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.

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.