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.

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.’

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.

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.

John van Dongen

Our Solicitor General, with responsibility for ICBC and the Motor Vehicle Branch has had his drivers license suspended for excessive speeding. Apparently, the Minister is in a big rush to get to places. I am not going to go on about how inappropriate his driving habits are or that he could have killed someone, even though all of that is true. I could also talk about the lack of morality in the BC Liberal Party (although the same could be said for the NDP). How can we expect more from a political party whose leader has been charged with impaired driving. In fact, Gordon Campbell showed his true colours when he commented that no one could run for political office in this province if they have never had a speeding ticket. Well, Gordon, I have news for you I have never had a speeding ticket in over 20 years of driving. Sadly though I am not available to run for election in your right-wing party.

Instead what I would like to address is the importance of an independent civil service. John van Dongen had responsibility for the Motor Vehicle Branch. In essence, when the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles suspended his license he took away his political boss’s license to drive. This illustrates the importance of having an impartial civil service who work at arm’s length from their political masters.

For those of you who have never been a bureaucrat you likely find decisions made at ICBC, CRA, welfare, MCFD etc to be beyond comprehension. Many times they do not seem to be logical or make common sense. What many people do not understand are the machinations that go on behind the scenes. Politicians make laws. These laws are then translated into policy for civil servants to administer. I would use the example of welfare benefits as I worked there for several years. All of our authority to issue money to clients came from legislation and policy which set out strict eligibility criteria. If someone did not meet these criteria they were not eligible for assistance and I could not issue funds because there was no legal authority to do so. It works the same way in other branches of government.

Now, back to John van Dongen. Even though he is the Cabinet Minister responsible for this area of government he was not above the law. Basically there is a piece of legislation that spells out a consequence for too many excessive speeding tickets in a certain amount of time. The civil service worked well in this case. The officers who pulled him over gave him tickets and the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles applied the correct consequences to the situation. Even though our political leaders in this province are of questionable moral fibre, at least the civil service seems to be working.