Battlefield: Columbia River-Revelstoke

John Devitt
John Devitt

On Tuesday, May 14, 2013, British Columbians will go to the polls and determine the next provincial government.  It may seem a long way off still, but if you have been reading the news at all in the past eight months, you will notice the campaign machine has already begun marching.  And, as revealed recently, marching not just across British Columbia, but also into the oily Albertan heart of darkness.

It’s widely reported that Columbia River-Revelstoke Liberal candidate Doug Clovechok was the beneficiary of a $125-per-plate election fundraising dinner in Calgary a couple of weeks ago.  The private function, hosted by prominent Andy Crooks, a Calgary lawyer and staunch Conservative/Harper supporter, was designed to build support within the BC Liberal party for Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.  Albertans are understandably nervous of an NDP and Adrian Dix election win.  Dix has been vocal in his non-approval of the Enbridge proposal and this has Albertans and Conservatives worried.  Fear of an NDP government is enough to have Conservatives support Liberals.  That sound you hear could be your head exploding.

Nowhere is this fear of an NDP government greater than in the riding of Columbia River-Revelstoke.  Our current MLA, Norm Macdonald, an NDP-er himself, has held the riding by a wide margin since 2005 and looks poised to retain his seat in the upcoming election.  In fact, apart from a four-year term by Liberal Wendy McMahon from 2001-2005, this riding has been staunchly NDP since 1991.

As the heart of British Columbia’s ski tourism and a strong region for forestry in the province, the Columbia River-Revelstoke riding is a key piece of territory for governments to hold.  Many believe most of the power is held in the Lower Mainland, and they are generally right.  However, the economic benefits of our region should not be understated.  The BC Liberal Party recognizes the importance of this riding to their overall strategy and has spent significant dollars on candidates here before.  In 2005 it is estimated the BC Liberal Party outspent the NDP by a margin of 3:1 to a total of $93,950 to elect their candidate.  Similarly, in 2009, it is estimated that $120,550 was spent on Mark McKee’s BC Liberal campaign compared to the $39,287 Norm Macdonald spent on his NDP reelection campaign.  (

Out-of-province fundraising by political parties is anything but new.  However, the brazenness of taking monies from out of province oil executives whose sole purpose is to drum up support for the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline is… innovative.  Todd Mitchell, president and fundraising chairman of the riding’s BC Liberal Party asserts this event was simply a gesture by concerned neighbours.   Nevertheless it was clearly reported by the Financial Times, the Globe and Mail, the CBC, the Vancouver Sun and the Calgary Herald that this was a private function organized and attended by those with strong connections to the Alberta Conservative party and the oil & gas industry.  One of whom was Murray Edwards, chairman of Canadian National Resources Ltd, which has huge interests in the Tar Sands.  Doesn’t sound like the type of neighbour that drops by with a casserole and no ulterior motive.

A key election and platform issue is the aforementioned Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.  On one side is Christy Clark, willing to have the pipeline cross our province provided the ‘rental agreement’ is suitable.  On the other side, Adrian Dix, who is strongly opposed to the pipeline regardless of how much money ultimately lines provincial pockets.  With the promise of campaign dollars from those who benefit most from the pipeline, provided they are reelected, the BC Liberals could presumably become willing puppets for Alberta’s private industry.

However, that reelection appears to be a lofty goal at this stage of the game.  The latest opinion poll by Angus Reid indicates the NDP remain 15 points ahead of the BC Liberals with 46% support from provincial voters (  Christy Clark and her minions have been experiencing a steady decline in polling numbers for some time and so the hotly contested riding of Columbia River-Revelstoke will be the perfect battlefield to try to gain traction, even if that requires some shady fundraising tactics.

These tactics are just more in a line of potentially damaging gaffes that the Liberals make as time wears on.  Voters are still reeling from the bait and switch the Liberals pulled with the HST in the 2009 election.  Others chafe when it’s pointed out that Premier Christy Clark was not elected by the people, but by her own political party.  Clark has struggled to appeal to women voters while snubbing and alienating male voters.  The discrimination tactic of restricting male voters from meeting their premier as reported by the Revelstoke Current, National Post and Vernon Morning Star, was widely panned and seen as gender-biased politics more conducive to the 1950s than the 21st century.  It was also parodied to great effect by the National Coalition of Men, which took a story on the issue by The Province (since removed) and presented it through a more racist perspective.

Voters are skeptical of the Liberals and their track record of the past few years, so fundraising in Alberta is understandably met with alarm.  With the election still/only 15 weeks away, time will tell how much of an impact this has on electing Doug Clovechok or Norm MacDonald in the battle for Columbia River-Revelstoke.

Further Reading:

Liberals Fundraising in Alberta

The Revelstoke Current

Financial Times

CBC News

Globe and Mail

Calgary Herald

Vancouver Sun

The Tyee

Gender Bias by BC Liberal Leader Christy Clark

The Revelstoke Current

The National Post

Vernon Morning Star

A Voice for Men (a great article parodying an article in The Province on the gender-biased meetings Christy Clark held throughout British Columbia)