Monday, February 07, 2005

Corky's back, a parachute problem and Liberal headaches

VICTORIA - Notes from the front: the return of Corky Evans, hard feelings over Liberal parachute candidate Mary Polak, and some political headaches for the Liberals as the legislative session begins.

NDP leader Carole James should be pleased at the return of Corky Evans, who has just won the party's nomination in Nelson-Creston, which he represented in the previous government.
Mostly the return of the gang of 1996 is bad news for James. Voters rose up in anger to boot them out of office; their reappearance will remind voters how dismal the NDP record was.
But Evans is an exception. Partisan, sure, and a member of cabinet, but he managed to remain apart from the scandals and mismanagement that plagued the Clark government. He took on the role of the populist politician willing to speak up for people outside the Lower Mainland.
It's a pitch that plays well, and will be useful in the election campaign.
Evans should have some time to venture outside his riding to support other candidates. His opponent, Blair Suffredine, only managed to capture 39 per cent of the popular vote in 2001, fourth lowest of all the Liberal candidates. Green party deputy leader Colleen McRory was a big factor, with 22 per cent of the votes. Evans looks a good bet to take the riding, and have some time to lend support in close races. (The news was less good for James in nearby Kootenay East, where former MLA and Clark loyalist Erda Walsh took the nomination. Liberal Bill Bennett should be able to hold on to the seat.)

Meanwhile, the Liberals' bid to parachute controversial candidate Mary Polak into the Langley riding is causing problems. Polak is best known for being on the Surrey school board when trustees spent $1 million trying to keep three books out of schools because they depicted same sex parents.
Polak was recruited to run, and then crushed, in the Surrey-Panorama Ridge byelection. Despite brave talk of running again there on the night of the defeat, she started looking for a safer seat and began eying Langley, where Liberal Lynn Stephens isn't running again.
Parachute candidates are always controversial, Polak especially so. Stephens criticized Polak for not knowing about the riding issues and being too far right.
But what's really angered some Liberals is a perception that the provincial executive wants to make sure Polak wins. The local riding executive wanted a nomination meeting in the fall, but the party brass said no. They asked for a date in January, and February, to no avail. Now the party has set March 9, meaning the cut-off date for new members was last week. The perception is that the delay was engineered to give Polak more time to sell the memberships she needed to win. The Liberals will hold the riding no matter who wins the nomination, but the illwill will be there.

Finally, big headaches around the spring session for the Liberals as a result of the fixed election date.
The budget comes next week, and the legislature is scheduled to sit until April 19, when the official election campaign starts.
But that's a lot of time to answer questions from the three New Democrats on the budget and other issues, and a lot of time for Liberal MLAs to be in Victoria when they could be home campaigning.
The Liberals have the ability to cut things short. But unless they allow a full budget debate, including questions on each ministries' plans, then they would have to pass a special law to let the government spend billions without the required legislative approval. That approval would wait until June, when the legislature returns after the election.
If they do go that route, the Liberals face big criticism. Governments aren't supposed to spend money without legislative approval, especially if the reason is because the party in power wants to avoid tough questions.
Footnote: Headline writers are eagerly waiting to see if the Liberals succeed in recruiting Olympic gold medal wrestler Daniel Igali to run in Surrey-Newton, the seat now held by Tony Bhullar, giving them a chance to use a whole new wave of sports cliches. (Bhullar plans to move to Surrey-Panorama Ridge.) Igali's decision is expected within days.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

By all acccounts, Daniel Igali was a "breath of fresh air" on the Lower Mainland scene. Given his roots in the historically/perennially corrupt Nigeria and the obstacles which he had to overcome and the sacrifices he had to make to come to Canada, we could all find a reason to root for him, especially once he became known and successful as a high-level wrestler.
If he decides to seek the Liberal nomination in Surrey-Newton (we now know that he has) and, thereby, throw in with a cabal of spin doctors, promise breakers and ethically-challenged individuals, his standing in my eyes (and I suspect in those of many others) will have dropped precipitously. Politics, as practised in B. C., is not for the true-of-heart or pure-of-spirit.