Is that panic in their eyes?

I checked out the Globe’s on-line discussion of the Point Grey by-election yesterday and was struck by how much the two local reporters resembled their federal colleagues during the recent federal campaign.

Basically, they didn’t have a clue what was going on.

Here’s how Globe reporter Rod Mickleburg kicked things off.  “Easy pickings”, Mickelburg typed, “for the Premier, methinks….”

A little ways into it, following an exchange with fellow scribe Justine Hunter, Mickleburg began to show doubts as he typed “gosh, maybe i’m thinking it’s a slam dunk for Christy when it’s really more of a three-pointer, so to speak.”

Turned out it was a three-pointer.

All the hype, all the announcements, all the last minute attack ads and leaflets and BC Liberal GOTV and all the sitting premier got was a 500 vote win in a seat she should have taken in a cakewalk.

What’s that about?

First of all it’s about the great disconnect between those who chronicle our thoughts and actions and… well… most of the rest of us.

It’s my belief that for many reasons – not enough reporters, smaller news holes, news organization bias – journalists get too caught up talking to politicians while forgetting it’s the public who elects them, leading to a disconnect with the real lives of people.

Take this by-election.  Story after story about Clark the waitress, Clark the people person and Clark the change magnet.  You have to admit Clark’s spin dominated the news.

There was nothing about Clark the Campbell legacy inheritor, Clark the education cutter or Clark the children and families cutter.  Even less about the HST or the superficiality of the change she’s pretending to represent.  Yet it is a lingering and broad general doubt about the Liberal record that seems to underlie yesterday’s narrow result.

Yesterday, Justine Hunter pointed to the debate issue as Eby’s big score in the campaign.   But that’s just not right.  Clark’s refusal to debate is an issue about the political game.  It’s not about people.

My take on the by-election is that a lot more people than the media gave credit to are tired of the BC Liberals and their general approach to government, no matter what name they paste onto the leadership.  People have lost trust that the BC Liberals will govern for them.  And it will take a whole lot more than a photo op in a cafeteria to change that perception.

Enough people in Point Grey felt this way to turn a cakewalk into a near disaster for the government.

There is no evidence that it was one particular issue – although the HST seems to me to symbolize everything you can’t trust in this government – but rather a general desire for change.

Put another way, the BC Liberals got a bit of a bump from the leadership change, but the honeymoon is over.

People are looking for substantive change, a real change of direction, not just a new, nicer, smooth talking head.  If Adrian Dix and the NDP can deliver that in a clear, concrete way, while showing that Clark represents change in name only the coming provincial election may be as interesting and transformative as the recent federal election.


Two more things:  the green vote collapsed last night in Point Grey – one of the greener ridings in BC.  That’s got to send shivers down the Liberal’s backs.

And the 19 point advantage Clark held over Dix – touted by just about every media source after the election of Dix – has apparently disappeared.

Or worse.  Maybe it never mattered because it’s not about personality right now.  That’s really got to worry the folks over in the Premier’s office.  Because all they’ve got is personality.

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8 Responses to Is that panic in their eyes?

  1. RossK says:

    What’s most amazing to me is that these people just sit around and spew whatever comes into their head instead of trying to actually handicap things based on real data.

    I mean, didn’t any of them hound the pols involved to see some polling data – especially when the Clark camp suddenly went negative? Wasn’t that a signal to them? Weren’t they even paying attention?

    Two questions for you Ian….The thing was neck and neck (maybe even an actual numerical tie) after 128 ballots according to Andrea Woo who was following things (and actually doing real reporting on her Twitter feed) from the Eby headquarters last night….Then suddenly, out of nowhere there was the huge swing for Clark

    Question 1: If this swing was geographic it sure would be interesting to see where it came from….Given that, why can’t Chad Skelton get the poll-by-poll breakdowns from E-BC?

    Question 2: Have the advances actually been counted (press reports differ)? And if so, would they have been counted at the end as was telegraphed by the Glimmer Twins from CCaucus on TwitFeeds last night)?

    Sorry three questions (first one may be rhetorical)

  2. RossK says:

    Sorry, here is the link to CSkelton’s VSun blog post.


  3. Ian says:

    Good questions RK. Now my experience in Pt. Grey is over 20 years old but I did manage the largest win seen in the constit in ’91… The swing could very well be geographic – waterfront polls, some of the polls along 16th, the west Point Grey polls, all could have delivered large majorities that tipped the balance.

    Tsakumis has some very interesting poll by poll observations on his web site – Hampton Court up at UBC won by Eby! That suggest some unusual numbers, which can’t be ruled out in a by-election. My bet is the advance polls delivered for Clark and provided her with the margin. The guy who ran eday for the Liberals is very good and must have paid attention to the advance.

    I’m not surprised Klassen was there tweeting. He’s part of Hansen’s political organization – the press should ask him where his money comes from, I’d bet anything he’s getting tipped for contracts from his good buddy Colin. The advances were likely counted first but added at the end. That is not at all unusual but the weird way they were reported – 138 of 134 polls! – is.

    I have to say what is happening over at Elections BC under James is a travesty. He has been a one man credibility wrecking team for Elections BC. And no matter what the truth is, election results are now open to questioning and dispute. Releasing the poll by poll results in September or so is an unbelievably stupid decision if the goal is confidence in the results.

  4. RossK says:

    Thanks Ian…Whole lotta ‘tenants’ in Hampton Court paying off the mortgages of astronauts – and they pay attention those young kids/families. How does AT have the poll-by-poll breakdowns when Chad Skelton can’t get them out of E-BC? What you said about the advances does make sense…My guess is that they packed ’em to give themselves a cushion….You can just imagine the tension as they waited for them to come in.

  5. Annie says:

    Now that the Federal and by-elections are over, maybe we’ll see a reliable poll to show us just where British Columbians are at. Because the chattering classes were clearly out of touch with what was going on in Point-Grey. Christy thinks she can bring in the spackle and a few cosmetic changes and hopes we won’t notice the rats and the dry rot.
    I don’t think British Columbians will be fooled.

  6. Dennis says:

    Brilliant analysis and writing!

  7. RossK says:


    That’s the thing…..It would appear that they are doing their best to keep us from knowing even known knowns…..


  8. Rod Smelser says:

    I was surprised that Clark prevailed in the end, her campaign was so shabby. She and Hansen can honestly say they did everything humanly possible to lose.

    It may have been fear that won the race for Clark. A not unfounded and far from unreasonable fear that if Point Grey voters repudiated the governing Coalition’s candidate the district and its institutions would be punished. Perhaps the NDP should have spread the rumour that Falcon and the rest would be delighted to re-open the leadership spot and be grateful as hell to any group of voters who helped out in that regard.

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