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.

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.

Gordon Campbell Resigned

Gordon at his best!

I am not sure there is much else to say but squeeeee!!!! I heard the announcement at 11 am that he was making an announcement and I posted on facebook suggesting he might be resigning and I was correct! No one wanted to bring the knives out, instead they felt it was better to ‘honour’ Gordo’s career in public service.

So let’s have a look at this so-called career. From the time he was elected premier of BC, Campbell had a very distinguished career as a tyrant who targeted the poor and the disenfranchised in our province. He tore up contracts for some of the lowest paid health care workers. He made draconian cuts to income assistance and benefits to people with disabilities. He targeted the most vulnerable people in the province by re-assessing their disabilities and in the end, 33 cases were closed.

He made countless broken promises. From stating he would not sell off BC Rail to not introducing the HST. Then of course there was his stellar behavior as an individual. We all remember his DUI in Hawaii. He never really faced any consequences for an offence that should have brought him down. In the end, a former premier was his undoing with his HST petition and threats of a coordinated recall campaign.

I would like to think he resigned because he had a conscience. Given his track record, it is apparent that he does not have one. Likely caucus dissidents were making too much noise for him to be able to keep things quiet. His resignation was his way to save face and to prevent an internecine war like the one brewing in the BC NDP. Feasibly there is time for a new leader to come in and rebuild before the next election.

My hope is that the electorate does not forget that it was the Liberal party who was responsible for all of the things that have happened under Gordon Campbell’s leadership. Let’s hope that Carol James makes it a ‘two-fer.’

Leadership in the BC NDP

I am beginning to think that the art of leadership has been lost. Everywhere I look I see leaders who are either ineffective, power-hungry or confused. I am passionate about good leadership. A good leader is someone who is able to work collaboratively and build consensus with a team. However, s/he is also able to make the hard decisions and move on. A leader must respect their staff and listen attentively to what they are saying. Another hallmark of a great leader is someone who is able to control themselves and not let other things affect their work. Leaders must be role models. Decisions must be made rationally and explained completely. A leader must also accept criticism and genuinely look at themselves. Constant self-assessment is necessary as well as the ability to make changes appropriate to the situation. A good leader leads so that people want to follow.

Today Carole James, leader of the NDP in BC, removed Bob Simpson from the NDP caucus because pointed out the obvious: the NDP are not moving ahead in the polls and that she had little to offer in regard to funding for municipalities. James stated that Simpson had been openly critical of where the NDP caucus is going. Now, it is not a big surprise that Carole James is not premier material.* By today’s decision she is showing that she does not have leadership skills. You don’t get rid of colleague because they question your leadership and your position. Simpson’s comments were in direct response to a matter of party policy. Shouldn’t MLAs be allowed to engage in discussion about matters of policy particularly between elections? It is not like he undermined her leadership during an election. I really don’t get why James would have done this unless she is trying to emulate Gordon Campbell.

In my opinion, a good leader would have worked with someone like Simpson. Obviously he has thoughts about this issue perhaps he could have been asked to contribute a policy paper on the facts. Instead of using his skills for the good of the party, she acted in an autocratic, authoritarian way. Leaders who act like this generally fear for their power, so by asserting her authority in this kind of situation James has left herself wide open for further criticism.

Simpson is correct. The party needs renewal. James has lost two elections to Gordon Campbell who, after his drunk driving incident, was weak. She should have been able to exploit so many bad and misleading decisions made by his government. For some reason, James does not resonate with the public. I am not sure why but she does not have the presence or the charisma to become premier. I think she is genuinely a good person with good intentions but she doesn’t inspire me.

There are others in the NDP party who do inspire me. Both Jenny Kwan and Adrian Dix seem to have an excellent grasp of many issues. They are well spoken and have charisma and presence. Although Dix does have some baggage from the Glen Clark years when he was a political staffer but I think most people have forgotten that connection by now.

It is time for an NDP leadership convention, the sooner the better in my opinion!

*I covered this in a blog post here.

What’s the Point?

So instead of doing the right thing and repealing the HST the Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals want it to go to a non-binding referendum to be held in September of 2011. I have never understood the point of non-binding referenda. Why bother spending all that money just to have results that the government does not have to follow. But I digress.

We are having a referendum. In 2011. Are they hoping we are all going to forget about it by then? I am sure they think we will all just be used to paying the increased tax in another year. Probably they are right. People will just naturally calculate the increase as they head to the till or look at a restaurant menu. This issue is about way more than the 12% HST.

At its core this whole thing is about democracy and some honesty and integrity in government. In the last election, the Liberals did not mention the HST. They said it was not on their horizon and they had no intention of bringing in the HST. We now know that not only was it on the horizon, but the briefing note was on Colin Hansen’s desk. I have spent time working in government. Civil servants do not just go out and investigate something on their own. Senior civil servants are completely directed by their political masters. Having written briefing notes, I can tell you that the purpose is to sum things up for the minister, including pros and cons and advises the best course of action including potential difficulties. In order to have received it, Colin Hansen had to ask for it. Plus we know that no minister in this government has complete control over their own portfolios so likely Hansen asked for it because Campbell wanted it. It is also highly suspect that within a couple of months of the election they started to talk about bringing it in. The whole thing stinks.

