Somewhere in the ballpark of $50 million has poured into the Central Okanagan this month from the provincial government.
Funding of various projects being announced just weeks before the writ is dropped on a new provincial election isn’t a surprise.
“It’s a well worn practice in Canadian politics, in all provincial and federal elections, going back to confederation,” said Hamish Telford, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of the Fraser Valley.
Budgets, both federal and provincial, seem to even be shaped around it.
Telford said that one of the criticisms of the federal budget that was released Wednesday was that it would do very little in the short term, but the taps would turn on right before the 2019 election.
The last provincial budget was also a lot less cautious than it could have been, likely reflective of the upcoming election.
“Just before we go to the polls, we’re running the biggest surplus in years and are able to put money into things they have resisted steadfastly for four years,” said Telford.
“This was deliberately planned. If (the finance minister) had his druthers he would have put it into debt reduction, but others in the party likely put pressure on him.”
It’s a strategy that pays off at times, said Telford, but it also can backfire.
“People feel they are being bribed with their own money,” he said.
He also pointed out that the voter should view these announcements with a jaundiced eye.
“One of the newer practices is to repeat announcements,” he said. “They hold a photo op and a press conference and announce they will spend x-many dollars and it’s already been announced in the past.”
Despite these practices highlighting less than forthright tendencies of governments, Telford said he thinks it’s unlikely the province is heading into a “change election.”
“Very often you get that sense that the electorate is fed up with the government and believe it’s time for a change,” he said.
That feeling was palpable in the lead up to the 2013 election. The BC Liberals were 20 points behind and mired in scandal, said Telford. Then as the campaign got underway in earnest the leader of the BC NDP, Adrian Dix floundered, Premier Christy Clark shone and she won the election.
Right now, however, the BC Liberals seem popular and the Greens and NDP are both doing fine.
That the two left leaning parties are in that position may be the most telling of what’s to come.
“The NDP has only won when the centre right has been divided into two parties,” he said.
“Right now the Liberals are united. Where we are seeing fracturing is on the centre left with the Greens and NDP … If the Greens start to tank, it’s a sign that the electorate is taking the NDP seriously.”