EDITORIAL: Do candidates need to be nasty?

About a month before the provincial election of 2013, then-NDP Leader Adrian Dix was confident he was going to be occupying the premier’s chair after the votes were counted.

The polls certainly indicated that was the likely result.

The polls were wrong and the NDP faced another four years in opposition.

During the unofficial de-briefings at coffee shops all over the province, many NDP supporters questionned their party’s tactics in 2013. Some said they were too nice — the B.C. Liberals were often on the attack in that election, but Dix did his level best to stay out of the mud.

As admirable a strategy that may have been, it didn’t work. Or perhaps the B.C. Liberal attack ads that year had little or nothing to do with the result. What is true, whether it was related to the eventual vote count or not, was the NDP tried to be nice and lost. We all knew that was going to change next time around.

Fast forward to present day, and both parties are slinging mud. We are doing our best to keep the attacks out of our news stories about real issues, like forestry’s future (last week) and health care on the North Island (today’s paper).

However, we find ourselves wondering who all this nastiness appeals to, because high-paid campaign strategists are clearly directing the campaigns to hit hard and personal.

From ‘Say-Anything-John’ to ‘Christy Clark’s rich friends,’ we are being bombarded with ads and comments that seem to shy away from the nuts and bolts of governance. It’s like both parties are treating all voters like dummies.

“Don’t bother with solid numbers, evidence or positive, forward-looking vision,” the backroom strategists must be saying to party leaders. “Just stick with name-calling and attacks.”

It’s kind of insulting.

If you thought this mud-slinging strategy was limited to the party leaders, the TV ads out of party headquarters and the quick quotes of the day from Christy Clark and John Horgan, you are mistaken.

Now, we have to say the people running for the two major parties on the North Island seem genuine and, frankly, nice people who care about the land and people of their region.

But there it was Monday, an email missive from North Island B.C. Liberal candidate Dallas Smith, entitled Whose Side is Claire Trevena On?

Without getting into details, suffice to say the release from Smith looked a lot like a fill-in-the-blanks release from party headquarters. It spoke about a union president who donated big-time to the NDP and last week took part in an event where U.S. President Donald Trump attacked Canadian dairy, energy and forestry workers. “We know why Horgan stood by his union donors, but whose side is Claire Trevena on?” Smith was quoted as saying in the release.

We scrambled to get a response from Trevena. She was going to take the high road, right? Not so much.

“Given the realities of the B.C. Liberals financing, Dallas Smith’s complaint about Leo Gerard’s donations to the BC NDP are ridiculous,” she said. “Dallas Smith had a big fundraiser in the elite Terminal Club in Vancouver. He wasn’t nominated as the B.C. Liberal candidate in North Island. He was anointed by Clark who herself has raised huge sums in political donations in cozy meetings with rich, B.C. Liberal donors.”

Did we mention they are both really nice people?

— Editorial by John Harding

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