VICTORIA — It’s still six months before British Columbians go to the polls, but the unofficial start of the election campaign is expected to get underway Friday as the Liberal party gathers in Vancouver.
Up to 1,300 people are registered to attend a three-day convention, which is being billed as the party’s largest team-building exercise before it seeks a fifth consecutive victory in May.
Campaign strategy adviser Jim Messina, who helped both U.S. President Barack Obama and former British prime minister David Cameron win second terms, has been hired as the keynote speaker to rally the grassroots.
“With six months to go, we are better prepared than ever before,” party spokeswoman Jillian Stead said. “We know that campaigns matter and as the clock ticks to May 9, 2017, we know this is going to be a really tough one.”
Part of the election readiness plan includes getting candidates nominated early and out into their ridings, Stead said. So far, the Liberals have named 60 of 87 candidates, she added.
British Columbia’s top-performing economy compared to the rest of Canada and the current budget surplus forecast of almost $2 billion will be widely discussed at the convention among candidates and delegates, Stead said.
“We do really need to stick to our free enterprise plan of controlling spending and creating growth and opportunity,” Stead said.
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Michael Prince, a public-policy expert at the University of Victoria, said B.C.’s growing economy gives the party and its candidates confidence, he said.
“This is a government now that is in a pretty solid and admirable financial position,” he said. “I think they are going into this feeling very good about what they’ve been doing.”
Prince said he expects the government to start spending its surplus dollars in the coming months and for Finance Minister Mike de Jong to deliver a “classic-pre-election budget” in February.
“He’ll say, ‘We’ve made the sacrifices,'” Prince said. “‘We all deserve a group hug. And the purse strings will be loosened, in a responsible way of course.'”
But the Liberals should be cautious about their promises of a secure tomorrow because many British Columbians are insecure about their current financial status, let alone what the future holds, Prince said.
“If we mean by that financial security or a sense of confidence in one’s own personal security, socially, economically, financially, that’s where I would think the New Democrats might want to focus their attentions,” Prince said.
NDP Leader John Horgan said he’s not overly concerned about the Liberals racing to nominate candidates before the election.
“It’s insignificant,” he said.
“I’ve been laying out campaign planks over the past number of weeks and we’ll have a comprehensive, costed platform going into the next campaign.”
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
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