Are the BC Greens Really Serious?

John Horgan, Andrew Weaver
All smiles now!*

I am going to preface this post with the fact that I am over the moon about the NDP-Green coalition taking power in BC. We were about 8 years overdue for a regime change. It will nice to see a little bit of compassion coming out of Victoria instead of the usual, victim-blaming detritus. I think John Horgan did an amazing job with the election and I am pleased he will (most likely) have the chance to serve as our premier.

I am finding it a bit odd that Andrew Weaver, environmentalist and passionate Green, would not want to be in Cabinet. In coalition governments, quite often, the cabinet will be representative of the agreement. Here is a chance for Weaver to get out of the weeds of Opposition and find out what it’s like to govern. So, why then, would he choose not to be part of Cabinet?
I have my theories. I think that by not being in Cabinet, Weaver has plausible deniability if/when some things happen that the Greens oppose. He will be able to say that it was all the NDP and they supported them on confidence matters. It’s really easy when you are in the opposition, with no hope of ever forming government, to just simply oppose for opposition’s sake. Once you are part of government and actually responsible for passing legislation, you actually begin to see what actually goes into making governmental policy. It’s not as easy as saying: No pipelines (as BC is about to find out very soon and the topic of another post) is easy to say but hard to implement. Or proportional representation – very easy when you are in opposition but a huge undertaking to implement. Just remember, it took them more than 18 months to undo the HST and revert to the PST.
I think if Weaver and the Greens are really interested in government then one of them should step up and get a cabinet post. The most logical person is Weaver.
*Image from this link.

Swampy Quote of the Day

If you vote to split the free enterprise vote, all you’re going to do is elect Adrian Dix the premier of B.C., and not for one term, probably two,”

Christy Clark, Premier of BC

The BC Liberals[1] are running scared. They keep harping about the Glen Clark or the Mike Harcourt governments as an evil specter of what the NDP can do if they are elected. It’s crap. They are acting like we are stupid and have fallen under some sort of NDP, Adrian Dix spell. Christy seems to think that we should forget about all the lies told by her party.

The BC Liberals are being encouraged to merge with the BC Conservatives. I think both parties are far too egotistical for this to happen. If they did manage to put their power issues aside I am sure the electorate will see it for what it actually is: a desperate ploy to hold on to power.

[1] We use the title “Liberal” loosely here. They are now defining themselves as the ‘free enterprise’ party. Ya, k, yawn.

Every thing old is new again

So Christy Clark has decided not to call a fall election. Given the HST results, which can be seen as a referendum on her government, I am not at all surprised by this news. However, Clark assures us all that the BC Liberals would have won in a fall election. And, you ask, how does she know this? Well it seems they do internal polling that assures them they would have won. Oh, but they don’t release the results of their internal polling. Ya, ok, wev.

During the leadership campaign, Clark said she was different than her predecessor. She would do politics differently. She pledged to put families first. I suspect that many members of the party supported her hoping that the politics of the old regime would change. It may be that the electorate is tired of the games, paternalism and condescension of the BC Liberal Party.

Like most political parties these days, the BC Liberals practice brokerage politics. Parties used to govern themselves by ideology, which would be reflected in their platform and policy papers. Instead of rooting in ideology, brokerage parties seek to build consensus and their sole reason for being is to be elected and maintain themselves as government. They try to assess what the electorate wants and then give it to them. They are also not above stealing ideas from the opposition.

There are serious issues with brokerage politics. One obvious issue is how the party determines what the public wants. After all, politicians are a self-serving lot. Brokerage politics also completely confuse the electorate. If parties follow general ideology, it is much easier for people to understand their options when they vote. The carbon tax is a really good example of brokerage politics at its finest. Parties on the left like the NDP or the Green Party generally champions carbon taxes. However, in BC, it was the right-wing Liberals who introduced the tax in February of 2008. In the election campaign the following year, Carole James, then leader of the NDP, campaigned against the tax. This made absolutely no sense and made the NDP appear to be especially irrelevant. In fact, her intransigence when it came to this piece of policy made her look very silly and likely contributed to the rift in the party that caused her to step down as leader.

Nothing has changed with the BC Liberals electing Christy Clark as their leader. She may be a different person but the politics are the same. The BC Liberals will do whatever they can to stay in power. If that means taking ideas from the NDP or not calling snap elections even when we have fixed election dates.

