Who Really Won? Reality vs. Rhetoric

By: Justin P. Goodrich, LL. M.

Let me be honest with you… I hate math.  To my core, I absolutely hate math.  For some reason, I just don’t get numbers.  Don’t get me wrong… I can read financial statements and understand the fundamentals.  But actually doing calculations – not my thing!

However, I think what irritates me most about math is that for something that is theoretically so black-and-white, it is actually rather subjective with respect to its applications.  The best example of this is the recent provincial election and the question – who actually won?

One would think the answer is clear – the BC Liberals.  They had more seats (43) and more votes (796,672) than either the NDP (41 / 795,106) or the Greens (3 / 332,387).  Done! Questioned answered!!  However, as we all know, the answer isn’t actually that simple.

In the days after the election an entire narrative began emerging around how with approximately 59% of British Columbian’s voting for either the NDP or the Green’s, the BC Liberals didn’t ‘actually’ win.  That’s where things become problematic for me.

The BC Liberals won – that’s a mathematical fact.  However, the rhetoric would have you believe that somehow this win isn’t legitimate because more people voted, collectively, for the other two parties.  The thing is, that’s democracy and – for the time being, given we use a ‘first-past-the-post’ system – it means that a party does not require a majority to form government.

Now, on the other end of the spectrum is the rhetoric taking place that because the BC Liberals won the election, the NPD and the Green’s – by way of their strategic alliance – have somehow ‘stolen’ government.  Believe me, this drives me equally as crazy.

Though this argument is not rooted in math, it’s also not rooted in anything other than emotion.  Indeed, the very same system that allows for minority governments also allows parties to work collectively; something that can result in a change in government.  That is not ‘stealing’. Thus, one cannot use the system to claim victory only day, only to claim theft the next.

For The Record…

Though I have never been passive about my political affiliations – municipally, provincially or federally – I have always tried to provide a balanced approach as a political commentator; inclusive, at times, of being critical of the very parties I belong to (something that has on more than one occasion caused me some personal and professional drama).  However, believing in the importance of evidence-based decision making, and as someone who believes strongly in our system of government, I really don’t have a problem with how thing unfolded.

Would I have preferred the BC Liberals stayed in power?  You bet.  Indeed, every piece of data I have reviewed over the past two decades proves to me that the BC Liberals not only did a better job handling the economy than the NDP ever did, but that they actually made greater investments addressing key social justice issues (healthcare, housing, etc.) than the NDP did during their previous tenure.  This, in fact, brings me to my closing thoughts…

Though I often get frustrated with the rhetoric associated with politics, and though nothing drives me crazier than when people make decisions based on ‘emotions’ rather than ‘evidence’ (i.e., I don’t like Christy Clark, so I’m not voting for the BC Liberals even if………), the things that makes me most upset is how politics has become progressively more ugly.

Do I have a problem with the NDP platform?  You bet.  To my core I fundamentally disagree with their approach to governing.  I believe their vision is short-sighted, and though it may help some people in the short-term it lacks long-term stability for all British Columbian’s.  However, do I have a problem with NPD’ers as individuals?  Not at all.  Why?  Because at the end of the day they are not the ‘enemy’, they are the ‘opposition’.  They are not ‘bad people’, they just have ‘different ideas’.  To that end, if perhaps we spent more time arguing the merits of a position, and less time engaged in unnecessarily harsh rhetoric, perhaps we might be able to change the political discourse of our province?

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