May 16, 2017

We voted for change—now what will it look like?

For once the pollsters were right—they all called for a close election finish, and that’s what the voters delivered. The experience of the 2013 provincial election must have made pollsters feel like a meteorologist who’s called for a sunny long weekend that’s then followed by rain. Well in this election, pollsters predicted a near-tie in party standings in the Legislature, and that’s where we are now.

While the final outcome of the 2017 provincial election isn’t going to be known for at least a few weeks, I want to extend my sincere thanks to every CUPE member who volunteered on a local campaign, every member that dug deep and was able to make a donation, and every member who supported John Horgan and the BC NDP in this election.

I also want to congratulate CUPE member Lisa Beare and CUPE national staff rep Rachna Singh, both of whom were elected MLA on May 9. I also congratulate CUPE members Sylvia Lindgren, Tracey O’Hara and Stephanie Goudie for running excellent campaigns. I fully expect we’ll hear those names again soon! And congratulations are in order as well for strong campaigns to our sisters from the HEU—Barb Nederpel and Nathalie Fletcher.  Finally, congratulations to former CUPE national president Judy Darcy for her re-election in New Westminster.

Delegates to CUPE BC’s last two conventions voted strongly in favour of maintaining our support for the BC NDP, as well as to make defeating Christy Clark’s Liberals and electing John Horgan as Premier a top priority for our union. Working with CUPE National, Locals and District Councils, we put together a comprehensive election campaign focused on our members. After all, the difference between victory and defeat in 2013 was just 6,000 votes across the province. We knew our members could make the difference in the outcome, and we produced communications and engagement materials that demonstrated why our union supports the BC NDP. We delivered more election training sessions than ever before, and I know from speaking with NDP candidates and campaign staff that the CUPE members who volunteered or worked on campaigns were incredibly valuable.

Christy Clark was sent a strong message on May 9—60 percent of voters want change. NDP candidates defeated BC Liberal cabinet ministers in four ridings—including North Vancouver, which has only once before been held by the NDP. What that change is going to look like will depend on the outcome of final election counts—and recounts—as well as which party Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver decides to support in the Legislature.

B.C. politics is always interesting, and this election outcome will be studied by political scientists for decades to come. While voter participation was up compared to 2013, a full 40 percent of eligible voters didn’t vote on May 9. I’m hopeful that the increased interest in our politics from this close election result will encourage more citizens to exercise their democratic rights.

After all, if you don’t vote, you don’t really have the right to complain about your government. Here’s to hoping we end up with a progressive government led by Premier John Horgan, with, if necessary, support from the Green Party. Christy Clark and the BC Liberals will do almost anything to cling to power, so it’s going to take a lot of work to demonstrate to Mr. Weaver and his two MLAs that a vote for “change” should result in just that, not more of the same.

We’ll know more about how our Legislature is going to look, and who will lead us into the next four years in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, thank you for your support and solidarity.

Paul Faoro is president of CUPE BC, British Columbia’s largest union, representing 85,000 workers delivering important public services in communities across the province.

COPE 491