The BC Liberals and the HST mess

The BC Liberals must be completely delusional. They seem to think that a majority of British Columbians can be hoodwinked into supporting a tax that no one wanted, imposed by a party who promised not to, simply by bribing (some[1]) taxpayers with their own money and the promise of a 2 percentage point reduction by 2014. Just because Christy Clark is now the premier does not mean that the leopard has changed its spots. We still have Kevin Falcon as the talking head finance minister making these promises. If we have not learned by now that we cannot trust him and his merry-band of conservative Liberals then we deserve what we get.

The whole scenario gets worse. We will only get the purported changes to this tax if we vote to keep it. If a majority votes against the tax, then, the BC Liberals point out, we would have to pay back $1.6 billion dollars.[2] Now, it seems to me that if the BC government spent that money then it is going to be up to them to figure out how to pay it back to the feds if that is indeed what has to happen. Threatening us with this consequence is meaningless, as we had nothing to do with bringing in the tax, accepting the payment or spending the money.

We also keep hearing how the HST is going to create jobs. I am not an economics expert but I fail to see how a regressive tax can create jobs? Every pro-HST expert seems to say: “The HST is great for business because it simplifies the paperwork businesses have to fill out. Oh and it creates jobs.” I have yet to hear anyone explain to me how reducing the purchasing power of the average consumer through increased and excessive taxation creates jobs. Maybe it creates jobs in the civil service counting all that extra money.

I get that the HST simplifies accounting paperwork for business and that is good. However, the real issue with the transfer to the HST was that it applied to everything the GST applied. While the PST was only on certain things, it was not on restaurant meals and books in particular. The restaurant industry has really suffered with an increase of 7% on meals. A tax on books is just ludicrous. We need to encourage people to buy books and to read.

I think the only way to make the HST palatable is to remove it from the items that did not have PST on them. Make restaurant meals, books and other items and services that were not subject to the PST tax-free. I think then people would see some benefit to them. The way it is now, the tax is both odious and onerous.

If the BC Liberals seriously want people to support the tax they need to make the changes, I have suggested and codify them in legislation regardless of the outcome of the referendum. To tell us that we will only get this minor change to the bitter pill we have all had to swallow if we are behaved and we agree to let them keep it is insulting. I only hope that all the people who have been betrayed by the BC Liberals send them a very loud message with this referendum.

[1] If you have kids or you are a senior earning less than $40,000, you will get a one-time bribe payment of $175.

[2] Adrian Dix, leader of the BC NDP says it is more like $1.2 billion. But what’s a few billion among friends?

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘make it STOP’ edition

  • Our phone here at the swamp has been ringing off the hook. I think the sheer volume of calls actually managed to kill one of our phones. Why are we so popular you might ask? Well that would be the BC NDP leadership race. Last summer a very nice NDP volunteer came to visit and we all joined the provincial NDP. I have always been very political but I have never actually joined a party. I figured it was finally time to support the party I have voted for in elections for most of my adult life. I was also very much in favour of Carole James[1] stepping down and renewal in the BC NDP. Today after about the 10th call, I actually got a human to talk to and not some disembodied voice. He was very helpful. He explained the voting system to me and told me the best information yet! He said that as soon as we all vote the calls will stop. Two of us have now voted and I just need to get Deb to vote too when she gets home and hopefully we will have peace and quiet again!
  • Most of the dogs are really sick of the rain. Zoe, for example, will go to the door, see that it is raining and then turn on her little Shihtzu heels and walk away.[2] Sawyer is another one who hates the rain. Although with him it is hard to tell what he hates more: the rain or the cold. At night, he sleeps under the duvet preferably suction cupped to one of us. Kiefer on the other hand doesn’t care. I don’t think he even notices wet and cold weather. He goes out and lays down in the pouring rain or snow. The heat, however, is really hard on him.
  • Speaking of dogs, I am sitting here blogging and trying to eat my dinner. I am having chicken tacos for the first time in a while and I am really enjoying them. However, I have Zoe demanding my food. She is growling at me, barking and clawing my leg. I think she is so excited because we have been eating a lot of vegetables lately, which don’t interest her. She is making sure she is getting her fair share today![3] Life is never boring here at the Swamp!

[1] You can see my previous posts about Carole James here, here, here and here.

[2] Shihtzus have a unique way of doing this, as most Shihtzu owners will attest. There is nothing like a stubborn Shihtzu – especially when it comes to getting their feet wet!

