For a few days I've been mulling over the results of the Quadra bye-election. Quadra has been dubbed a "slip" by the Liberals - by the political talking heads... A failure of Mr. Dion. It's pretty easy for them to say that, sitting in Ottawa and Toronto, and Calgary, and Montreal... not knowing a shred of what goes on out here.
Let's take another look at Quadra. It has been a Liberal stronghold for years. Joyce Murray is a strong candidate with good profile in the community. People in Metro Vancouver are more likely to vote for a socially and fiscally liberal (small l) platform and candidate than for a conservative one.
So what went wrong? Well maybe we should ask, what didn't. Take a Conservative riding in Alberta. Look at the recent provincial campaign in that conservative bastion. There were many areas where Liberals came close to unseating a sitting conservative MLA, or cut deeply into their vote total. What happened there? Well, the very same MEDIA TALKING HEADS said, "oh, the Conservative voters were so convinced their side was going to win, that they stayed home. Too much to do, so why spend a couple of hours going to vote? No... it wasn't a "Liberal surge". I mean, c'mon, it's a conservative province... Big city folks have soooo much other stuff to do. Not enough time for a vote, when you know it's going to be a pre-determined conclusion.
So Quadra, then. The talking heads and the Cons would love to paint this bye-election (and keep in mind, it WAS a bye-election) as something more than it was. The Conservative team simply pulled more vote. Many Liberals would have stayed home. Perhaps a lack of motivation (I'm sure that had something to do with it), perhaps a "sense of security". At any rate, all the pre-election polling in the world couldn't predict this result. People can tell pollsters what their voting intentions are until they're blue in the face (or red), but it means nothing until they're in the polling station casting that ballot. This is very true of general elections. It's even more the case in bye-elections.
So, why wouldn't any so-called "expert" mention this also highly logical conclusion for the Quadra result? I guess it's because these are the same "experts" who want to ignore the results in Toronto (even more suburban TO), and ignore the larger margins the Liberals won by there. When you're trying to make a case for the "Western strength" of the Reform movement, you need to make blanket statements. Forget that the "West" includes northern ridings which hardly EVER go Conservative. Forget that the "West" includes cities like Winnipeg and Vancouver which typically do not vote Conservative.
So there IS a simple explanation for what happened on Monday: Liberals were highly organized in the two Toronto ridings. Having just come off leadership campaigns, the two Liberal candidates had large numbers of volunteers still spoiling for leadership runs. These volunteers have a vested interest in those candidates, and will be pretty close to them - right up to the next leadership contest, and beyond. It was harder for Joyce to bring in such a "ready for battle" crowd. Add to that the "guaranteed seat" status of the riding, and it made it doubly hard to bring out the workers. Most of us old "hacks" out here know this. We've seen this when organizing campaigns... It's hard to get even loyal supporters out, when people feel the campaign is a foregone conclusion. When your candidate is new, and is replacing a VERY popular MP, it also makes it tough.
So what to make of this win? Oh... did I say "win"? Sorry, I must have meant to say something else. What's that? Oh, it was a win? Well then maybe let's just call it that. I remember my old high school football coach telling us that if we got asked about why we didn't put up 30+ points on a certain opponent, to tell them to look up at the scoreboard. So we say to the "talking heads", the detractors, and our Con friends: TAKE A LOOK AT THE SCOREBOARD.
What this bye-election HAS DONE for the Liberal Party, is give us a good jolt, and it will encourage a more aggressive approach to BC policy. It will ensure that Joyce spends a LOT of time getting ready for the next campaign. This bye-election has given the Liberal Party a fair shot at ensuring success in the months to come. Joyce Murray will be a great addition to the house. She will be a great addition to the Party. Her mere presence in the House will help her consolidate broader support in the riding.
Oh yeah... one other thing: Conservative corruption and scandal continues to build and be noticed. We're not going to stop talking about it. This will result in more voters coming back to the Liberal fold. There are a lot of regular voters who voted Liberal from 93 to 2000, who jumped to the Harper-Cons when the Liberals were falsely accused of corruption (due to the actions of a few civil servants and low-level folks who just happened to be party members). These voters are PROGRESSIVES at heart. They will return. It's just a matter of when. If the NDP is smart, they'll get on the Conservative corruption theme too. To "out-oppose" the official opposition... if they wish to supplant us, their best bet is to be better at our game. Not to attack us. Jack probably learned that this past Monday. If he hasn't, the NDP is in a little bit of trouble...