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)

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

The Millstone River in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Regional district looks at value of Nanaimo’s natural assets

Report focused on the Millstone River could inform future decisions on corporate asset management

Protesters gather along the Pearson Bridge on Terminal Avenue in downtown Nanaimo last month as part of an event called Worth More Standing. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: B.C. hasn’t managed forests properly

Protesters opposing logging in Fairy Creek speak for many British Columbians, say letter writers

Nanaimo singer Victoria Vaughn recently released an EP with local producer Austin Penner. (Photo courtesy Taylor Murray)
Nanaimo singer and recent VIU grad releases EP about becoming an adult

Victoria Vaughn’s ‘Growing Pains’ recorded with local producer Austin Penner

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has listed Harbour Air and Air Canada flights to and from Nanaimo, from April 3, 4 and 12, on its list of flights with COVID-19. (News Bulletin file)
COVID-19 cases reported for Air Canada, Harbour Air flights, says disease control centre

Nanaimo flights for April 3, 4 and 12 listed on BCCDC’s list of flights with COVID-19

Rebates through Clean B.C.’s Better Homes New Construction program are available, says the City of Nanaimo. (Vancouver Island University photo)
Energy-efficient home builds in Nanaimo eligible for up to $15K in rebates

All building permits issued on, or after, April 1, 2020 eligible, says City of Nanaimo

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Housing crunch or not, it’s illegal to live in an RV in Nanaimo

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Noel Brown, Snuneymuxw First Nation carver, observes the house post he carved, which now is situated in front of the Kw’umut Lelum centre on Centre Street in Nanaimo. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
House post representative of work of Kw’umut Lelum in Nanaimo

Snuneymuxw First Nation artist Noel Brown’s carved red cedar house post unveiled Friday, April 16

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Most Read