[3] Zoe can be rather single-minded in her approach to food. Normally she is quiet and sleepy but when she wants food she is unstoppable.

The NDP should be seriously worried

Christy Clark’s victory over the BC Liberal’s ‘old boys network’ last Saturday must be scaring the shit out of the NDP. Christy Clark is a shrewd politician. She won the leadership of the BC Liberal party with only one MLA backing her. The power elite of the party shut her out yet somehow she managed to connect with enough members of the Liberal Party to support her bid for the leadership. She has campaign ability.

So why is she dangerous to the NDP? First of all, even though Clark has a past in politics and indeed the Gordon Campbell government she has been gone long enough that she is not stained to the same degree that Kevin Falcon, George Abbott and Mike de Jong would be. She is not implicated with the improper imposition of the hated HST. Basically she is not the face of the BC Liberals that the NDP thought they would face in the next election.

Christy Clark is fresh. She is a new face for the BC Liberals. She ran an engaged campaign using social media. She is young and an active parent so she resonates well with other parents. Her family first agenda and hopefully the addition of a family holiday for February will resonate well. Clark is charismatic and she is able to command a room unlike other female politicians.

For the NDP, Clark is a huge threat. She is everything that Carole James was not. Clark sounds passionate when James would have sounded shrill. With James being gone now and her likely successor will be a man, the BC Liberals will look much more contemporary and in tune with British Columbians.

Clark also has the opportunity to catch the NDP off guard. She could call a quick election that could catch them unaware. They will need time to come together after their leadership campaign. If the campaign is divisive, which they often are, it could take them even longer. Clark and the BC Liberals have a clear advantage here.

The NDP are going to have to generate some ‘buzz’ around their leadership campaign, which has been largely over-shadowed by the Liberals. Their new leader is going to have to distance themselves quickly from Carole James and show that the NDP is ready to take on the BC Liberals. What looked like a sure-fire victory for the NDP is now anything but sure. If the NDP does not plan well they may find themselves in Opposition for another 4 years.

Carole James Resigns

I totally would have blogged about Carole James resigning as leader of the BC NDP yesterday except other things needed to be said. I am glad that, if nothing else, she could at least see the writing on the wall. It seems to me that by blaming the so-called ‘dissidents’ instead of agreeing to a leadership review she sullied an otherwise good career. She may well have been able to get through a leadership review. However, all that being said, I am glad she is gone.

No matter what she did, Carole James always seemed to somehow miss the mark. The carbon tax is a good example. Instead of supporting it and appealing to environmentalists and other left-leaning people. However, she opposed the tax simply because Gordon Campbell and the Liberals supported it. This is a huge problem with ‘brokerage politics.’ As our political parties have moved away from policy based on ideology we end up in odd political situations as I described above.

Of all the parties, the NDP has always had the most ideologically driven policy. In BC everything is all screwed up, as the right-wing conservative party is actually the BC Liberals. Federally, the parties line up pretty well although there is very little difference between a conservative Liberal and a liberal Conservative. The Bloc Quebecois may be the exception here whose whole raison d’etre is to protect Quebec’s interests in the federation. By default they have had to adopt some other platform planks and in the minority parliament they have had much more power than they otherwise would have.

BC politics is always interesting. I am sure the next year will be very entertaining with both major political parties choosing new leaders. My only hope is that we end up with leaders who have vision and a plan.

I love BC Politics!

So, we now have 4 candidates in the race to replace Gordon Campbell. First up is Moira Stillwell. I have no idea who she is and/or what she represents. I could not seem to pull much up on her at all. Now we have, in order of declaration, George Abbott, Kevin Falcon and Mike de Jong. I have one word: barf. These three idiots have been loyal Campbell yes men for years. These guys have stood shoulder to shoulder with Gordon Campbell and all his loyal henchpeople while they systematically decimated social services and healthcare in BC.

These guys have been part of the brain trust that sold off BC Rail, cut services to people with disabilities and imposed the HST. None of these people are fit to lead a political party. If they have leadership qualities they certainly have not exercised them in a very, very long time. From all accounts, Campbell made all of the decisions. Now we have George Abbott launching a ‘listening’ campaign and Mike de Jong promising that all the decisions will no longer come out of the Premier’s office only. Oh, and Kevin Falcon, in his infinite wisdom, promises to lower the HST by 2%. If any of these now former cabinet ministers becomes leader it will be politics as usual.