I am not sure why the BC Liberals are incapable of ever doing the right or honorable thing. They seem to like to operate in an underhanded, back-door fashion most of the time. They are supposed to be the party of ‘business,’ is this what happens in business? Is this what people pay exorbitant sums of money to learn when the do an MBA?

There was one bright light today: Jenny Kwan. I heard her on CBC talking to Stephen Quinn on ‘On the Coast.’ She was fabulous! Female politicians have a hard time sometimes when they are passionate about something. They can sound screechy or somehow insincere. Carole James seems to be plagued by this problem. Jenny Kwan is not. She was passionate, strong, forthright and she knew her stuff. Perhaps she perfected her skills when it was just her and Joy McPhail sitting against all of the BC Liberals in 2001. I hope there is a NDP leadership campaign soon. Carole James cannot win against Gordon Campbell. I think a revitalized NDP, perhaps with Jenny Kwan at the helm, might be more successful.

Ignatieff’s Error

Before the summer, Michael Ignatieff threatened to bring down the government over changes it wanted to EI. He went into negotiations with Harper and came out with a promise of a ‘blue-ribbon’ panel to study the issue over the summer. Citing his great concern for ‘ordinary working Canadians’ Michael Ignatieff seemed relish his role as the champion of unemployed Canadians.

Parliament is now back in session and it seems that Ignatieff has done some ruminating over the summer BBQ scene. He has now decided that he and the Liberals can no longer continue to support the Harper Conservatives. Ignatieff is now threatening to bring down the government over proposed changes to EI that would see benefits flow to some workers for a longer period of time. Instead of trying to ensure that ‘ordinary working Canadias’ receive extended benefits he has decided that he would rather bring down the government.

The NDP have looked at the proposed legislation and has decided to support it. This legislation will pass with the support of the NDP and the BQ. It is doubtful that the NDP would be supporting this legislation just to prevent an election. The NDP would not be blamed for bringing down the government – that would fall on the Liberals. So there are really no political consequences for the NDP if there is another election. The NDP cannot really afford another election right now but I doubt that is why they are supporting the proposed legislation. The NDP is supporting the proposed legislation because it is good for unemployed Canadians.

The Official Opposition is very important to our democracy. Without it governments would run amok. However, oppositions have to be careful that they are not opposing things for the sake of opposing them. Carole James and the BC NDP learned this lesson the hard way when they opposed the Carbon Tax in BC. By opposing the tax and making it a central tenet of their campaign they alienated key supporters of the NDP. They bled a lot of votes to the Greens and allowed the BC Liberals to win again.

Ignatieff seems poised to make the same mistake. If he and the Liberals are really concerned about ‘ordinary working Canadians’ and ensuring that EI benefits are flowing to as many as possible, for as long as possible then they will get off their metaphorical high horse and support the legislation. If they are succesful in triggering an election then we may well be saddled with a majority Conservative government.

Another Four Years of Crap

I cannot believe we are stuck with Gordon Campbell and his band of idiots, criminals and downright heartless jerks for yet another four years. Many of the people in the BC Liberal party seem to have no qualms about breaking laws and continuing to think they have the right to serve the public. John van Dongen is the latest example with his speeding tickets and losing his license. Why should we be surprised? After all the Premier himself was arrested for drunk driving in Hawaii. The bar has been set pretty low it would seem.

What about the NDP? It would seem like people have very long memories in BC and are loathe to elect another NDP government. I think there are other things at work here. Carole James has been an effective leader. She has increased the party’s standing in the legislature from 2 seats to 36 seats in 2 elections. However, for the NDP, under Carole James, winning remains elusive. There are several reasons for this situation. I think Carole James does not have the charisma necessary to win. She is a strong leader but she sounds the same all the time. She stays on message but the message is boring. She does not inspire. She has provided stable, effective leadership to a party that was in complete disarray. The NDP need a new leader – a charasmatic individual who can inspire hope.

Antoher more daunting (and perhaps more serious problem) issue facing the NDP is the Green Party. If you add together the NDP and the Green’s popular vote you hit 50% which would have given the victory to the NDP. The NDP has always had strong environmental policy in their platforms. However, this time, I think Carole James mis-read the strong (perhaps bandwagon) support for environmental issues. Her stance on repealing the carbon tax because she thought it was the wrong tax and that the tax penalized ordinary British Columbians was great for the unions and the middle class but it did not sit well with environmentalists. If we are ever to get out of this mess with the BC Liberals, the NDP are going to have to get the environmentalists back on side.

Voter turnout for this election was a measly 52%. With such daunting issues facing the province like health care, education, the economic situation etc., there is something there that affects everyone. Where are the other 48% who did not bother to vote? There is no doubt that low voter turnout affected the outcome of the election.

I would like to see James replaced as leader of the NDP. I think she has done all that she can to move the party forward and she has done an admirable job. It is now time for someone younger perhaps and more charismatic to take over the leadership. James needs to make the decision sooner rather than later so that someone else has a chance to build support and relationships with key NDP supporters. Most importantly, the NDP needs to figure out how to tap into the environmental movement and siphon some votes away from the Green party who do not stand a chance of forming the government.

There is lots of work to be done. I only hope that those in the NDP realize what they need to do if they ever hope to get out of opposition.