Friday, February 25, 2011

Puzzling the pundits - can anyone predict who will be the next BC Liberal Premier? A survey of prognosticators

Premier Gordon Campbell celebrates escaping the wreckage of the BC Liberal leadership race, background
The BC Liberal leadership vote scheduled for Saturday February 26 is probably the most puzzling and perilous ever for pundits and prognosticators to predict.

If it even happens Saturday that is - as the PIN-GATE problem means thousands of BC Liberal members new and old may be disenfranchised because they haven't yet received their voting Personal Idenitification Number by mail! 

BC Liberal Party officials and leadership campaigns for contenders Christy Clark, Kevin Falcon, George Abbott and Mike de Jong are frantically meeting now to try to resolve the problem so the vote can proceed, possibly with extended hours or even days to complete.

And breaking news from the Globe and Mail - the vote will proceed Saturday!  But Intelivote Systems Inc., the Nova-Scotia-based electronic voting system company, still can't explain why PIN numbers mailed in Ottawa last Wednesday or Thursday had not yet arrived.

But for those of us in the political prediction business this is a total nightmare of complexity:  polling from both outside and campaign sources shows Christy Clark with the lead - even her competitors privately acknowledge that.

But the regional weighted vote adopted earlier this month at a special convention changes the game dramatically. 

5,000 members in a Surrey riding have the same 100 points as a 500 member riding in northern BC - and with 85 BC ridings, their are 8,500 points up for grab.  The winner needs 4,251 or more.

So, what are the prognosticators saying?

My good friend and veteran political handicapper Will McMartin in The Tyee goes where pundit angels fear to tread - almost - with this prediction:

"The second-round results, then: Falcon, 2,975; Clark, 2,825; and Abbott, 2,700. Incredibly, fewer than 300 votes could separate the top three candidates, and the one with the fewest will be dropped before the third and final tally.....Our choice(s) for the winner on Saturday, and next premier of British Columbia: either Kevin Falcon or George Abbott."

Hmmmm - McMartin previously fearlessly gave Abbott the best odds a few weeks back.

Bernard von Schulmann of The BC Iconoclast is a renewed BC Liberal member with lots of varied political experience.

Von Schulmann bravely goes further than McMartin - predicting a Kevin Falcon victory on Ballot 3:

"Third Count

Kevin Falcon - 4700
Christy Clark - 3800"

Global TV's veteran Victoria bureau chief Keith Baldrey has covered many a leadership race - he and I still fondly remember the incredible free food and drinks at the 1983 Conservative Party leadership battle where Brian Mulroney deposed Joe Clark in Ottawa.

Baldrey leans towards Clark but then hedges his bets in a Surrey Now column this week:

"Can Christy Clark be stopped from winning the B.C. Liberal party leadership? ....Clark can be tracking high in the polls, but if her team does not identify their supporters and get them to vote in sufficient numbers, the stage will be set for Abbott or Falcon to leapfrog her on the third count.

But I'm not betting against her (or on her either; the second-choice element makes things too unpredictable)."

Sacha Peter over at BC Election 2013 gives Kevin Falcon the win over Christy Clark, by 53% to 47%.

As for myself, this is one of the toughest challenges I've faced to predict.

I've had a hard time all along seeing how Christy Clark could win with just one lonely MLA from the caucus supporting her - Harry Bloy - but the polling numbers and fear in the other camps certainly has me second guessing that.  Clark's enormous federal Liberal Party connections - which she has lamely tried to deny or hide - could split the classic BC Liberal - and prior to that Social Credit - "free enterprise" or right wing alliance of federal Conservatives and federal Liberals by creating way too much Grit imbalance.

Already red-meat Tories like John Reynolds and others are warning that a Clark victory would lead to a provincial BC Conservative Party revival that would split the right's voters and let the NDP win the next election.  No one should underestimate how much animosity Clark's bashing of the Stephen Harper Conservative federal government on her CKNW show over that past few years has alienated that side of the family.

Kevin Falcon should be the overwhelming favourite if you look at the combination of his successes - majority of cabinet members supporting him plus lots of MLAs, the most money, the most business community support by a wide margin, the party establishment backing - it should translate into a no-brainer win.

But Falcon's negative polling numbers indicate a basic truth - he is an unrepentant, hard-edged right-winger who makes many voters uncomfortable.  And since winning elections is what this is about, Falcon has a problem.  And he is the Conservative "ying" to Clark's Liberal "yang" - the federal Liberal side has problems with Falcon's clear connections to the Harper government and its players in BC.

George Abbott could be the beneficiary of both Clark's and Falcon's problems - or he could be  left in the dust. Abbott has the advantage of the regional weighted vote and being a compromise without the strong federal Tory or Grit ties, plus being a much friendlier face to government than Gordon Campbell has been.  Is that enough?  Hard to say.

Then there's turnout.  There are over 90,000 members but it's doubtful anywhere near all of them will vote - but will the turnout be 60%?  40%? 

And will the 30,000 or so members who were in good standing prior to Campbell's resignation vote at a much higher percentage than the newbies signed up by the four camps?  Probably so.

Will dubious PIN Parties carry the day, where PIN numbers and names are given to the campaign so there is a 100% turnout of some mass or block signups?  It allegedly helped Gordon Campbell himself triumph over then-leader Gordon Wilson and challenger Gordon Gibson in 1993 - the last BC Liberal contest.

The company running the vote says it could restrict the number of votes coming from one computer or telephone number - but the BC Liberals have given no such instructions.  [The same issue will dog the NDP later during their vote.]

