It must be unpleasant for Terry Lake and Todd Stone to watch their beloved Liberal party shredding its own viscera and, thereby, their chances of being a part of the next government.
For months, there’s been a theory that our two Kamloops ridings might prove exceptions to the norm — the norm being that Kamloops votes with the winning team.
There was even a blip of hope in late January, when an Angus Reid poll suggested the Liberals were a little less unpopular in the Interior than elsewhere.
Alas, that blip soon faded from the radar. There was that strange $15-million taxpayer-funded government advertising campaign. There was the undaunted jester, Kevin Krueger, trying to fall on the sword of his excessive verbiage for the good of the party (Kevin, you’re so much better than that).
The budget was unveiled, and nobody but the Liberals thought they deserved applause for merely balancing the books. By the time it passed second reading on Tuesday, it had become the Budget That Nobody Cares About.
And now, Ethnicgate, as it was inevitably to be called.
In the weeks prior, Lake and Stone were maintaining an upbeat, even energetic outlook.
Lake, always articulate and forceful, was competently carrying on his difficult role as environment minister though the party remained in the dumper. Stone was doing the right things, showing up at events and tweeting away about how fine the Liberals were.
The tweeting is suddenly much subdued, and the comments are cautious. “No one is perfect, no government is perfect, we certainly don’t claim to be perfect,” Lake told a reporter, stating the obvious.
“No blood on the floor in the government store,” Krueger remarked, his usual bombast and defiance gone, after a caucus meeting. Christy Clark was “betrayed,” he said. She’s “the hardest working premier I know,” Lake said.
The pundits predict a bloodbath in May, with the NDP taking as many as 70 seats. Hopes for a Liberal last stand in the Interior are gone.
But can’t a guy like Terry Lake, former mayor of Kamloops and a pretty strong cabinet minister, do the impossible?
The numbers aren’t good. He won Kamloops-North Thompson in 2009 by a scant 510 votes against a decidedly weak NDP campaign. For the past year, the Liberals have trailed far behind the NDP in every poll (I know, pollsters make mistakes, but whether it be Angus Reid, Ekos, Mustel, you name it, they’re consistent), ranging between the low 20s and low 30s in popular support, while the Horde has been in the 40-50 percent range.
One of those pundits surmised just a couple of weeks ago that the likelihood of the Liberals improving on their chances is low “unless something drastic happens.”
Well, it just did, except not in the way they wanted.
A vote swing of 256 votes would defeat Lake. When your party is behind by 15 or 20 points, and beset by one bad news day after another, holding on ain’t easy.
Stone, on the other hand, is an unknown quantity, literally — voters don’t know him. Maybe they’ll forgive him the political sins of his party, maybe they won’t.
Right now, they aren’t in a forgiving mood.