On May 14, 2013, British Columbians re-elected the Clark government, defying the expectations and predictions of pollsters, pundits and this author alike. This work was published in August 2012 in anticipation of that election.
Premier Christy Clark's dramatic come-from-behind victory over Adrian Dix and the NDP shows that many of the problems plaguing the BC Liberal government were ultimately not material to its re-election chances.
Yet the thrust of this book remains relevant to the goal of better government. At the heart of the matter is the point of power, the need for change, and British Columbians' desire for strong leadership that can restore public trust and confidence. The election results suggest that many voters are hoping that Premier Clark and her new team in government can provide that leadership.
Better and more responsive government demands new ways of governing and institutional reforms that can elevate political discourse, strengthen political accountability and promote informed decision-making. All parties need to reach out across the political spectrum to invite new relationships, new dialogue and new understanding that builds social license for their visions and actions.
This work argues for a more positive political culture in British Columbia that is more constructive and respectful of voters' democratic choices, and that is less partisan, ideological and polarized. British Columbia's private sector leaders can play a key role in leading that effort by helping governments to advance their visions, as they also insist upon a higher standard of political conduct.
More emphasis needs to be placed on the purposes that power is intended to serve, on the specific mandates that governments are given through elections, and on the importance of building and maintaining public support for the means used to advance those ends.
Strong leadership is key to that endeavour, as discussed in an analysis of the HST debacle in British Columbia and in a critique of the Clark government's evolving position on the proposed oil sands pipeline projects in advance of the 2013 election. Those projects and British Columbia's relationships with Alberta and with other governments will continue to challenge the BC Liberals in the years ahead.
Drawing upon his extensive experience in B.C. politics and government, the author reflects upon the diminishing relevance of ideology in shaping voter choices; the shifting nature of coalitions in British Columbia's multi-party system; the myths about vote-splitting; and the issue of party brands and branding.
Ultimately, this work is an argument for a new way of governing and for new forms of political engagement that better respect voters’ democratic choices, that appreciate the fluid nature of coalitions, that value critical thought, and that emphasize innovation, vision and open, honest discourse.