I try not to write about politics.
Policies are more important. And politics are baffling. Who can predict what people will do, or why they will do it?
But the downward spiral of the Liberals is creating an interesting political crisis, one that might matter to people in B.C.
Leave aside the why, or whether it’s deserved. The reality is that the Liberals are now considered dishonest by 72 per cent of British Columbians, according to an Ipsos Reid poll.
They are cutting money for programs, agencies and community organizations that matter to people. Health care cuts mean longer waits for hurt and sick people.
So Liberal popularity has plunged.
Voters are supposed to have short attention spans. But the Liberals are hitting the kind of depths that are tough to escape. And the unpopular HST will start hitting people next July 1. The bad news is lasting a long way into the Liberals’ four-year term.
Unless the party re-invents itself.
Gordon Campbell could step down after the Olympics and gamely lug off all the baggage being accumulated now.
That would set the stage for a new Liberal leader, a clean start, and a 2013 win. After all, Carole James still has not really won great support.
It’s an encouraging option for the party. But not so good for anyone in cabinet now with future ambitions.
They’re becoming part of the baggage. The people not to be trusted, who took money the school parent advisory council.
An Angus Reid Strategies poll this month found 75 per cent of British Columbians didn’t think Campbell should run again.
The pollster asked about 15 potential successors. It was bad news for anyone in government today.
Angus Reid asked if each person would make a good or bad premier (or if the respondent had no opinion). Bad ratings were subtracted from the good to get a score.
The big winner was Diane Watts, mayor of Surrey, at plus-14. She got positive ratings as a potential premier from 33 per cent of those polled; 19 per cent thought she would be bad. Subtract bad from good and you get plus-14. (The mathematically adept will have noted that the numbers mean 48 per cent didn’t have an opinion, perhaps because they didn’t know who she was.)
The only other positive rating on the list of 15 potential premiers went to former cabinet minister and radio host Christy Clark. She was rated good by 31 per cent; bad by 30 per cent. Good enough for a plus-one rating.
They have three things in common – they are women, Liberals and not in the Campbell government.
Next on the potential premier list came NDP house leader Mike Farnworth and Attorney General Mike de Jong, his Liberal counterpart. Either would probably do a decent job as premier.
The bad news came for other Liberals. Kevin Falcon had a minus-17 rating; Rich Coleman a minus-21 and Shirley Bond a minus-26. (Nine per cent of those surveyed thought she would make a good premier; 34 per cent thought she would do a bad job.)
Perhaps they just accept the poor ratings as the price of making tough decisions. The “we were elected to be right, not popular” approach.
But some could be wondering if they’re paying too high a price for the premier’s bad policy choices or bungled communications. No one wants career prospects blighted because of someone else’s poor performance.
The New Democrats can’t be thrilled by the poll results either. Carole James had a minus-13 rating –tenth out of 15 potential successors.
This all does have a practical impact.
Liberal MLAs and cabinet ministers have been a compliant lot.
That might change as they see their government and personal political careers at risk. (Just as tensions in the NDP are likely.)
Tougher times for Campbell. But a little internal dissent might mean better government, more attuned to the public’s needs and priorities.
Footnote: There’s another potential source of tension. Solicitor General Kash Heed and Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid got senior cabinet jobs after the election. Both have struggled to answer questions in the legislature – a small part of the job, but a visible one. Liberal MLAs who were passed over might question the premier’s judgment.