The provincial election campaign kicked off yesterday. As the horses bolted from their gates, I kept reading in the press about how rare it would be for Premier Gordon Campbell to win a third term. A peek at the history reveals that this is not actually the case.
True enough, the last premier to win three consecutive elections was Bill Bennett (1975, 1979, 1983) more than twenty years ago. But he was following a long tradition. First and foremost, there was his father, W.A.C., who became premier in 1952 and won re-election six times (1952-1969). It is doubtful that anyone will ever best that record.
Then there was the Coalition government, a partnership of Liberals and Conservatives that governed the province 1941-1952 and was re-elected twice. Granted it was led by two different premiers, but the coalition itself was very stable.
During the Depression, Liberal leader Duff Pattullo managed to win three elections, the last, in 1941, a minority, but a victory nonetheless. In fact the Liberals ruled the province continuously from 1916 to 1928, winning three elections yet again (though not with the same leader). And Richard McBride, the longest-serving premier until Wacky Bennett, won four elections between 1903 and his resignation in 1915.
So it seems that winning three consecutive elections is less of a rarity in our politics than we suppose. Now if Gordon Campbell manages to win this time and wishes to hold on for a fourth try, that would be unusual.