Vote-splitting on the centre-right has always allowed the NDP to form government.
In B.C., we have some of the highest small-business and investment rates in Canada. Individuals are willing to take on risk, put in lots of hard work, and start building a better future for themselves and their families.
But this free-enterprise character is more than having the second-highest rate of small business ownership in the country. It's also how this province votes. British Columbia has consistently elected free-enterprise governments since the dawn of time – also known as the 1952 election of W.A.C. Bennett as premier.
Since that electoral contest, the centre right coalition has come out on top when united around a single brand – whether it was Social Credit or BC Liberal. There were only three times that the coalition failed: 1972, 1991 and 1996. And those three times the coalition was fractured with two – and even three – parties competing for the centre-right vote.
Unless something happens very quickly, 2013 will be added to the list. The recent byelection in Chilliwack-Hope showed this in stark relief: overwhelming 58 per cent support for the free-enterprise candidates but an NDP victory with 41 per cent of the vote. In next year's general election, we may see these results writ large.
With a divided centre-right, it doesn't matter what the numbers are, since the NDP end up far ahead and in control of the legislature and provincial policy.
The stakes in this are higher than political wins. The outcome impacts employers and employees across the province. B.C.'s status as a great place to invest will be gone when the NDP throws out the tax regime. B.C. will lose the private-sector investments that support jobs, the balanced-budget plan and government investments in infrastructure projects like the Port Mann Bridge and the Pacific Gateway – projects that build our economy.
If the B.C. Liberals and Conservatives started talking about how to unite rather than split the vote in B.C., they'd simply be catching up with the conversation that is already happening across the B.C. pro-free enterprise community. Everybody is talking about it and wondering what's required to get the parties to stop competing and start co-operating.
Where could it start? By focusing on similarities rather than the differences:
- support for balanced budgets;
- taxation and regulation that encourage investment and job creation;
- building infrastructure that seizes the power of trade.
These are the places to start. If it is about a name or label, then change it.
When it comes to the family-owned construction companies that build British Columbia, our focus is on the free-enterprise policies, not the labels. They could call it the Upside-down Ferris Wheel Party and people would support it as long as its key policy was building our economy together.
Together, the B.C. Liberals and the B.C. Conservatives have the support of the majority of British Columbians. The voters of this province want a free-enterprise government. Failure to deliver one will fail more than the parties – it will fail the province and leave all of us paying for that failure.
- post by Philip Hochstein