Political scientist Hamish Telford is placing his bet — if he were a gambling man — on the BC Conservatives to win the upcoming byelection in Chilliwack-Hope.
“If the Conservatives don’t win, it suggests maybe the party is not ready for prime time,” Telford, head of UFV’s political science department, told The Progress last week.
He believes the “odds are stacked” against the BC Liberals holding the riding because of “broad dissatisfaction” among voters with the party’s performance in government, plus the very nature of byelections.
Voters tend to see these “mini-referendums” as a chance to send a message to government – without causing the government to fall, he said.
That’s an observation borne out by the 35 years that have passed since a B.C. government candidate won a byelection.
Telford said it would be “a huge upset” if the New Democrats were able to find a voting majority among the conservative residents in Chilliwack-Hope.
“If the NDP get Chilliwack, everything they say about vote-splitting will appear to be true,” he said.
But the division of conservative votes between the BC Liberals and the BC Conservatives “has to be exactly right,” he said, to give the NDP that magic majority.
“If the Liberals pull this out of the bag, it will be quite a shot of adrenalin for them,” he said.
Telford admitted this riding’s support of the BC Liberals government’s HST policy — while most of the province voted against keeping the tax — is “a good counterpoint” to his prediction of a BC Conservative win.
The NDP has a solid base of support in the riding, he said, but it’s not expected to grow while voters’ general dissatisfaction with the BC Liberal government and the “mini-referendum” nature of a byelection favours the BC Conservatives.
“I think there’s enough of a movement afoot … that (the BC Conservatives) might be able to pull it off,” he said.
Telford said he doesn’t expect a date for the byelection to be announced by the premier until a new budget is presented to the legislature, giving the party a high-profile platform for the campaign in Chilliwack-Hope.