So why did the NDP lead in the polls evaporate?
Sure, the $17 million in taxpayers’ money spent promoting the Liberals was a factor, as were the negative ads.
From far away, I’d offer four more basic reasons.
Christy Clark and the Liberals ran a tidy campaign with a simple message. The Liberals, they said, would manage the economy better and protect jobs. They gave people something to vote for, in a vague and not particularly credible way.
They also ran gave people reasons not to vote for the NDP, arguing Adrian Dix was at best an unknown quantity and the party platform unclear. (And talking a lot of rubbish about the NDP as well.)
Adrian Dix and the New Democrats did not give people something to vote for. There was a platform, of course, and excellent positions on some issues, like banning corporate and union donations. But by the end of the campaign, the main message seemed to be that the New Democrats would be careful. That’s a laudable quality. But it’s not a substitute for a vision of what B.C. would be like in four years, or 10 years.
And the New Democrats failed to give people reasons not to vote for the Liberals. It’s welcome that the party pledged to avoid the kind of slimy attack ads that too often pollute politics. (Like the ones the Liberals used against Dix and Cummins.)
But it would have been completely legitimate to suggest that voters should be suspicious of the Liberal campaign, citing the example of the HST and the 2009 pre-election budget that turned out to be fiction. It would be just as legitimate to talk about the Basi-Virk payment, or growing secrecy, or attempts to limit the role of independent watchdogs like the auditor general and the representative for children and youth, or cronyism. Or the current budget, which falls somewhere between dubious and bogus.
Of course, everything is clear after the fact. And, as it said on a coffee mug a reporter gave me in my days as an editor, ‘Everything is easy for the man who doesn’t have to do it himself.’