While the two major political parties garner most of the attention in this province, I wonder whether other parties and independent candidates will have a larger impact on May's election than anything we've seen recently.
Polls indicate there is a mobile bloc of "protest" voters who are upset at the B.C. Liberal government for a number of reasons, and are willing to consider alternatives.
The NDP seems to have attracted the highest number of disaffected B.C. Liberal supporters, but public opinion can evolve fairly quickly during an election campaign and it can head in unforeseen directions.
For example, during the 1991 election campaign the ruling Social Credit party fell apart in a very public way and the B.C. Liberals came out of nowhere to the point of almost winning the election itself.
Thousands of people deserted the Socreds but were unwilling to switch to the polar opposite NDP and settled on something else.
If the B.C. Liberals don't get their act together and win back a significant number of voters, I suspect the B.C. Conservative Party and in particular the Green Party will be the prime beneficiaries.
As well, there are four or five independent candidates who either stand a decent chance of winning or at the very least playing spoiler.
The independents are: Vicki Huntington (Delta South), Bob Simpson (Cariboo North), John van Dongen (Abbotsford South), Arthur Hadland (Peace River North) and Moe Gill (Abbotsford West).
It would appear that Huntington has the best chance of being elected, since she's already proven she can be elected as an Independent. I would rank Hadland, who took almost a third of the vote in 2009, as standing the next best chance of winning (he's campaigning partly on his opposition to the Site C dam project, which will stand him well with voters in the Peace River region).
I wouldn't count van Dongen out either. He'll be in a tight three or four way race where a relatively low vote count can prove victorious.
The Green Party may prove to be the most interesting group to watch. It is perfectly positioned to attract voters who are fed up with the B.C. Liberals but are not willing to throw their support behind the NDP.
The Greens are like a novelty act. There's no harm in voting for them even if you don't like their platform since they have no hope of forming government. A vote for the Greens can be a protest vote of sorts.
The Greens almost won a federal by-election recently in Victoria, which was supposed to be a cakewalk for the NDP. The party attracted support from the other three main federal parties.
In fact, the capital region is fertile ground for the Greens and it is where the party will likely post its strongest showing.
In Saanich North, the Green candidate is Adam Olsen, a popular local councillor and small businessman. The word is he has ex-B.C. Liberal political staffers volunteering for him, while the B.C. Liberals can't even find a candidate.
In Oak Bay-Gordon Head, noted climate change scientist Andrew Weaver is the star Green Party candidate.
In both ridings, a lot of votes would have to swing away from the B.C. Liberals and go to the Greens for either candidate to win, but it's certainly possible.
I'd be surprised if the B.C. Conservatives have the same potential attractiveness as the Greens. But in some pockets of the province the party will likely do better than it did in 2009, to the detriment of the B.C.
Liberals. Add it up, and there's a decent chance of anywhere from two to a half dozen seats going to someone not running for the NDP or the B.C. Liberals.
Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.
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