Opposition parties wasted little time gearing up for the by-election expected this spring in the riding of Chilliwack-Hope.
On Friday Barry Penner said he would be leaving the legislature earlier than planned to take a position with a Vancouver law firm. (See story, front page.)
That leaves open a prime opportunity for both the BC Conservatives and the NDP to make gains in a traditionally Liberal territory.
Penner had already said he would not seek re-election when he announced his decision to step down as Attorney General several months ago. However, when it became clear Premier Christy Clark would not be calling an election until 2013, Penner decided not to wait.
BC Conservatives were quick to pounce. Party leader John Cummins promised Friday to run a high-profile candidate in the riding.
NDP Leader Adrian Dix, meanwhile, made clear that his party, too, hoped to make gains on the work done by Gwen O’Mahony, who finished second to Penner in the last election.
Both parties clearly sense an opportunity. Opposition parties tend to do well in by-elections. For one thing, the narrowed focus of the campaign allows them a larger stage for their platforms.
Secondly, voter turnout is usually lower than in a general election, and often draws the protest vote. It’s often seen as a chance to register dissatisfaction with the existing government without fear of actually bringing it down.
All these factors put additional pressure on local Liberals as they choose their next candidate for the riding. Currently only Diane Janzen has announced her intention to seek the nomination. It will be interesting to see if, given the changed landscape, others are so willing to join the fray.
Editor’s Note: Diane Janzen has since said she won’t be running for the nomination