Monday, April 25, 2005

Wrapping up week one: Notes from the campaign trail

VICTORIA - Campaign notebook: winners, losers and good questions from the first week.

Another fascinating poll, which showed that British Columbians will likely re-elect the Liberals even though they think the province needs a change of government.
The Strategic Counsel poll fits with others recent surveys in its tally of party support, with the Liberals at 46 per cent, the NDP at 38 per cent and the Greens at 13 per cent. No surprises there.
But 58 per cent of those surveyed told the pollster it was time for a change of government. The only explanation is that voters are saying - again - that they don't really like the Liberals, but don't see an alternative.
One Liberal problem remains Gordon Campbell. Almost two out of three people said he doesn't understand the concerns of ordinary British Columbians.
The poll had bad news for the NDP too. Half those surveyed said despite the arrival of Carole James, the NDP has kept most of the people and policies from the Clark era.
Put it together, and you have a good lead for the Liberals, but a lot of dissatisfaction with both parties. That makes for a volatile electorate.

Meanwhile Campbell is being called "bubble boy" by some of his critics because of his tightly controlled campaign. The other leaders let reporters and the public know where they'll be each day, and what they'll be doing, but Campbell's schedule is top secret. Reporters only find out at the end of each day which part of the province the tour will head for in the morning, and get no advance information about specific events. Campbell is in and out of most communities before anyone except the tipped-off Liberal supporters know he's there. The strategy avoids protests and unscripted moments, but it makes Campbell look like a man not much interested in actually meeting or listening to people who aren't already onside.

Campbell's early days of campaigning included charges that the NDP would rewrite the Labour Code to favour unions. The party's platform doesn't include any reference to labour code changes, and James has said she wouldn't amend labour laws without sitting down with business and labour Campbell's criticism remains fair. The Liberals - although ruthless and dishonest with public sector unions - stayed largely in the middle when it came to labour code changes. Would James, for example, eliminate the requirement for a secret ballot on union certification? She won't say.

Why NDP candidate Rollie Keith had to drop out of the campaign because of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic? Keith is an ex-Canadian Forces officer, who was a NATO observer in Kosovo. He didn't see war crimes being committed, and testified to that at Milosevic's genocide trial at The Hague. Keith met the former Yugoslavian president then, and told the Chilliwack Progress last fall that Milosevic seemed OK.
What I've read suggests Milosevic committed war crimes. But I don't get what was so bad about Keith's comments. He testified about what he had seen. When a reporter asked him for his views, he didn't dance away, in the evasive manner of a schooled politician. He answered the questions. His assessment of Milosevic is unpopular, and may in fact be dead wrong, but it seems to be an honestly held view based on personal experience. What's the problem?
And,if the Liberals really considered this important, why didn't they raise it six months ago, when Keith's comments were published, instead of launching a last-minute attack? (Sorry, I forgot. It's politics, which apparently excuses otherwise dubious behaviour.)

Carole James call for a separate leaders' debate on B.C.'s regions got a cold-shoulder from Campbell. It's obviously a political ploy from the NDP leader, who wants a chance to highlight Heartland problems. But it's also a good idea, and a chance to address concerns that too often get lost in campaigns that inevitably tend to focus on issues important to Lower Mainland voters.

And the official score at the end of week one: all even, as Campbell and James both did the job they needed to do. Campbell avoided mistakes or missteps that would erode the Liberal lead; James pushed the party's message and herself effectively. But neither leader likely succeeded in changing many voters' minds.


wstander said...

You say the fact it is "politics" apparently excuses otherwise dubious behabviour. But what excuses the mischief making by Smyth, who is supposedly a journalist, not a Campbell Liberal operative, in sitting on the story before setting the cat amongst the pigeons?

Hot news flash. The unbalanced coverage of this election is appalling. The Truck Driver Association's threat this morning to grid lock the highways gets covered as if this is a union threat.The Teamster's Union pres gets used by the media and by the Truck Drivers Association. No sign of Paul Landry, who is the CEO of the outfit that is threatening the grid lock. Truck owner pay the higher gas prices and go broke if they signed contracts that are no longer viable. Truck drivers do not. They may lose their jobs if the companies go broke, but that merely iillustrates that in a civilized society, management and labour have common interests. Here the press, and obviously the "nowhere in sight" Landry are gaming the system to make the NDP and their union supporters the bad guys if the truck owners do in fact order, or incite their employees to block the highways.

Incidentally, it was a relief to see someone other than the usual CanWest cabal of commentators on Voice of BC last week as a media panel. While you and Holman apparently sell most of your stuff to the Sun or Province, it was obvious that you had not yet sold your souls to the Canwest devil as Palmer, Smyth, Leyne, and Bradbury have.

Anonymous said...

The Ex army Officer got squeezed. The interesting thing is that a ex general who ran for the Consevatives said the candidates comments were no big deal as he was reporting what he saw when he gave evidence. But In Beautiful BC that seems to enough to crucify the candidate. And folks wonder why so many other folks wouldn't offer themsleves for that sort of public service. As a Officer and a gentlman the fellow removed himself to protect his leader, and party , not because he did something wrong