Thursday, September 24, 2009

It’s time that cracks could start to show in Liberals

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.


Anonymous said...

Oh, wouldn't it be a delight for Carole James to, um, decide to spend more time with her family, and have Krog or Dix take over as leader...

Norman Farrell said...

NDP probably want Campbell to stay in office. Now that he has totally given in to grandiosity, he cares little about everyday elements of governing. Squeeze the weak, poor and vulnerable citizens without mercy but keep building monuments.

The Premier is the opposition's single best political asset and not one capable and worthwhile person sits in his cabinet. Were there any, the revolt would be visible now.

Anonymous said...

Could BC Liberal's time be shorter than we thought?

Vaughn Palmer's column in today's Sun contemplates the implications of an independent panel on the provincial budget-making process. -- "The timing of B.C.'s legislated budget and election dates have created a number of situations that may limit transparency and accountability," says the Enns panel, named after accountant Douglas Enns, who headed the seven-member review. -- Might we see a 3 1/2 year election cycle this time around?

The Report of the Budget Process Review Panel (Enns' Panel Report) is online at (79 pages)

DPL said...

What do you mean about politics. Everything is about politics.

paul said...

I don't see it that way. Politics is about people's motives, which are always unknowable, and tactics and positioning and personalities. It's all hugely important to the people involved, in a company or union or party. And the outcomes have some broader consequences.
But mostly, it seems more useful to write about policies and what people do, rather than the tactics they use to advance their positions. And certainly rather than why they advance those positions.
Cheers, and thanks for useful comments here

Anonymous said...

“I try not to write about politics. Policies are more important.”

I agree. And a respectable journalist should in deed focus on policies in a professional and non partisan manner. Something you see Vaughn Palmer do on a daily basis.

Unfortunately Mr. Willcocks you seem sadly incapable of not allowing your personal editorial slant from obstructing your work.

Comments such as…

“premier’s bad policy choices” - example of editorial slant according to you

“Kash Heed in question period today was the strangest, weirdest spectacle. It was like SCTV's Sammy Maudlin somehow got elected.” A personal insult based on your own partisan views

“I'm watching Shirley Bond channel Tina Fey doing Sarah Palin” another disrespectful comment and a sexist one as well.

I submit you spend more time editorializing on the politics than you do discussing the policy.

Norman Farrell said...

". . . people's motives, which are always unknowable . . . "

I admit to more than an average degree of cynicism but I concur with the statement attributed to David T. Wolf: "Idealism is what precedes experience: cynicism is what follows."

Is it not fair to examine the acts and characters of public figures and assess motives when those seem clear? When Dick Cheney enabled his ex-employer Halliburton to bill immense sums to the USA, I think the motives were clear. When Rosemary Woods erased Nixon tapes, I think her motive was clear too.

In a forum for opinion, why withhold opinions honestly and reasonably held?

paul said...

I don't know why Rosemary Woods, if she really was the one, erased the tape. Was she ordered to? Did she worship Richard Nixon? Did she fear the damage to the American political system if corruption became public?
What matters is the tape was erased.
I didn't mean to suggest others should withhold their best guesses about the motives of others. It's just not a useful exercise, for me.

paul said...

And, Anonymous:
Fair criticisms. Perhaps the blog posts have been too superficial in commenting on question period.
It's just such a sad shadow of what should be happening when the public's elected representatives gather.

Norman Farrell said...

I was in Victoria last week and we shared a breakfast table with a couple from Belgium. They had visited the legislature the previous day and were still shaking their heads over what they observed. It was not the image expected from what was thought to be a sophisticated democracy.

seth said...

Gordon Campbell is not a liberal he is a Neocon and along with Falcon, Coleman, Kruger, Polack and many others belongs in the BC Con party. We liberals in the now BCLiberal party want our party back after the Neocon hijack of the 90's. With the precipitous drop in party support we think we may have a chance.

We need liberals out there to come back to the party of Gordon's Gibson and Wilson. We need to stop Campbell now before he completly destroys BC with his five year licence to kill. Suspend your NDP and Green memberships at least until the next election gets closer and buy BCLiberal party memberships Participate in constituency association elections and boot the Neocon supporters from their positions. Help us to rid the party of the yoke these fascist hijackers have put around our neck. Lets give them the boot at the next convention. I'm tired of being ashamed when I whisper my political affiliation to folks.

