BC Libertarian Party Makes Progress

Clayton Welwood, Leader

By all measures, a major success!

To understand what a huge advance this election was for us, we need to put things in perspective. A year ago, the BC Libertarian Party had only a couple dozen members, no leader, an inactive outdated website, no regular communication with supporters, and only a couple thousand dollars in the bank account. In the 2013 election, we ran 8 candidates, and got a total of 2050 votes (0.1% of the popular vote). Though that put us in 5th place, we were still very much a minor regional party in terms of our influence. The high-water mark in terms of number of candidates was 1996 when we ran 17 candidates under Ken Wiebe’s leadership.

Fast forward to October 2016, and we had an engaged board of ten directors (a good mix of veterans and new blood), a Party Leader and Deputy, an active presence on social media, and the goal of running 25 candidates in the election. At that point, that still seemed like a tall order, but when we got our new website up in January and started making connections with people on Facebook, things really picked up steam. My model for a revitalized provincial party was the Ontario Libertarian Party, and the advice of Allen Small and Rob Brooks has been instrumental in our transformation.

We managed to get 30 candidates on the ballot, but there were nearly twice that many who expressed some interest in running. So we beat our main measure of success by a large margin, and feel confident that we'll be able to run candidates in at least 2 thirds of BC's ridings next election. And number of candidates is the most important metric at this point, because it's the best way we can demonstrate that our ideas are reaching larger audiences. We surely did that--our post reach on Facebook hit 22,000 the week of the election, and over 600,000 voters saw the name Libertarian on the ballot. This reach has translated into increased membership as well, and we now over 120.

Here are some other relevant results from the 2017 election:

  • Total votes for BC Libertarians out of the total 1.97 million:  7838 (0.4% of votes in the province), nearly 4 times our previous best. 
  • Top vote getter: Alex Joehl in Langley East with 448 votes. 
  • Highest Percentage:  Jon Rempel in Nechako Lakes with 4.5% of votes 
  • Our vote percentage in the electoral districts where we ran candidates: 1.06% average

We got some notice in the mainstream media (including our own bar on the graph of election results on CBC’s website) but not as much as we’d hoped. We thought there was a great story in that we’d leap-frogged over the historic 4th BC party, the Conservatives, who ended up running only 10 candidates. But aside from a Vancouver Sun article on Keith Komar’s high profile run in Kootenay East, the major outlet reporters didn’t pick up the story. Our candidates got in all the local papers though, and with a financial boost from Marc Emery, we were able to make a big splash at the 420 rally in Vancouver, attended by over 30,000 people. We gave away 2000 “Stop the Arrests” stickers and Keith gave a speech on our marijuana platform on the main stage. We even managed to take advantage of CBC’s free election advertising offer, and aired two minute midday ads on CBC radio and television.

For ¾ of our candidates, myself included, it was our first time running. It was an opportunity to get our feet wet and learn how the process works so that we can be ready to run ambitious campaigns next election. We’ve ended up with a minority government here, so that could be sooner than later. The plan between now and then is to continue building up the infrastructure of the Party. The main part of this is reaching out to the thousands of people who voted for us to get them involved as members, donors, and volunteers. A stronger support base, particularly in the rural districts where our ideas get more traction, will be key in breaking that 5% of the vote threshold next election, which I’m confident we can do.