BC Liberals focus on economy after third victory
Published Sunday, September 13, 2009 12:27PM PDT Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 7:53PM PDT
Delivering his first speech since his three-peat provincial election victory, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell says there's lots of work ahead for him and all of it will happen at once.
Campbell gave a news conference in Vancouver after beating out the opposition New Democrats, winning or leading in 49 provincial seats.
Staying true to his campaign promises, the premier says reviving the economy will be key to success in B.C., but his government will broaden its focus.
"We will not let them down. We will build small business, build jobs and economic opportunities in every corner of this province," Campbell told supporters.
The premier says the success of B.C. is dependent on pulling the province out of the worldwide economic downturn.
"The economy rests on the certainty that we can create with aboriginal people. The health-care system rests on the strength of the economy, our education system will actually generate economic opportunities but it requires a strong economy to be able to invest in it," he said.
Throughout the campaign, the Liberals repeatedly warned voters against taking a chance on a new government during the deep economic malaise.
Campbell expressed confidence that the goals in his budget were possible.
"I am still confident, I haven't had any briefings from any of our finance people that say to me at this point that we're not going to be able to accomplish the goals we set," he said Wednesday.
The election, which had been an extremely close horse race between NDP Leader Carole James and Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell, decided who will lead the province through the 2010 Olympics and a worldwide economic downturn.
The NDP, with Carole James remaining at the helm, will continue to be the official provincial opposition after winning 36 seats.
"I think it's clear the economy was an issue and people felt they wanted somebody with experience who'd been in the premier's position already," she told reporters on Tuesday night.
A tight horse race
The fight for votes was fierce in some key provincial battleground ridings, including the Vancouver suburb of Delta South, where B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal declared victory.
The latest figures show Oppal beat out independent candidate Vicki Huntington by a mere two votes. At one point Oppal, who now says a recount is certain, led by a single vote.
Elections BC says there were 54 spoiled ballots in the riding, something Huntington wants to be closely examined.
At dissolution there were 34 New Democrats and 45 Liberals in the B.C. Legislature. With an increase of six ridings in the 2009 election, the NDP and Liberals both gained three seats.
Rocking a victory
To the tune of the Bryan Adams hit "Can't stop this thing we started," Campbell delivered his acceptance speech Tuesday night at party headquarters at the new Convention Centre in downtown Vancouver.
"It is critically important to find a way to learn from one another and that's the way we're going to build the future for British Columbia and all the people who live here," Campbell said, speaking alongside his wife Nancy.
The premier addressed bridging the gaps existing in Aboriginal relations and said his party would try hard to help those suffering in the ailing forestry sector.
He said running for a third-term was inspired by his grandchild, and promised unprecedented strength for the province during the 2010 Olympics.
"In just eight months the world's eyes will be on us and the Olympic torch will go through our streets. It will not only light up our athletes, but the opportunities of British Columbia and welcome people into our home."
"This is the best place to live with the best people and the best opportunities. We will all get a gold medal."
The end of the race
Giving her concession speech from NDP headquarters in Victoria Tuesday night, Carole James thanked campaign supporters and volunteers, calling them the "unsung heroes" of democracy.
"There is no better measure of a citizen then standing up for what you believe in," James said.
The opposition leader said she offered her support for Gordon Campbell over the phone.
"I assured him the NDP will work for the betterment of the province we are so proud to call home," James said.
"The results are not what we have hoped for, but we will be well supported by the New Democrats that have been elected tonight. Neither the Liberals nor the NDP have a monopoly in the hearts and minds of British Columbians. Government decisions must not favour one group because everyone matters in this province."
James did not plan a news conference Wednesday. Her staff said she wanted to reflect on the election outcome.
Brad Zubyk, a former NDP insider who has been critical of James in the past, said she "barely met expectations" because the party failed to inspire new voters.
But he also said the party has a history of sticking with leaders through thick and thin and James's second loss to Campbell may not be reason enough for the party to push her out.
Green Party Leader Jane Sterk also watched from Victoria. Her party, the only other to run a full slate of candidates, failed to elect any seats into the B.C. legislature. Sterk was defeated by NDP candidate Maurine Karagianis in the riding of Esquimalt-Royal Roads.
"I'm feeling fine," Sterk told CTV.
"The Green Party is building to success in 2013. It has to happen if we want to tackle the big issues and I think it'll be a breakthrough for us."
The party's best hope to win a seat in the legislature was likely the Single Transferable Vote (STV) electoral reform proposal, voted down Tuesday.
The vote could have made B.C. the first Canadian jurisdiction to adopt STV, which allows for more proportional representation than the first-past-the-post system.
The system was narrowly defeated in the 2005 election.
The 28-day provincial election campaign was a strenuous one for the three main party candidates.
Gordon Campbell often asserted the dominance of his reigning party by stating its "proven economic record," pointing to himself as the best person to steer B.C. through tough economic times.
He called the May 12 election "the most important decision of a generation" for voters.
The New Democrats, repeating the mantra "eight years is enough," tried to entice voters by promising better conditions for seniors, health care and education.
"It has been eight years of arrogant and out-of-touch decisions by the Campbell Liberals," James said.
"The future of our province is at stake in this election."
The NDP also promised to axe the carbon tax, a move heavily criticized by environmentalists who normally supported the party.
With files from The Canadian Press