Anonymous said...

I don’t disagree with you that the conduct of question period is more than distasteful. However if you are at least going to maintain the perception of being non partisan you must realize that depending on your perspective as either an NDP or BC Liberal you cannot take a side and single out one side of the house without recognizing the other side less you appear to be biased.

Further, from my perspective watching Question Period most every member of the Legislature deserves to share some of the responsibility for their conduct. Individually belittling people such as you have done with Shirley Bond and Kash Heed simply lowers the bar even further and I see no positive or constructive reason for it.

You may disagree with their policies and their on the job performance. It is possible to disagree and articulate your thoughts in a professional and respectful manner without resorting to personal insults.

And yes I too was a fan of SCTV. Is Earl Camembert who you aspire too?

Anonymous said...

I would like to see if Mary Polak would be given a go. She put her hand up for caucus leadership in '06 I believe, accepted a few consolation prizes and did so well w/ them and also the campaign that she got her dream job just last June. As Premier, I think she'll scare the living be-jeezers out of the BCNDP, stop the frat boys, get the people cheering, slam child poverty some more, rock The House, provide equity for the disabled, YouTube of YOURS TRULY on @CKNW re BC Autism crisis - keep the jocks from "beeking off" like Kevin Falcon (that guy IS an embarassment who should be seated across The House from the Premier's chair he's that scary - and I'm a BCLiberal).

Oh and Mary Polak is thermonuclear on the hotness scale...

Anonymous said...

seth, I think a party w/ people who are openly gay & Carole Taylor is quite liberal. Somewhat corporate. Perhaps too corporate.

I can't wait for PREMIER POLAK, though!

Anonymous said...

I am not certain that what occurred with the Autism funding redistribution necessarily places Minister Polak in the “Premier in waiting” category from my perspective.

As is well known Minister Polak initially referenced a 4 year old report as reason(s) for the autism funding redistribution decision, clearly this meant she had done zero independent research on her own and was going solely on information provided by the Ministry staff who basically let her down.

She later revised her position by using the “fairness” argument suggesting that it was not fair to provide added benefits to just 75 kids and it was fairer to redistribute those funds to all autistic children across the board.

The problem of course is that Minister Polak killed off a program that was actually working and ultimately increased funding to the “status quo” programs that to date have not been near as effective.

I do understand the cost argument; however if Minister Polak is to become “premier” material she needs to find a way to bring back this effective program; however to do so she will need to significantly reduce the costs of providing the program delivery as it clearly is too expensive at the present time.

Consolidation could certainly provide some savings and contracting the service providers to the private sector could help out as well on a pilot level basis as well. Parents will need to participate financially to a larger extent as well. In other words instead of an all or nothing approach try to find a way to meet in the middle.

off-the-radar said...

you write in a very balanced and thoughtful manner. Please ignore the PAB trolls.

It is fair to look at the Liberal government and party more than the opposition, because it is the Liberal government, for the past eight years, that profoundly affects our daily lives and is determining the future of the province.

seth said...

Mary Polak is case in point about how to pull off a hijack.

Signed up a bunch of supporters from her church, then overwhelmed incumbant MLA and real liberal Lynn Stevens. She is a fundamentalist Neocon - a kind of a joke.

We real liberals need to do the same thing to Campbell and his henchmen as Polak did to Steven's. It just takes numbers.

ballz said...

Politic make me sick

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Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:33 PM:
(aka Josef K, yes, you are that obvious)

You are off your nut (again). In spite of your cheerleading, Mary P. will NEVER, read NEVER, become anything but what she is - a bit player in the white old boys club. Because she has no real experience with anything, no credibility and absolutely no competence to ever be a Premier.

She has and will botch MCFD as Minister, not really by her own hand, but she will be slayed on the sword of being the mouthpiece for that trainwreck of a Ministry. Just look to her predecessors for the evidence of that. Tom C. could have probably given Campbell a run for his money for Leader, instead, he quit as Minister of CFD. Hmmm, second Minister to want to "spend more time with his family" who then turns up somewhere else - Legal Aid board appointee in his case.

We have to give some serious consideration who represents us. Some of the current crop, both provincial and federal make Canadians look like fools, their lack of sophistication, competence and intelligence is just cringe-worthy. We should all care about that because our image has been tarnished across Canada and beyond because of some of these clowns and we look like country bumpkins.

Kam Lee said...
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