Carole James is also facing some political heat and questions about her leadership. Long-time MLA, Jenny Kwan has asked for a leadership. She argues (correctly, in my opinion) that if James feels she has a mandate with the caucus then she should submit to a leadership review to gain a new mandate.  I have to say that in a recent speech that Carole James gave to the BC Federation of Labour she actually sounded like a leader.

BC is facing many problems. Political renewal for both the NDP and Liberals can only be a win for British Columbians. If the Liberals continue on with same people at the helm the opportunity for renewal will escape them. The NDP, on the other hand, are poised to unseat the Liberals in the next election if they actually look hard at issues of leadership. I do believe that Carole James is not the leader to take the NDP into the next election in 2013.

Call me a Cynic…

It was a very interesting day in BC politics. Former Energy Minister Bill Bennett has been kicked out of caucus for saying what everyone is thinking. He has accused Gordon Campbell of being abusive to Cabinet Members and that many seem to have ‘battered wife syndrome.’ I think that most people who follow BC politics closely would not be at all surprised to learn that Campbell is abusive. I think this is probably the worst kept secret of BC Liberals. Bennett wants Campbell to go now and not wait for a leadership convention.

Colin Hanson was on the CBC afternoon show ‘On the Coast’ today and he defended Campbell’s right to stay on. He argued that political parties choose a new leader before the old one steps down. According to Hanson – this is how it is done. This is patently false. The BC NDP had several interim leaders; Joy MacPhail and Dan Miller come to mind. Many other parties in power have also done the same thing. Basically, there is no reason Gordon Campbell can’t vacate the position and have the caucus appoint someone else. After all isn’t that how Michael Ignatieff first became the leader of the federal Liberals.

In addition to kicking Bill Bennett out of cabinet today, they also rolled back the 15% tax cut that was announced a couple of weeks ago. Colin Hanson babbled on about in times of uncertainty in politics, cabinet needs more flexibility to ensure that services are delivered. I am sure this is code for the tax cut did not turn things around for Gordon Campbell so we are going to save it for our new leader to announce once s/he is chosen.

Most likely the next leader will be a man. After all, according to Bill Bennett, Gordon Campbell has driven all the women out of the Liberal caucus. He cited women like Christy Clarke and Carole Taylor, two strong, innovative women who brought a lot of great ideas to the party. If Bill Bennett is right about the abusive atmosphere Campbell created, it is no wonder they left politics all together. No one can forget how combative the provincial legislature was when the Liberals were first elected and it was only Joy MacPhail and Jenny Kwan standing against all those Liberals. They did an amazing job holding the BC Liberals to account in those first four years in a very raucous, perhaps bordering on abusive, provincial legislature.

I am not sure why Bill Bennett has broken the cabinet agreement about ‘no surprises.’ I suspect he will also be kicked out of caucus. This will then position him as a whistle-blower on Campbell’s 10-year reign of abuse, should he decide to run for the leadership. Personally, I think the only hope the BC Liberals have is bringing in an outsider. They need someone who can distance him/herself from all of the scandals and absolute disregard for some of the most vulnerable and downtrodden people in this province. I sincerely hope that whoever becomes leader has a little sympathy and genuinely cares about the people in this province. After all these years, we need this change.

The Day After

Well, the sun rose and Gordon has still resigned! It does not seem like there is a long line up of BC Liberals wanting to take on the leadership. Many seem to equate it with an impossible task like ‘walking on water.’ I think anybody from within the current cabinet anyway would still have Gordon Campbell stink on them.

Many potential candidates like Dianne Watts, Mayor of Surrey or James Moore, MP in Coquitlam have been mentioned. Bringing in a candidate from the outside will give the BC Liberals their best chance of being re-elected as a person from the outside can distance themselves from the Campbell years. If someone like Kevin Falcon or Rich Coleman or Colin Hansen were to take the helm, the electorate would be more likely to remember BC Rail, ripping up contracts and the HST, not to mention the broken promises of social housing with the Olympics.

It will be very interesting to see how this unfolds and what the NDP does to seize this opportunity. The BC Liberals do not have to call an election until 2013. Any good strategist would recommend staying with the set election date so that the new leader can distance him/herself from Campbell. This means that the NDP has to pace. They need a new leader and would be wise to also call a leadership convention so that the playing field is at least level. I do not see how Carole James is ever going to be elected premier. As usual, interesting times in BC politics.