Friday, June 11, 2010

Lekstrom turns up the heat on Liberal MLAs

Blair Lekstrom's resignation Friday capped a lousy week for the Liberals.
Lekstrom gave up his post as energy minister and left the party to sit as an independent because he can't support going ahead with the HST.
He's been wrestling with his obligations, Lekstrom said.
"I believe that my first priority as an elected official is to the people that elect me and then to the political party I represent," he concluded.
And the people were telling, him overwhelmingly and strenuously, that they didn't like the tax or the way the Liberals had introduced it. About 5,000 people have signed the anti-HST petitions in Peace River South; that's more than the 4,805 people who voted for Lekstrom in the last election.
Earlier in the week, Lekstrom had suggested putting the HST on hold for six months or a year to his cabinet colleagues and involving the public in a full discussion of tax options.
But Premier Gordon Campbell nixed the idea. He still maintains the problem is that people don't understand how positive the tax will be. (That seems to make people angrier, since it can be taken as an insult. And it raises the question - if the tax is such a no-brainer, why did the Liberals reject it for years - including through the election campaign?)
Cynics might grumble that Lekstrom left it awfully late. But it remains a principled move, one that will cost him about $50,000 a year.
The biggest impact will be on other Liberal MLAs. They too know their constituents are overwhelmingly opposed to the tax, the secretive introduction, or both.
Lekstrom's example leaves other Liberals to explain why they are willing to ignore the will of the people they represent.
And while one resignation won't shift the premier, two or three might. At the least, they would kick start the race to replace him.
The resignation came in the same week as an Angus Reid Public Opinion poll that should give Liberal MLAs serious concern.
The party's support has dropped to 26 per cent, with the NDP at 46 per cent. That's still above the amazing lows of the former NDP government in its last days, but not a whole lot.
It gets worse for the Liberals. The poll found three-quarters of respondents opposed the HST.
And it found that in Liberal ridings across the province, 45 per cent of those surveyed said they would definitely sign a recall petition against their MLA given a chance; another 17 per cent they would probably sign.
And they might get a chance.
The anti-HST petition looks to be successful. The government would then have several options in responding to it.
But some of the campaigners have said that unless the HST is axed, they will launch recall campaigns in November. Successful campaigns would mean the seats would be declared vacant and byelections held.
It's difficult to stage a successful recall campaign. Proponents would need signatures from 40 per cent of the people eligible to vote in the last election - not just of the number who actually cast ballots.
But there is a lot of anger and a well-organized cadre of volunteers in place.
Liberal MLAs in ridings where the HST opposition is fiercest and margins of victory were small should be looking over their shoulders.
Some will likely be wondering how much they should suffer for decisions they had no real part in making.
It's unlikely the public will be much cheerier in November. Campbell has been dismal in defending the tax and the way it was sprung on British Columbians without analysis or discussion.
And a planned advertising blitz - at taxpayer expense - is likely to make people angrier.
With the legislature shut down, likely until next spring, MLAs are going to be spending a lot of time in their ridings.
They better be able to defend both the tax - and the damaging way their leader has handled it.
Footnote: Lekstrom has acted independently in the past. He voted against the legislation gutting the contracts of public sector unions and opposed the Tsawwassen First Nations treaty. No other obvious potential defectors among the Liberal MLAs come to mind.


Anonymous said...

"No other obvious potential defectors among the Liberal MLAs come to mind."

Certainly not Bill Bennett whose constituency apparently received the highest number of anti-HST petitions province wide. Was the new Mines portfolio (one that he's coveted for many years but always lost after bumbling into various embarassing gaffes) just a bone thrown to this second tier MLA to keep him in the fold? And how long will he keep it this time before he bumbles again? Gonna be interested to watch for the inevitable...

paul said...

Interesting comment, anon.
I've quite a bit of time for Bill Bennett. He's always struck me as an MLA who focuses on what would be best for his constituents and digs into issues.

DPL said...

Seems to me that if I was a MLA (and more people voted against something that up till today I supported) than those who voted to elect me, I'd take the quick way out and still remain very well paid as an MLA sitting way over in the corner waiting for the pension benefit to kick in. Losing money is hard but losing a job is even worse.

kootcoot said...

""I believe that my first priority as an elected official is to the people that elect me and then to the political party I represent,"

In spite of Lekstrom's rep as an independent guy, responsive to his constituents, the quote above shows that he really doesn't get it!

One's MLA, or MP for that matter, is elected by the people TO REPRESENT those people, not some political party, or meglomaniac like Gordon Muir Campbell. Political parties themselves are merely an organization cobbled together to represent a particular point of view and provide a framework for government based on a particular political philosophy.

Of course in Canada, political parties tend to play games, or be less than honest about what they even call themselves (like the current Federal Reform/Alliance crew posing as Conservatives or our provincial Social Credit/Reform/Alliance crew posing as Liberals). Then the lying really swings into high gear when it comes to policy like "I will not sell BC Rail, or "We don't think an HST is appropriate and thus isn't on our radar!"

Paul, I do actually find value in some of your work, like the previous post re:school boards vs. health authority boards - but your attempt to excuse Les Leyne's drivel yesterday was pathetic.

However as G. West pointed out in a comment subsequent to yours at my place, perhaps you and Les share the same paranoia and we non-accredited and un-paid observers are scary, especially to folks like yourself who must wonder what you will do for a living when the T-C (or Vancouver Sun, your paper) either packs it in or reduces staff to levels that don't include yourselves.

Anonymous said...

We should apologize to the people of BC: thus spake the newly minted Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister - BC Liberal Bill Bennett.

seth said...

Real Reason

Lekstrom's BC Hydro was selling Pirate Power's electricity Friday on the Columbia grid for - wait for this - less than a HALF CENT A KWH peak. Off peak he'd be paying the grid to take.

Remember he is buying the power at 12.6 cents a kwh.

I'd suggest that is the real reason he resigned.

He couldn't live with his role as a fraudster signing power contracts designed to benefit a few stockbrokers while destroying BCHydro, more than doubling our power rates, and adding $65B in contract obligations buying worthless power to provinces