NDP has a mandate to ‘fight the damn pandemic’ after projected election win, political science profs say

UBC political science professors predicted it. After a media panel this morning with professors discussing the precarious position of the BC Liberals after last weekend’s election, party leader Andrew Wilkinson stepped down this afternoon.

This morning, Professors Gerald Baier, Richard Johnston, Allan Tupper and Kathryn Harrison debated the trajectory of BC political parties in a panel moderated by Heidi Tworek, an associate professor at the UBC School of Public Policy and Global Affairs and department of history.

“The Liberal party has a lot of issues here,” Tupper said, summing up a majority of the conversation around the party.

In this election, Harrison said that the Liberals lost their normal talking point of attacking the NDP on the economy due to the government’s spending on pandemic recovery.

“All the parties are throwing money at the electorate and at the business community so what’s traditionally been an advantage of the Liberal Party during a time of economic crisis has evaporated in this one,” she said.

The panellists also noted the importance of social conservatism in the BC Liberals’ big loss.

Notably, Jane Thornthwaite of North Vancouver-Seymour lost her seat this election, likely in part due to her sexist comments about Bowinn Ma, the BC NDP candidate for North Vancouver-Lonsdale.

This may have affected the party as a whole, Baier said.

“In the Lower Mainland … people were turned off by the slowness of Andrew Wilkinson to respond to gender issues or respond to LGBTQ issues, and that hurt them in play,” Baier said.

As for the Green Party, Harrison said that traditionally “green” concerns have gone more mainstream, which she said “contributed to the survival” of the party in this election.

Tupper surmised that some of the NDP’s logic behind this election was “in effect to get rid of the Greens,” and noted that Greens’ 16 per cent of the vote leaves them as a significant player in the province.

As for the path forward for the Greens, Harrison said there may be a problem if the party is just a “greener version of the NDP.”

“If so, their success is going to depend on whether the NDP loses the trust of those environmentally concerned voters, whether the Greens can maintain visibility and hold them to account going forward.”

Baier explored where the NDP might go from here after gaining fairly widespread support in this election, questioning if they would go more to the left to align with progressive ideals of activists in the party, or stick to the centre.

But to Johnston, the election wasn’t much more than a referendum on how the NDP has handled COVID-19.

“This [election] is not really a mandate for much, [besides] to fight the damn pandemic,” he said.