B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a campaign stop in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, September 22, 2020. A provincial election will be held on October 24. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a campaign stop in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, September 22, 2020. A provincial election will be held on October 24. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

As B.C.’s opposition scrambles to get together a campaign what will span only just over a month, a University of B.C. professor says the Liberals may have a hard time differentiating themselves in the short few weeks before the election.

Two political science professors at the University of B.C., said the focus on COVID-19 could make for a challenging campaign for BC Liberals Leader Andrew Wilkinson, who came hot out of the gate saying that NDP Leader John Horgan chose “politics over people” just hours after the writ dropped Monday (Sept. 21) morning for the Oct. 24 election.

“We do not need the cynical, self-serving, selfish move by the NDP to trigger an election right now,” Wilkinson said.

But Gerald Baier, an associate professor at UBC, said that strategy won’t work for long.

“At some point they have to change gears, too. They have to say ‘this is an unnecessary election but you have to vote us in, not the other guys.’”

During his press conference, Wilkinson laid what voters can expect to see from the Liberals: ” A plan to deal with the need for more employment, a plan to bring jobs to British Columbia, a plan to build the economy and bring investment.”

READ MORE: In snap election, Horgan must prove COVID-19 track record to cynical voters

Richard Johnston, a professor emeritus at UBC, agreed the Liberals won’t win points for long by focusing on how unnecessary the snap election may be. Instead, they’ll have to focus on the issues, which may largely involve poking holes in the NDP’s COVID response plan.

“It’ll be interesting to see if the Liberals have anything to say about the plight of the restaurant business. Will they be responsive to the demands for moving the liquor availability back to midnight?

Johnston said. “On the other hand, if they do that they may just get hammered as being irresponsible.”

Johnston said the argument about how tackle COVID is more about “the means than the ends,” making it harder to spell out how they differ from the NDP than in pre-pandemic times.

It’s unclear how much focusing on the economy will help Wilkinson at a time when signs of a second wave appear to be on the horizon.

“There’s a high tolerance for debt right now because interest rates are low and we know we need to do something,” Baier said. “This could be this ideal time for this kind of ideological argument that the NDP makes.”

Wilkinson, who Johnston dubbed “the missing man in B.C. politics” in recent months, did wade into social issues in his speech Monday, saying Liberals will have a plan to deal with the “nightmare of drug addiction that’s dominating our streets these…. a plan to make it easier for moms and dads to work when they have kids and a plan to build and secure housing all over British Columbia.”

None of the parties have released platforms so far.

READ MORE: B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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