BC United – formerly the BC Liberals – was left licking its wounds on Saturday after finishing fourth in the by-election for Langford–Juan de Fuca, the riding of former premier John Horgan.
Predictably, the riding went to the NDP’s Ravi Parmar who received Horgan’s endorsement, resulting in a 53.3% sweep for the ruling party.
However, political observers were shocked to see the recently rebranded Conservative Party of British Columbia’s candidate, local realtor and carpenter Mike Harris, place second with 19.9% of the vote.
Although it was the first time the Conservatives ran a candidate in the riding, they came out ahead of the Green Party – the former second place holders in 2020.
Green Party candidate Camille Currie came out with 17.6% at the end of the evening while the BC United candidate Elena Lawson only received 8.6%.
According to Harris, his Conservative campaign received the edge over BC United’s because of the party’s “vague mushy middle platitudes.”
“Our message resonated. Instead of vague mushy middle platitudes, we took issues head on, like scrapping the carbon tax, hiring back healthcare workers and building a commuter rail in Langford,” Harris told True North.
“Voters aren’t looking for a candidate and issues built by a committee of consultants, they want authenticity. I offered that to the voters and it’s why I believe the right and centre right chose me over BC United. It’s why I think this is the canary in the coal mine for next year.”
BC United Leader Kevin Falcon himself had also called for a lifting of the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers in the lead-up to the election.
When True North contacted BC United for comment on Saturday’s results, Communications Manager Zoe Frankcom pointed to Falcon’s weekend statement in which he claims that the party’s decision to change its name came with a price
“When we changed our party name just two months ago, we knew that it would take time for voters to learn who we were and that we’d likely pay a price for having a relatively unknown brand in the pending by-elections,” wrote Falcon.
“That was a price we were prepared to pay in order to immediately get started on building our new brand identity and connecting with people in every corner of the province.”
However, the by-election results for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant showed a better performance for BC United, placing second behind the NDP – where the Conservative’s Karin Litzcke received 4.9% and came in fourth.
Sources close to the party who wish to stay anonymous told True North that there is a lack of acknowledgement in the significance of the loss from the leader and confusion about BC United’s strategic branding.
“As a party, we have nothing further to add. We did expect these results given both ridings are historically NDP strongholds and our very recent name-change,” Frankcom re-iterated to True North.
The shocking second-place result for the BC Conservatives is the latest in a trend of successes for the party which a few years ago was only considered a fringe alternative remnant from the province’s annals of history (the last time the party had any real influence provincially was during a coalition in the 1940s.)
The party currently has one representative in the Legislature, its current leader and former BC Liberal MLA John Rustad who crossed to join the party in February, shortly after he was kicked out of his former party’s caucus by Falcon over controversial climate change comments.
Following Harris’ performance, Rustad pledged to “run (a) full slate” of candidates and to “unite the right” in the upcoming provincial election next year.
In fact, the BC Conservatives have run candidates in every by-election for the past year, with a gain in their results in nearly every single riding they contested.
They first ran BC Conservative candidate Dallas Brodie in Vancouver–Quilchena last April, which is now Falcon’s riding. At that time, Brodie came out with 6.6% of the vote.
That performance was followed by fielding BC Conservative candidate Harman Bhangu in the Surrey South byelection in September 2022 where he received 12.7% of the vote ahead of Green Party’s Simran Sarai. The riding was won by then-BC Liberal’s Elenore Sturko.
Besides Falcon’s statement on Saturday, reactions from BC United have been virtually non-existent.