So, if you put the proverbial gun to my head and force me to predict, I'm going to narrow it down to Falcon or Abbott with errr, ummm, uhhhh - the new premier being....Kevin Falcon. 

But whatever you do, don't make any bets - there are three absolutely possible winners and I'm keeping my own political betting money in my pocket.

It will be a fascinating vote, whenever it takes place!

Stay tuned for more updates - and give me your predictions too!


My friend Stacey Robinsmith at makes his choice - and says George Abbott will come up the middle.  Plausible enough to me - we'll see later tonight..


Anonymous said...

As thousands of "real" BC Grits (especially in the rural areas) this afternoon scream with fury over not getting their Vote Pin Numbers, there is talk of delaying tomorrow's vote.

Queen Borat (aka Christy Clark) wants no delay since the current mess greatly favours her.

Some Grits accuse Queen Borat's supporters inside BC Liberal Executive Staff of purposely delaying the rural mailouts.

They say she is using the same ("We Only Cheat When We Can't Win") tactics she and her husband used as federal Liberals to get Paul Martin elected party leader seven years ago.


***Note intercepted TWEET from a gone postal party member earlier today . . .

Josef K | February 25, 2011 11:27 AM | Reply
The tweets out at #BCLibPIN have just begun to warn of missing PINs. It's the 911 line on Twitter to help people w/ their PINs for the vote.

We really need this info to get out w/ phone lines jamming, BCLibHQ staffed by the 2nd & 3rd string, and just total chaos. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Really, Bill...I'm not interested in predicting a pony show.
Listening to Mark Forsyth's noon show on the CBC radio today with a university prof. commenting on the possibilities; I was not really surprised that barely anyone phoned in to discuss the upcoming (short term) government leadership .
In fact there were comments about the BC Rail "bubbling "up in the background and Adrian Dix as a being an NDP favorite of one caller.
In short it seems, not too many people that I know are getting "excited" about this weekend.
Maybe to watch and see how they iron out their pin problem...
Other than that, I for one won't be glued to the TV.

Anonymous said...

Because of PIN-gate, the election won't happen, Gordo will remain in place, temporarily, and then he'll will change his mind and decide to stay. He's not gone yet!

Anonymous said...

Not Christy!


Neil Edmondson said...

There's an anecdote in The Secret Mulroney Tapes which goes something like this: prior to a constitutional conference Brian meets with Vander Zalm and opens with "Mr. Premier, would you agree that roughly two thirds of your campaign workers are federal Progressive Conservatives?" Vander Zalm agrees. Brian continues: "Good. I will tell them to stay home next election if we can't get a deal. Let's go have lunch."

It was interesting to see the 2/3rds figure quoted again recently, by John Reynolds if I recall correctly. Plus ca change. Reynolds is right, a lot of us are deeply put off by anything with the slightest whiff of LPC, and will strongly consider alternatives, whether BC First or BC Conservative or Refed or whatever, if Christy wins.

Bernard said...

My prediction is based on the information I have been able to gather and my personal experience in nomination races were sign ups matter.

That said, since I made the prediction various people with various campaigns have been telling me why I am wrong.

If, as some Clark people are telling me, Falcon really is not popular with the 35,000 existing members, I have developed another analysis.

I remain very skeptical because what firm information I can find does not back that outcome. I also have trouble believing that 41 MLAs have such limited traction in their own ridings that they would lose them to Christy Clark, a couple maybe, many of them? seems unlikely to me.

I stand by Kevin Falcon on the third count as what seems most likely based on the information I have access to - yes, I am hedging

Anonymous said...

Make it a habit vote for Abbott!!!
Abbott will be the next Liberal Premier

Anonymous said...

The only that can be said for sure is that de Jong will be gonged on the first round. I think if Abbott survives the second round he will win the third, if not then yeesh, so hard to say. As a non-voter who particularly dislikes typical Liberal attitudes, I can't imagine anyone voting for Falcon but their kind love him. I think they would be better off with Clark but they probably won't go there.

Abbott 43% chance
Falcon 30% chance
Clark 26% chance
de Jong 1% chance (well you never know)

If I can find any takers I'll put $20 on Abbott at 7-5 or better and $10 on Clark at 3-1 or better.

Skookum1 said...

Will dubious PIN Parties carry the day, where PIN numbers and names are given to the campaign so there is a 100% turnout of some mass or block signups? It allegedly helped Gordon Campbell himself triumph over then-leader Gordon Wilson and challenger Gordon Gibson in 1993 - the last BC Liberal contest.

Sinful, and Immoral. but then nothing the Campbellites have done isn't sinful and immoral.

"Robot voting".

BillnPat said...

The recent news of DeJong's folks supporting Abbott on second ballot should swing the balance his way. It will be Abbott on 2.

Anonymous said...

The BC Liberal Party Circus and Gong Show - all rolled up into one neat package !

Anonymous said...

If Christy Clark loses, at least her opponent won't have to appoint her to Cabinet...... unless she's really serious about being an MLA again.

Anonymous said...

Well i predicted last week that CHRISTY CLACK would be (instilled) not elected. I do not beleave we live in a democracy.BIG BUSINESS,MSM and OUR DECEIPTFUL GOVERNMENT could not possiblly risk the BC RAIL SCANDAL coming out.I realy wish George had of won,maybe we would have had atleast a partial INQUIRY. (DECEIPT BY DESIGN)??????