagan

World update, 9:30 p.m. March 27: Positive news in Korea as U.S. hits 100,000 cases

The United States now has the most coronavirus in the world

VIDEO: Penguins roam empty halls of Vancouver Aquarium

COVID-19 has forced the Vancouver Aquarium to close access to guests – leaving room for its residents

Kids get back to learning in B.C., online

Ministry of Education rolls out new tool for school

67 more B.C. COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Vancouver region

Positive tests found in Surrey, Langley long-term care facilities

‘Now is not the time to bag that peak’: BCSAR manager discourages risky outdoor adventures

Call volumes are not going down, even as the COVID-19 pandemic persists

Food Banks BC already seeing surge in demand due to COVID-19 pandemic

Executive director Laura Lansink said they expect applications will keep increasing

Nanaimo couple caught aboard cruise ship with four dead and COVID-19 present

Four ‘older guests’ have died on Holland America’s Zaandam; cruise line confirms two COVID-19 cases

Most Read