One week in, B.C.’s election still stuck in first gear

High popularity numbers, preparations by B.C. election officials and sabre-rattling by the premier are among the signs increasingly seen as pointing to a snap election in the fall, but one prominent expert warns not to read too much into the speculation.

You could be forgiven for thinking nothing happened in the first week of B.C.’s election campaign.

It’s not just that campaign events are shorter and with no audience. Or that everyone struggled to get into gear immediately after the snap election called by NDP Leader John Horgan on Monday.

The truth is, there have been no big campaign promises, no memorable moments, nothing to rouse a public into caring about an election nobody was particularly enthusiastic about in the first place.

Take Friday, for example: Horgan made a speech at an event the NDP advertised as “a housing announcement in Coquitlam,” but it featured no announcement, just a laundry list of things his government had done in the last three years.

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson held an event in Vancouver’s Yaletown neighbourhood, where he repeated the same concerns about community safety that he made in Maple Ridge on Thursday and Victoria on Wednesday.

But things will change a little bit next week.

More policies, no platforms

To start with, rather than rehashing talking points from the legislature, there will be actual policies announced.

The Green Party will begin releasing proposals centred around inequality. The Liberals will be unveiling some of its economic policies. And the NDP will begin to offer up some policies as well, along with breaking out of the Metro Vancouver bubble they’ve been campaigning in thus far.

Full platforms aren’t ready yet. Bet a few additional policy announcements will give the leaders more to say about what their government would look like, and should provoke more enthusiasm from party supporters.

And with some voters likely casting their ballots by mail in just a couple of weeks, it will give some guidance in an election campaign that so far has been mostly about the virtues of having an election campaign.

NDP’s unfocused message

That being said, the broad strokes of the campaign are somewhat known at this point.

Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau will stay mostly on Vancouver Island, criticizing the NDP for abandoning their agreement with her party and talking about the need to hold the NDP accountable.

Wilkinson will go to communities with concerns around crime and homelessness, talking about community safety and the economy.

“Problems are spilling out onto the streets and the housing problem is turning into a community problem,” he argued Friday.

“Community safety is a high priority for government and it needs to be properly addressed.”

As for Horgan?

So far, the message has been a bit all over the place — some focus on why an election is needed, some focus on why the Green Party (allegedly) stopped the NDP from doing all sorts of good things for the province, some focus on the accomplishments of the last three years.

It was only on Friday, after Wilkinson publicly reaffirmed he would end the speculation tax on homes vacant for more than six months of the year, that Horgan gave his most animated pitch of the campaign so far, contrasting his party against the BC Liberals.

“I believe the speculation and vacancy tax is successful, because it’s stressing people [who are] investing in housing to make profit, not buying housing to live,” he said.

“If Mr. Wilkinson wants to campaign on that, I think it just speaks clearly to where they want to go, and where we want to go.”

It will bear watching if Horgan makes that more of a focus of his speeches next week.

Election campaigns are rarely won or lost on week one. But the NDP’s path to a majority could be in jeopardy if every week looks like the first one.